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Title: Soldier Stories
Author: Kipling, Rudyard, 1865-1936
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

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SOLDIER STORIES



SOLDIER STORIES

BY

RUDYARD KIPLING

AUTHOR OF "PLAIN TALES FROM THE HILLS," "UNDER THE
DEODARS," "THE PHANTOM RICKSHAW," "WEE
WILLIE WINKIE," ETC., ETC.


_WITH NUMEROUS ILLUSTRATIONS_


NEW YORK
THE MACMILLAN COMPANY
LONDON: MACMILLAN & CO., LTD.
1896

_All rights reserved_



COPYRIGHT, 1896,
BY THE MACMILLAN COMPANY.

Norwood Press
J.S. Cushing & Co.--Berwick & Smith
Norwood Mass. U.S.A.



CONTENTS


                                                             PAGE

WITH THE MAIN GUARD                                             1

THE DRUMS OF THE FORE AND AFT                                  25

THE MAN WHO WAS                                                78

THE COURTING OF DINAH SHADD                                   101

THE INCARNATION OF KRISHNA MULVANEY                           139

THE TAKING OF LUNGTUNGPEN                                     182

THE MADNESS OF PRIVATE ORTHERIS                               191



LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS


                                                     TO FACE PAGE

'PUT YER 'EAD BETWEEN YOUR LEGS. IT'LL GO ORF IN A
MINUTE'                                                         2

'HE RAN FORWARD WID THE HAYMAKERS' LIFT ON HIS
BAY'NIT'                                                       12

HE PICKED HER UP IN THE GROWING LIGHT, AND SET HER
ON HIS SHOULDER                                                23

'HEY! WHAT? ARE YOU GOING TO ARGUE WITH _ME_?'
SAID THE COLONEL                                               35

CRIS SLID AN ARM ROUND HIS NECK                                47

THE MEN STROLLED ACROSS THE TRACKS TO INSPECT THE
AFGHAN PRISONERS                                               50

THE TUNE SETTLED INTO FULL SWING, AND THE BOYS KEPT
SHOULDER TO SHOULDER                                           69

'_RUNG HO_, HIRA SINGH!'                                       85

HE FOUND THE SPRING                                            91

IT IS NOT GOOD THAT A GENTLEMAN WHO CAN ANSWER TO
THE QUEEN'S TOAST SHOULD LIE AT THE FEET OF A
SUBALTERN OF COSSACKS                                          94

'THIN WHIN THE KETTLE WAS TO BE FILLED, DINAH CAME
IN--MY DINAH'                                                 117

'"MY COLLAR-BONE'S BRUK," SEZ HE'                             121

'"THE HALF AV THAT I'LL TAKE," SEZ SHE'                       132

'"OUT OF THIS," SEZ HE. "I'M IN CHARGE AV THIS SECTION
AV CONSTRUCTION."--"I'M IN CHARGE AV MESILF," SEZ
I, "AN' IT'S LIKE I WILL STAY A WHILE"'                       149

'NINE ROUN'S THEY WERE EVEN MATCHED, AN' AT THE
TENTH----'                                                    157

THERE PRANCED A PORTENT IN THE FACE OF THE MOON               166

'I WAS KRISHNA TOOTLIN' ON THE FLUTE'                         176

'"SHTRIP, BHOYS," SEZ I. "SHTRIP TO THE BUFF, AN'
SHWIM IN WHERE GLORY WAITS!"'                                 185

'THERE WAS A _MELLY_ AV A SUMPSHUS KIND FOR A WHOILE'         187

ORTHERIS HEAVED A BIG SIGH                                    192

WE SET OFF AT THE DOUBLE AND FOUND HIM PLUNGING ABOUT
WILDLY THROUGH THE GRASS                                      201

[Illustration]



WITH THE MAIN GUARD

    Der jungere Uhlanen
    Sit round mit open mouth
    While Breitmann tell dem stdories
    Of fightin' in the South;
    Und gif dem moral lessons,
    How before der battle pops,
    Take a little prayer to Himmel
    Und a goot long drink of Schnapps.

                 _Hans Breitmann's Ballads._


'Mary, Mother av Mercy, fwhat the divil possist us to take an' kape
this melancolious counthry? Answer me that, Sorr.'

It was Mulvaney who was speaking. The time was one o'clock of a
stifling June night, and the place was the main gate of Fort Amara,
most desolate and least desirable of all fortresses in India. What I
was doing there at that hour is a question which only concerns M'Grath
the Sergeant of the Guard, and the men on the gate.

'Slape,' said Mulvaney, 'is a shuparfluous necessity. This gyard'll
shtay lively till relieved.' He himself was stripped to the waist;
Learoyd on the next bedstead was dripping from the skinful of water
which Ortheris, clad only in white trousers, had just sluiced over his
shoulders; and a fourth private was muttering uneasily as he dozed
open-mouthed in the glare of the great guard-lantern. The heat under
the bricked archway was terrifying.

'The worrst night that iver I remimber. Eyah! Is all Hell loose this
tide?' said Mulvaney. A puff of burning wind lashed through the
wicket-gate like a wave of the sea, and Ortheris swore.

'Are ye more heasy, Jock?' he said to Learoyd. 'Put yer 'ead between
your legs. It'll go orf in a minute.'

'Ah don't care. Ah would not care, but ma heart is plaayin'
tivvy-tivvy on ma ribs. Let me die! Oh, leave me die!' groaned the
huge Yorkshireman, who was feeling the heat acutely, being of fleshly
build.

The sleeper under the lantern roused for a moment and raised himself
on his elbow.--'Die and be damned then!' he said. '_I_'m damned and I
can't die!'

'Who's that?' I whispered, for the voice was new to me.

'Gentleman born,' said Mulvaney; 'Corp'ril wan year, Sargint nex'.
Red-hot on his C'mission, but dhrinks like a fish. He'll be gone
before the cowld weather's here. So!'

    [Illustration: 'Put yer 'ead between your legs. It'll go orf in
    a minute.'--P. 2.]

He slipped his boot, and with the naked toe just touched the trigger
of his Martini. Ortheris misunderstood the movement, and the next
instant the Irishman's rifle was dashed aside, while Ortheris stood
before him, his eyes blazing with reproof.

'You!' said Ortheris. 'My Gawd, _you_! If it was you, wot would _we_
do?'

'Kape quiet, little man,' said Mulvaney, putting him aside, but very
gently; ''tis not me, nor will ut be me whoile Dinah Shadd's here. I
was but showin' something.'

Learoyd, bowed on his bedstead, groaned, and the gentleman-ranker
sighed in his sleep. Ortheris took Mulvaney's tendered pouch, and we
three smoked gravely for a space while the dust-devils danced on the
glacis and scoured the red-hot plain.

'Pop?' said Ortheris, wiping his forehead.

'Don't tantalise wid talkin' av dhrink, or I'll shtuff you into your
own breech-block an'--fire you off!' grunted Mulvaney.

Ortheris chuckled, and from a niche in the veranda produced six
bottles of gingerade.

'Where did ye get ut, ye Machiavel?' said Mulvaney. ''Tis no bazar
pop.'

''Ow do _Hi_ know wot the Orf'cers drink?' answered Ortheris. 'Arst
the mess-man.'

'Ye'll have a Disthrict Coort-Martial settin' on ye yet, me son,' said
Mulvaney, 'but'--he opened a bottle--'I will not report ye this time.
Fwhat's in the mess-kid is mint for the belly, as they say, 'specially
whin that mate is dhrink. Here's luck! A bloody war or a--no, we've
got the sickly season. War, thin!'--he waved the innocent 'pop' to the
four quarters of heaven. 'Bloody war! North, East, South, an' West!
Jock, ye quackin' hayrick, come an' dhrink.'

But Learoyd, half mad with the fear of death presaged in the swelling
veins of his neck, was begging his Maker to strike him dead, and
fighting for more air between his prayers. A second time Ortheris
drenched the quivering body with water, and the giant revived.

'An' Ah divn't see thot a mon is i' fettle for gooin' on to live; an'
Ah divn't see thot there is owt for t' livin' for. Hear now, lads!
Ah'm tired--tired. There's nobbut watter i' ma bones. Let me die!'

The hollow of the arch gave back Learoyd's broken whisper in a bass
boom. Mulvaney looked at me hopelessly, but I remembered how the
madness of despair had once fallen upon Ortheris, that weary, weary
afternoon in the banks of the Khemi River, and how it had been
exorcised by the skilful magician Mulvaney.

'Talk, Terence!' I said, 'or we shall have Learoyd slinging loose, and
he'll be worse than Ortheris was. Talk! He'll answer to your voice.'

Almost before Ortheris had deftly thrown all the rifles of the guard
on Mulvaney's bedstead, the Irishman's voice was uplifted as that of
one in the middle of a story, and, turning to me, he said:--

'In barricks or out of it, as _you_ say, Sorr, an Oirish rig'mint is
the divil an' more. 'Tis only fit for a young man wid eddicated
fisteses. Oh the crame av disruption is an Oirish rig'mint, an'
rippin', tearin', ragin' scattherers in the field av war! My first
rig'mint was Oirish--Faynians an' rebils to the heart av their marrow
was they, an' _so_ they fought for the Widdy betther than most, bein'
contrairy--Oirish. They was the Black Tyrone. You've heard av thim,
Sorr?'

Heard of them! I knew the Black Tyrone for the choicest collection of
unmitigated blackguards, dog-stealers, robbers of hen-roosts,
assaulters of innocent citizens, and recklessly daring heroes in the
Army List. Half Europe and half Asia has had cause to know the Black
Tyrone--good luck be with their tattered Colours as Glory has ever
been!

'They _was_ hot pickils an' ginger! I cut a man's head tu deep wid my
belt in the days av my youth, an', afther some circumstances which I
will oblitherate, I came to the Ould Rig'mint, bearin' the character
av a man wid hands an' feet. But, as I was goin' to tell you, I fell
acrost the Black Tyrone agin wan day whin we wanted thim powerful bad.
Orth'ris, me son, fwhat was the name av that place where they sint wan
comp'ny av us an' wan av the Tyrone roun' a hill an' down again, all
for to tache the Paythans something they'd niver learned before?
Afther Ghuzni 'twas.'

'Don't know what the bloomin' Paythans called it. We called it
Silver's Theayter. You know that, sure!'

'Silver's Theatre--so 'twas. A gut betune two hills, as black as a
bucket, an' as thin as a girl's waist. There was over-many Paythans
for our convaynience in the gut, an' begad they called thimselves a
Reserve--bein' impident by natur'! Our Scotchies an' lashins av Gurkys
was poundin' into some Paythan rig'ments, I think 'twas. Scotchies and
Gurkys are twins bekaze they're so onlike, an' they get dhrunk
together when God plazes. As I was sayin', they sint wan comp'ny av
the Ould an' wan av the Tyrone to double up the hill an' clane out the
Paythan Reserve. Orf'cers was scarce in thim days, fwhat wid dysintry
an' not takin' care av thimselves, an' we was sint out wid only wan
orf'cer for the comp'ny; but he was a Man that had his feet beneath
him, an' all his teeth in their sockuts.'

'Who was he?' I asked.

'Captain O'Neil--Old Crook--Cruikna-bulleen--him that I tould ye that
tale av whin he was in Burma.[1] Hah! He was a Man. The Tyrone tuk a
little orf'cer bhoy, but divil a bit was he in command, as I'll
dimonstrate presintly. We an' they came over the brow av the hill, wan
on each side av the gut, an' there was that ondacint Reserve waitin'
down below like rats in a pit.

'"Howld on, men," sez Crook, who tuk a mother's care av us always.
"Rowl some rocks on thim by way av visitin'-kyards." We hadn't rowled
more than twinty bowlders, an' the Paythans was beginnin' to swear
tremenjus, whin the little orf'cer bhoy av the Tyrone shqueaks out
acrost the valley:--"Fwhat the devil an' all are you doin', shpoilin'
the fun for my men? Do ye not see they'll stand?"

'"Faith, that's a rare pluckt wan!" sez Crook. "Niver mind the rocks,
men. Come along down an' tak tay wid thim!"

'"There's damned little sugar in ut!" sez my rear-rank man; but Crook
heard.

'"Have ye not all got spoons?" he sez, laughin', an' down we wint as
fast as we cud. Learoyd bein' sick at the Base, he, av coorse, was not
there.'

'Thot's a lie!' said Learoyd, dragging his bedstead nearer. 'Ah gotten
_thot_ theer, an' you know it, Mulvaney.' He threw up his arms, and
from the right arm-pit ran, diagonally through the fell of his chest,
a thin white line terminating near the fourth left rib.

'My mind's goin',' said Mulvaney, the unabashed. 'Ye were there. Fwhat
was I thinkin' of? 'Twas another man, av coorse. Well, you'll remimber
thin, Jock, how we an' the Tyrone met wid a bang at the bottom an' got
jammed past all movin' among the Paythans?'

'Ow! It _was_ a tight 'ole. I was squeezed till I thought I'd bloomin'
well bust,' said Ortheris, rubbing his stomach meditatively.

''Twas no place for a little man, but _wan_ little man'--Mulvaney put
his hand on Ortheris's shoulder--'saved the life av me. There we
shtuck, for divil a bit did the Paythans flinch, an' divil a bit dare
we; our business bein' to clear 'em out. An' the most exthryordinar'
thing av all was that we an' they just rushed into each other's
arrums, an' there was no firing for a long time. Nothin' but knife an'
bay'nit when we cud get our hands free: an' that was not often. We was
breast-on to thim, an' the Tyrone was yelpin' behind av us in a way I
didn't see the lean av at first. But I knew later, an' so did the
Paythans.

'"Knee to knee!" sings out Crook, wid a laugh whin the rush av our
comin' into the gut shtopped, an' he was huggin' a hairy great
Paythan, neither bein' able to do anything to the other, tho' both was
wishful.

'"Breast to breast!" he sez, as the Tyrone was pushin' us forward
closer an' closer.

'"An' hand over back!" sez a Sargint that was behin'. I saw a sword
lick out past Crook's ear, an' the Paythan was tuck in the apple av
his throat like a pig at Dromeen Fair.

'"Thank ye, Brother Inner Guard," sez Crook, cool as a cucumber widout
salt. "I wanted that room." An' he wint forward by the thickness av a
man's body, havin' turned the Paythan undher him. The man bit the heel
off Crook's boot in his death-bite.

'"Push, men!" sez Crook. "Push, ye paper-backed beggars!" he sez. "Am
I to pull ye through?" So we pushed, an' we kicked, an' we swung, an'
we swore, an' the grass bein' slippery our heels wouldn't bite, an'
God help the front-rank man that wint down that day!'

''Ave you ever bin in the Pit hentrance o' the Vic. on a thick night?'
interrupted Ortheris. 'It was worse nor that, for they was goin' one
way, an' we wouldn't 'ave it. Leastaways, I 'adn't much to say.'

'Faith, me son, ye said ut, thin. I kep' the little man betune my
knees as long as I cud, but he was pokin' roun' wid his bay'nit,
blindin' and stiffin' feroshus. The devil of a man is Orth'ris in a
ruction--aren't ye?' said Mulvaney.

'Don't make game!' said the Cockney. 'I knowed I wasn't no good then,
but I guv 'em compot from the lef' flank when we opened out. No!' he
said, bringing down his hand with a thump on the bedstead, 'a bay'nit
ain't no good to a little man--might as well 'ave a bloomin'
fishin'-rod! I 'ate a clawin', maulin' mess, but gimme a breech that's
wore out a bit, an' hamminition one year in store, to let the powder
kiss the bullet, an' put me somewheres where I ain't trod on by 'ulkin
swine like you, an' s'elp me Gawd, I could bowl you over five times
outer seven at height 'undred. Would yer try, you lumberin'
Hirishman?'

'No, ye wasp. I've seen ye do ut. I say there's nothin' better than
the bay'nit, wid a long reach, a double twist av ye can, an' a slow
recover.'

'Dom the bay'nit,' said Learoyd, who had been listening intently.
'Look a-here!' He picked up a rifle an inch below the foresight with
an underhanded action, and used it exactly as a man would use a
dagger.

'Sitha,' said he softly, 'thot's better than owt, for a mon can bash
t' faace wi' thot, an', if he divn't, he can breeak t' forearm o' t'
gaard. 'Tis not i' t' books, though. Gie me t' butt.'

'Each does ut his own way, like makin' love,' said Mulvaney quietly;
'the butt or the bay'nit or the bullet accordin' to the natur' av the
man. Well, as I was sayin', we shtuck there breathin' in each other's
faces an' swearin' powerful; Orth'ris cursin' the mother that bore him
bekaze he was not three inches taller.

'Prisintly he sez:--"Duck, ye lump, an' I can get at a man over your
shouldher!"

'"You'll blow me head off," I sez, throwin' my arm clear; "go through
under my arm-pit, ye blood-thirsty little scutt," sez I, "but don't
shtick me or I'll wring your ears round."

'Fwhat was ut ye gave the Paythan man forninst me, him that cut at me
whin I cudn't move hand or foot? Hot or cowld was ut?'

'Cold,' said Ortheris, 'up an' under the rib-jint. 'E come down flat.
Best for you 'e did.'

'Thrue, my son! This jam thing that I'm talkin' about lasted for five
minutes good, an' thin we got our arms clear an' wint in. I
misremimber exactly fwhat I did, but I didn't want Dinah to be a widdy
at the Depot. Thin, after some promishkuous hackin' we shtuck again,
an' the Tyrone behin' was callin' us dogs an' cowards an' all manner
av names; we barrin' their way.

'"Fwhat ails the Tyrone?" thinks I; "they've the makin's av a most
convanient fight here."

'A man behind me sez beseechful an' in a whisper:--"Let me get at
thim! For the love av Mary give me room beside ye, ye tall man!"

'"An' who are you that's so anxious to be kilt?" sez I, widout turnin'
my head, for the long knives was dancin' in front like the sun on
Donegal Bay when ut's rough.

'"We've seen our dead," he sez, squeezin' into me; "our dead that was
men two days gone! An' me that was his cousin by blood could not bring
Tim Coulan off? Let me get on," he sez, "let me get to thim or I'll
run ye through the back!"

'"My troth," thinks I, "if the Tyrone have seen their dead, God help
the Paythans this day!" An' thin I knew why the Oirish was ragin'
behind us as they was.

'I gave room to the man, an' he ran forward wid the Haymakers' Lift on
his bay'nit an' swung a Paythan clear off his feet by the belly-band
av the brute, an' the iron bruk at the lockin'-ring.

'"Tim Coulan'll slape easy to-night," sez he wid a grin; an' the next
minut his head was in two halves and he wint down grinnin' by
sections.

'The Tyrone was pushin' an' pushin' in, an' our men were swearin' at
thim, an' Crook was workin' away in front av us all, his sword-arm
swingin' like a pump-handle; an' his revolver spittin' like a cat.
But the strange thing av ut was the quiet that lay upon. 'Twas like a
fight in a drame--except for thim that was dead.

    [Illustration: 'He ran forward wid the Haymakers' Lift on his
    bay'nit.'--P. 12.]

'Whin I gave room to the Oirishman I was expinded an' forlorn in my
inside. 'Tis a way I have, savin' your presince, Sorr, in action. "Let
me out, bhoys," sez I, backin' in among thim. "I'm goin' to be
onwell!" Faith they gave me room at the wurrd, though they would not
ha' given room for all Hell wid the chill off. When I got clear, I
was, savin' your presince, Sorr, outragis sick bekaze I had dhrunk
heavy that day.

'Well an' far out av harm was a Sargint av the Tyrone sittin' on the
little orf'cer bhoy who had stopped Crook from rowlin' the rocks. Oh,
he was a beautiful bhoy, an' the long black curses was sliding out av
his innocint mouth like morning-jew from a rose!

'"Fwhat have you got there?" sez I to the Sargint.

'"Wan av Her Majesty's bantams wid his spurs up," sez he. "He's goin'
to Coort-Martial me."

'"Let me go!" sez the little orf'cer bhoy. "Let me go and command my
men!" manin' thereby the Black Tyrone which was beyond any
command--ay, even av they had made the Divil a Field-Orf'cer.

'"His father howlds my mother's cow-feed in Clonmel," sez the man that
was sittin' on him. "Will I go back to _his_ mother an' tell her that
I've let him throw himself away? Lie still, ye little pinch av
dynamite, an' Coort-Martial me aftherwards."

'"Good," sez I; "'tis the likes av him makes the likes av the
Commandher-in-Chief, but we must presarve thim. Fwhat d'you want to
do, Sorr?" sez I, very politeful.

'"Kill the beggars--kill the beggars!" he shqueaks, his big blue eyes
brimmin' wid tears.

'"An' how'll ye do that?" sez I. "You've shquibbed off your revolver
like a child wid a cracker; you can make no play wid that fine large
sword av yours; an' your hand's shakin' like an asp on a leaf. Lie
still and grow," sez I.

'"Get back to your comp'ny," sez he; "you're insolint!"

'"All in good time," sez I, "but I'll have a dhrink first."

'Just thin Crook comes up, blue an' white all over where he wasn't
red.

'"Wather!" sez he; "I'm dead wid drouth! Oh, but it's a gran' day!"

'He dhrank half a skinful, and the rest he tilts into his chest, an'
it fair hissed on the hairy hide av him. He sees the little orf'cer
bhoy undher the Sargint.

'"Fwhat's yonder?" sez he.

'"Mutiny, Sorr," sez the Sargint, an' the orf'cer bhoy begins pleadin'
pitiful to Crook to be let go, but divil a bit wud Crook budge.

'"Kape him there," he sez, "'tis no child's work this day. By the same
token," sez he, "I'll confishcate that iligant nickel-plated
scent-sprinkler av yours, for my own has been vomitin' dishgraceful!"

'The fork av his hand was black wid the back-spit av the machine. So
he tuk the orf'cer bhoy's revolver. Ye may look, Sorr, but, by my
faith, _there's a dale more done in the field than iver gets into
Field Ordhers!_

'"Come on, Mulvaney," sez Crook; "is this a Coort-Martial?" The two av
us wint back together into the mess an' the Paythans were still
standin' up. They was not _too_ impart'nint though, for the Tyrone was
callin' wan to another to remimber Tim Coulan.

'Crook stopped outside av the strife an' looked anxious, his eyes
rowlin' roun'.

'"Fwhat is ut, Sorr?" sez I; "can I get ye anything?"

'"Where's a bugler?" sez he.

'I wint into the crowd--our men was dhrawin' breath behin' the Tyrone
who was fightin' like sowls in tormint--an' prisintly I came acrost
little Frehan, our bugler bhoy, pokin' roun' among the best wid a
rifle an' bay'nit.

'"Is amusin' yoursilf fwhat you're paid for, ye limb?" sez I, catchin'
him by the scruff. "Come out av that an' attind to your duty," I sez;
but the bhoy was not pleased.

'"I've got wan," sez he, grinnin', "big as you, Mulvaney, an' fair
half as ugly. Let me go get another."

'I was dishpleased at the personability av that remark, so I tucks him
under my arm an' carries him to Crook who was watchin' how the fight
wint. Crook cuffs him till the bhoy cries, an' thin sez nothin' for a
whoile.

'The Paythans began to flicker onaisy, an' our men roared. "Opin
ordher! Double!" sez Crook. "Blow, child, blow for the honour av the
British Arrmy!"

'That bhoy blew like a typhoon, an' the Tyrone an' we opined out as
the Paythans broke, an' I saw that fwhat had gone before wud be
kissin' an' huggin' to fwhat was to come. We'd dhruv them into a broad
part av the gut whin they gave, an' thin we opined out an' fair danced
down the valley, dhrivin' thim before us. Oh, 'twas lovely, an'
stiddy, too! There was the Sargints on the flanks av what was left av
us, kapin' touch, an' the fire was runnin' from flank to flank, an'
the Paythans was dhroppin'. We opined out wid the widenin' av the
valley, an' whin the valley narrowed we closed again like the shticks
on a lady's fan, an' at the far ind av the gut where they thried to
stand, we fair blew them off their feet, for we had expinded very
little ammunition by reason av the knife work.'

'Hi used thirty rounds goin' down that valley,' said Ortheris, 'an' it
was gentleman's work. Might 'a' done it in a white 'andkerchief an'
pink silk stockin's, that part. Hi was on in that piece.'

'You could ha' heard the Tyrone yellin' a mile away,' said Mulvaney,
'an' 'twas all their Sargints cud do to get thim off. They was
mad--mad--mad! Crook sits down in the quiet that fell when we had gone
down the valley, an' covers his face wid his hands. Prisintly we all
came back again accordin' to our natures and disposishins, for they,
mark you, show through the hide av a man in that hour.

'"Bhoys! bhoys!" sez Crook to himself. "I misdoubt we could ha'
engaged at long range an' saved betther men than me." He looked at our
dead an' said no more.

'"Captain dear," sez a man av the Tyrone, comin' up wid his mouth
bigger than iver his mother kissed ut, spittin' blood like a whale;
"Captain dear," sez he, "if wan or two in the shtalls have been
discommoded, the gallery have enjoyed the performinces av a Roshus."

'Thin I knew that man for the Dublin dock-rat he was--wan av the bhoys
that made the lessee av Silver's Theatre gray before his time wid
tearin' out the bowils av the benches an' t'rowin' thim into the pit.
So I passed the wurrud that I knew when I was in the Tyrone an' we lay
in Dublin. "I don't know who 'twas," I whispers, "an' I don't care,
but anyways I'll knock the face av you, Tim Kelly."

'"Eyah!" sez the man, "was you there too? We'll call ut Silver's
Theatre." Half the Tyrone, knowin' the ould place, tuk ut up: so we
called ut Silver's Theatre.

'The little orf'cer bhoy av the Tyrone was thremblin' an' cryin'. He
had no heart for the Coort-Martials that he talked so big upon. "Ye'll
do well later," sez Crook very quiet, "for not bein' allowed to kill
yourself for amusemint."

'"I'm a dishgraced man!" sez the little orf'cer bhoy.

'"Put me undher arrest, Sorr, if you will, but, by my sowl, I'd do ut
again sooner than face your mother wid you dead," sez the Sargint that
had sat on his head, standin' to attention an' salutin'. But the young
wan only cried as tho' his little heart was breakin'.

'Thin another man av the Tyrone came up, wid the fog av fightin' on
him.'

'The what, Mulvaney?'

'Fog av fightin'. You know, Sorr, that, like makin' love, ut takes
each man diff'rint. Now I can't help bein' powerful sick whin I'm in
action. Orth'ris, here, niver stops swearin' from ind to ind, an' the
only time that Learoyd opins his mouth to sing is whin he is messin'
wid other people's heads; for he's a dhirty fighter is Jock.
Recruities sometime cry, an' sometime they don't know fwhat they do,
an' sometime they are all for cuttin' throats an' such-like dirtiness;
but some men get heavy-dead-dhrunk on the fightin'. This man was. He
was staggerin', an' his eyes were half-shut, an' we cud hear him dhraw
breath twinty yards away. He sees the little orf'cer bhoy, an' comes
up, talkin' thick an' drowsy to himsilf. "Blood the young whelp!" he
sez; "blood the young whelp;" an' wid that he threw up his arms, shpun
roun', an' dropped at our feet, dead as a Paythan, an' there was niver
sign or scratch on him. They said 'twas his heart was rotten, but oh,
'twas a quare thing to see!

'Thin we went to bury our dead, for we wud not lave thim to the
Paythans, an' in movin' among the haythen we nearly lost that little
orf'cer bhoy. He was for givin' wan divil wather and layin' him aisy
against a rock. "Be careful, Sorr," sez I; "a wounded Paythan's worse
than a live wan." My troth, before the words was out of my mouth, the
man on the ground fires at the orf'cer bhoy lanin' over him, an' I saw
the helmit fly. I dropped the butt on the face av the man an' tuk his
pistol. The little orf'cer bhoy turned very white, for the hair av
half his head was singed away.

'"I tould you so, Sorr," sez I; an', afther that, when he wanted to
help a Paythan I stud wid the muzzle contagious to the ear. They dare
not do anythin' but curse. The Tyrone was growlin' like dogs over a
bone that has been taken away too soon, for they had seen their dead
an' they wanted to kill ivry sowl on the ground. Crook tould thim that
he'd blow the hide off any man that misconducted himself; but, seeing
that ut was the first time the Tyrone had iver seen their dead, I do
not wondher they were on the sharp. 'Tis a shameful sight! Whin I
first saw ut I wud niver ha' given quarter to any man not of the
Khaibar--no, nor woman either, for the women used to come out afther
dhark--Auggrh!

'Well, evenshually we buried our dead an' tuk away our wounded, an'
come over the brow av the hills to see the Scotchies an' the Gurkys
taking tay with the Paythans in bucketsfuls. We were a gang av
dissolute ruffians, for the blood had caked the dust, an' the sweat
had cut the cake, an' our bay'nits was hangin' like butchers' steels
betune ur legs, an' most av us were marked one way or another.

'A Staff Orf'cer man, clean as a new rifle, rides up an' sez: "What
damned scarecrows are you?"

'"A comp'ny av Her Majesty's Black Tyrone an' wan av the Ould
Rig'mint," sez Crook very quiet, givin' our visitors the flure as
'twas.

'"Oh!" sez the Staff Orf'cer; "did you dislodge that Reserve?"

'"No!" sez Crook, an' the Tyrone laughed.

'"Thin fwhat the divil have ye done?"

'"Disthroyed ut," sez Crook, an' he took us on, but not before Toomey
that was in the Tyrone sez aloud, his voice somewhere in his stummick:
"Fwhat in the name av misfortune does this parrit widout a tail mane
by shtoppin' the road av his betthers?"

'The Staff Orf'cer wint blue, an' Toomey makes him pink by changin' to
the voice av a minowderin' woman an' sayin': "Come an' kiss me, Major
dear, for me husband's at the wars an' I'm all alone at the Depot."

'The Staff Orf'cer wint away, an' I cud see Crook's shoulthers
shakin'.

'His Corp'ril checks Toomey. "Lave me alone," sez Toomey, widout a
wink. "I was his bâtman before he was married an' he knows fwhat I
mane, av you don't. There's nothin' like livin' in the hoight av
society." D'you remimber that, Orth'ris!'

'Hi do. Toomey, 'e died in 'orspital, next week it was, 'cause I
bought 'arf his kit; an' I remember after that----'

'GUARRD, TURN OUT!'

The Relief had come; it was four o'clock. 'I'll catch a kyart for you,
Sorr,' said Mulvaney, diving hastily into his accoutrements. 'Come up
to the top av the Fort an' we'll pershue our invistigations into
M'Grath's shtable.' The relieved guard strolled round the main bastion
on its way to the swimming-bath, and Learoyd grew almost talkative.
Ortheris looked into the Fort ditch and across the plain. 'Ho! it's
weary waitin' for Ma-ary!' he hummed; 'but I'd like to kill some more
bloomin' Paythans before my time's up. War! Bloody war! North, East,
South, and West.'

'Amen,' said Learoyd slowly.

'Fwhat's here?' said Mulvaney, checking at a blur of white by the foot
of the old sentry-box. He stooped and touched it. 'It's Norah--Norah
M'Taggart! Why, Nonie darlin', fwhat are ye doin' out av your mother's
bed at this time?'

The two-year-old child of Sergeant M'Taggart must have wandered for a
breath of cool air to the very verge of the parapet of the Fort ditch.
Her tiny night-shift was gathered into a wisp round her neck and she
moaned in her sleep. 'See there!' said Mulvaney; 'poor lamb! Look at
the heat-rash on the innocint skin av her. 'Tis hard--crool hard
even for us. Fwhat must it be for these? Wake up, Nonie, your mother
will be woild about you. Begad, the child might ha' fallen into the
ditch!'

    [Illustration: He picked her up in the growing light, and set
    her on his shoulder.--P. 23.]

He picked her up in the growing light, and set her on his shoulder,
and her fair curls touched the grizzled stubble of his temples.
Ortheris and Learoyd followed snapping their fingers, while Norah
smiled at them a sleepy smile. Then carolled Mulvaney, clear as a
lark, dancing the baby on his arm:--

    'If any young man should marry you,
      Say nothin' about the joke;
    That iver ye slep' in a sinthry-box,
      Wrapped up in a soldier's cloak.

'Though, on my sowl, Nonie,' he said gravely, 'there was not much
cloak about you. Niver mind, you won't dhress like this ten years to
come. Kiss your friends an' run along to your mother.'

Nonie, set down close to the Married Quarters, nodded with the quiet
obedience of the soldier's child, but, ere she pattered off over the
flagged path, held up her lips to be kissed by the Three Musketeers.
Ortheris wiped his mouth with the back of his hand and swore
sentimentally; Learoyd turned pink; and the two walked away together.
The Yorkshireman lifted up his voice and gave in thunder the chorus of
_The Sentry Box_, while Ortheris piped at his side.

''Bin to a bloomin' sing-song, you two?' said the Artilleryman, who
was taking his cartridge down to the Morning Gun. 'You're over merry
for these dashed days.'

    'I bid ye take care o' the brat, said he,
      For it comes of a noble race,'

Learoyd bellowed. The voices died out in the swimming-bath.

'Oh, Terence!' I said, dropping into Mulvaney's speech, when we were
alone, 'it's you that have the Tongue!'

He looked at me wearily; his eyes were sunk in his head, and his face
was drawn and white. 'Eyah!' said he; 'I've blandandhered thim through
the night somehow, but can thim that helps others help thimselves?
Answer me that, Sorr!'

And over the bastions of Fort Amara broke the pitiless day.

FOOTNOTES:

[1]

    Now first of the foemen of Boh Da Thone
    Was Captain O'Neil of the Black Tyrone.
            _The Ballad of Boh Da Thone._


[Illustration]



THE DRUMS OF THE FORE AND AFT


In the Army List they still stand as 'The Fore and Fit Princess
Hohenzollern-Sigmaringen-Auspach's Merthyr-Tydfilshire Own Royal Loyal
Light Infantry, Regimental District 329A,' but the Army through all
its barracks and canteens knows them now as the 'Fore and Aft.' They
may in time do something that shall make their new title honourable,
but at present they are bitterly ashamed, and the man who calls them
'Fore and Aft' does so at the risk of the head which is on his
shoulders.

Two words breathed into the stables of a certain Cavalry Regiment will
bring the men out into the streets with belts and mops and bad
language; but a whisper of 'Fore and Aft' will bring out this regiment
with rifles.

Their one excuse is that they came again and did their best to finish
the job in style. But for a time all their world knows that they were
openly beaten, whipped, dumb-cowed, shaking, and afraid. The men know
it; their officers know it; the Horse Guards know it, and when the
next war comes the enemy will know it also. There are two or three
regiments of the Line that have a black mark against their names which
they will then wipe out; and it will be excessively inconvenient for
the troops upon whom they do their wiping.

The courage of the British soldier is officially supposed to be above
proof, and, as a general rule, it is so. The exceptions are decently
shovelled out of sight, only to be referred to in the freshest of
unguarded talk that occasionally swamps a Mess-table at midnight. Then
one hears strange and horrible stories of men not following their
officers, of orders being given by those who had no right to give
them, and of disgrace that, but for the standing luck of the British
Army, might have ended in brilliant disaster. These are unpleasant
stories to listen to, and the Messes tell them under their breath,
sitting by the big wood fires; and the young officer bows his head and
thinks to himself, please God, his men shall never behave unhandily.

The British soldier is not altogether to be blamed for occasional
lapses; but this verdict he should not know. A moderately intelligent
General will waste six months in mastering the craft of the particular
war that he may be waging; a Colonel may utterly misunderstand the
capacity of his regiment for three months after it has taken the
field; and even a Company Commander may err and be deceived as to the
temper and temperament of his own handful: wherefore the soldier, and
the soldier of to-day more particularly, should not be blamed for
falling back. He should be shot or hanged afterwards--to encourage the
others; but he should not be vilified in newspapers, for that is want
of tact and waste of space.

He has, let us say, been in the service of the Empress for, perhaps,
four years. He will leave in another two years. He has no inherited
morals, and four years are not sufficient to drive toughness into his
fibre, or to teach him how holy a thing is his Regiment. He wants to
drink, he wants to enjoy himself--in India he wants to save money--and
he does not in the least like getting hurt. He has received just
sufficient education to make him understand half the purport of the
orders he receives, and to speculate on the nature of clean, incised,
and shattering wounds. Thus, if he is told to deploy under fire
preparatory to an attack, he knows that he runs a very great risk of
being killed while he is deploying, and suspects that he is being
thrown away to gain ten minutes' time. He may either deploy with
desperate swiftness, or he may shuffle, or bunch, or break, according
to the discipline under which he has lain for four years.

Armed with imperfect knowledge, cursed with the rudiments of an
imagination, hampered by the intense selfishness of the lower classes,
and unsupported by any regimental associations, this young man is
suddenly introduced to an enemy who in eastern lands is always ugly,
generally tall and hairy, and frequently noisy. If he looks to the
right and the left and sees old soldiers--men of twelve years'
service, who, he knows, know what they are about--taking a charge,
rush, or demonstration without embarrassment, he is consoled and
applies his shoulder to the butt of his rifle with a stout heart. His
peace is the greater if he hears a senior, who has taught him his
soldiering and broken his head on occasion, whispering: 'They'll shout
and carry on like this for five minutes. Then they'll rush in, and
then we've got 'em by the short hairs!'

But, on the other hand, if he sees only men of his own term of
service, turning white and playing with their triggers and saying:
'What the Hell's up now?' while the Company Commanders are sweating
into their sword-hilts and shouting: 'Front-rank, fix bayonets. Steady
there--steady! Sight for three hundred--no, for five! Lie down, all!
Steady! Front-rank kneel!' and so forth, he becomes unhappy; and grows
acutely miserable when he hears a comrade turn over with the rattle of
fire-irons falling into the fender, and the grunt of a pole-axed ox.
If he can be moved about a little and allowed to watch the effect of
his own fire on the enemy he feels merrier, and may be then worked up
to the blind passion of fighting, which is, contrary to general
belief, controlled by a chilly Devil and shakes men like ague. If he
is not moved about, and begins to feel cold at the pit of the stomach,
and in that crisis is badly mauled and hears orders that were never
given, he will break, and he will break badly; and of all things under
the light of the Sun there is nothing more terrible than a broken
British regiment. When the worst comes to the worst and the panic is
really epidemic, the men must be e'en let go, and the Company
Commanders had better escape to the enemy and stay there for safety's
sake. If they can be made to come again they are not pleasant men to
meet; because they will not break twice.

About thirty years from this date, when we have succeeded in
half-educating everything that wears trousers, our Army will be a
beautifully unreliable machine. It will know too much and it will do
too little. Later still, when all men are at the mental level of the
officer of to-day, it will sweep the earth. Speaking roughly, you must
employ either blackguards or gentlemen, or, best of all, blackguards
commanded by gentlemen, to do butcher's work with efficiency and
despatch. The ideal soldier should, of course, think for himself--the
_Pocket-book_ says so. Unfortunately, to attain this virtue he has to
pass through the phase of thinking of himself, and that is misdirected
genius. A blackguard may be slow to think for himself, but he is
genuinely anxious to kill, and a little punishment teaches him how to
guard his own skin and perforate another's. A powerfully prayerful
Highland Regiment, officered by rank Presbyterians, is, perhaps, one
degree more terrible in action than a hard-bitten thousand of
irresponsible Irish ruffians led by most improper young unbelievers.
But these things prove the rule--which is that the midway men are not
to be trusted alone. They have ideas about the value of life and an
upbringing that has not taught them to go on and take the chances.
They are carefully unprovided with a backing of comrades who have been
shot over, and until that backing is re-introduced, as a great many
Regimental Commanders intend it shall be, they are more liable to
disgrace themselves than the size of the Empire or the dignity of the
Army allows. Their officers are as good as good can be, because their
training begins early, and God has arranged that a clean-run youth of
the British middle classes shall, in the matter of backbone, brains,
and bowels, surpass all other youths. For this reason a child of
eighteen will stand up, doing nothing, with a tin sword in his hand
and joy in his heart until he is dropped. If he dies, he dies like a
gentleman. If he lives, he writes Home that he has been 'potted,'
'sniped,' 'chipped,' or 'cut over,' and sits down to besiege
Government for a wound-gratuity until the next little war breaks out,
when he perjures himself before a Medical Board, blarneys his Colonel,
burns incense round his Adjutant, and is allowed to go to the Front
once more.

Which homily brings me directly to a brace of the most finished little
fiends that ever banged drum or tootled fife in the Band of a British
Regiment. They ended their sinful career by open and flagrant mutiny
and were shot for it. Their names were Jakin and Lew--Piggy Lew--and
they were bold, bad drummer-boys, both of them frequently birched by
the Drum-Major of the Fore and Aft.

Jakin was a stunted child of fourteen, and Lew was about the same age.
When not looked after, they smoked and drank. They swore habitually
after the manner of the Barrack-room, which is cold-swearing and comes
from between clinched teeth; and they fought religiously once a week.
Jakin had sprung from some London gutter, and may or may not have
passed through Dr. Barnardo's hands ere he arrived at the dignity of
drummer-boy. Lew could remember nothing except the Regiment and the
delight of listening to the Band from his earliest years. He hid
somewhere in his grimy little soul a genuine love for music, and was
most mistakenly furnished with the head of a cherub: insomuch that
beautiful ladies who watched the Regiment in church were wont to speak
of him as a 'darling.' They never heard his vitriolic comments on
their manners and morals, as he walked back to barracks with the Band
and matured fresh causes of offence against Jakin.

The other drummer-boys hated both lads on account of their illogical
conduct. Jakin might be pounding Lew, or Lew might be rubbing Jakin's
head in the dirt, but any attempt at aggression on the part of an
outsider was met by the combined forces of Lew and Jakin; and the
consequences were painful. The boys were the Ishmaels of the corps,
but wealthy Ishmaels, for they sold battles in alternate weeks for the
sport of the barracks when they were not pitted against other boys;
and thus amassed money.

On this particular day there was dissension in the camp. They had just
been convicted afresh of smoking, which is bad for little boys who use
plug-tobacco, and Lew's contention was that Jakin had 'stunk so 'orrid
bad from keepin' the pipe in pocket,' that he and he alone was
responsible for the birching they were both tingling under.

'I tell you I 'id the pipe back o' barracks,' said Jakin pacifically.

'You're a bloomin' liar,' said Lew without heat.

'You're a bloomin' little barstard,' said Jakin, strong in the
knowledge that his own ancestry was unknown.

Now there is one word in the extended vocabulary of barrack-room abuse
that cannot pass without comment. You may call a man a thief and risk
nothing. You may even call him a coward without finding more than a
boot whiz past your ear, but you must not call a man a bastard unless
you are prepared to prove it on his front teeth.

'You might ha' kep' that till I wasn't so sore,' said Lew sorrowfully,
dodging round Jakin's guard.

'I'll make you sorer,' said Jakin genially, and got home on Lew's
alabaster forehead. All would have gone well and this story, as the
books say, would never have been written, had not his evil fate
prompted the Bazar-Sergeant's son, a long, employless man of
five-and-twenty, to put in an appearance after the first round. He was
eternally in need of money, and knew that the boys had silver.

'Fighting again,' said he. 'I'll report you to my father, and he'll
report you to the Colour-Sergeant.'

'What's that to you?' said Jakin with an unpleasant dilation of the
nostrils.

'Oh! nothing to _me_. You'll get into trouble, and you've been up too
often to afford that.'

'What the Hell do you know about what we've done?' asked Lew the
Seraph. '_You_ aren't in the Army, you lousy, cadging civilian.'

He closed in on the man's left flank.

'Jes' 'cause you find two gentlemen settlin' their diff'rences with
their fistes you stick in your ugly nose where you aren't wanted. Run
'ome to your 'arf-caste slut of a Ma--or we'll give you what-for,'
said Jakin.

The man attempted reprisals by knocking the boys' heads together. The
scheme would have succeeded had not Jakin punched him vehemently in
the stomach, or had Lew refrained from kicking his shins. They fought
together, bleeding and breathless, for half an hour, and, after heavy
punishment, triumphantly pulled down their opponent as terriers pull
down a jackal.

'Now,' gasped Jakin, 'I'll give you what-for.' He proceeded to pound
the man's features while Lew stamped on the outlying portions of his
anatomy. Chivalry is not a strong point in the composition of the
average drummer-boy. He fights, as do his betters, to make his mark.

Ghastly was the ruin that escaped, and awful was the wrath of the
Bazar-Sergeant. Awful, too, was the scene in Orderly-room when the two
reprobates appeared to answer the charge of half-murdering a
'civilian.' The Bazar-Sergeant thirsted for a criminal action, and his
son lied. The boys stood to attention while the black clouds of
evidence accumulated.

    [Illustration: 'Hey! What? Are you going to argue with _me_?'
    said the Colonel.--P. 35.]

'You little devils are more trouble than the rest of the Regiment put
together,' said the Colonel angrily. 'One might as well admonish
thistledown, and I can't well put you in cells or under stoppages. You
must be birched again.'

'Beg y' pardon, Sir. Can't we say nothin' in our own defence, Sir?'
shrilled Jakin.

'Hey! What? Are you going to argue with _me_?' said the Colonel.

'No, Sir,' said Lew. 'But if a man come to you, Sir, and said he was
going to report you, Sir, for 'aving a bit of a turn-up with a friend,
Sir, an' wanted to get money out o' _you_, Sir--'

The Orderly-room exploded in a roar of laughter. 'Well?' said the
Colonel.

'That was what that measly _jarnwar_ there did, Sir, and 'e'd 'a'
_done_ it, Sir, if we 'adn't prevented 'im. We didn't 'it 'im much,
Sir. 'E 'adn't no manner o' right to interfere with us, Sir. I don't
mind bein' birched by the Drum-Major, Sir, nor yet reported by _any_
Corp'ral, but I'm--but I don't think it's fair, Sir, for a civilian to
come an' talk over a man in the Army.'

A second shout of laughter shook the Orderly-room, but the Colonel was
grave.

'What sort of characters have these boys?' he asked of the Regimental
Sergeant-Major.

'Accordin' to the Bandmaster, Sir,' returned that revered
official--the only soul in the regiment whom the boys feared--'they do
everything _but_ lie, Sir.'

'Is it like we'd go for that man for fun, Sir?' said Lew, pointing to
the plaintiff.

'Oh, admonished--admonished!' said the Colonel testily, and when the
boys had gone he read the Bazar-Sergeant's son a lecture on the sin of
unprofitable meddling, and gave orders that the Bandmaster should keep
the Drums in better discipline.

'If either of you comes to practice again with so much as a scratch on
your two ugly little faces,' thundered the Bandmaster, 'I'll tell the
Drum-Major to take the skin off your backs. Understand that, you young
devils.'

Then he repented of his speech for just the length of time that Lew,
looking like a Seraph in red worsted embellishments, took the place of
one of the trumpets--in hospital--and rendered the echo of a
battle-piece. Lew certainly was a musician, and had often in his more
exalted moments expressed a yearning to master every instrument of the
Band.

'There's nothing to prevent your becoming a Bandmaster, Lew,' said
the Bandmaster, who had composed waltzes of his own, and worked day
and night in the interests of the Band.

'What did he say?' demanded Jakin after practice.

''Said I might be a bloomin' Bandmaster, an' be asked in to 'ave a
glass o' sherry-wine on Mess-nights.'

'Ho! 'Said you might be a bloomin' non-combatant, did 'e! That's just
about wot 'e would say. When I've put in my boy's service--it's a
bloomin' shame that doesn't count for pension--I'll take on as a
privit. Then I'll be a Lance in a year--knowin' what I know about the
ins an' outs o' things. In three years I'll be a bloomin' Sergeant. I
won't marry then, not I! I'll 'old on and learn the orf'cers' ways an'
apply for exchange into a reg'ment that doesn't know all about me.
Then I'll be a bloomin' orf'cer. Then I'll ask you to 'ave a glass o'
sherry-wine, _Mister_ Lew, an' you'll bloomin' well 'ave to stay in
the hanty-room while the Mess-Sergeant brings it to your dirty 'ands.'

''S'pose I'm going to be a Bandmaster? Not I, quite. I'll be a orf'cer
too. There's nothin' like takin' to a thing an' stickin' to it, the
Schoolmaster says. The reg'ment don't go 'ome for another seven years.
I'll be a Lance then or near to.'

Thus the boys discussed their futures, and conducted themselves
piously for a week. That is to say, Lew started a flirtation with the
Colour-Sergeant's daughter, aged thirteen--'not,' as he explained to
Jakin, 'with any intention o' matrimony, but by way o' keepin' my 'and
in.' And the black-haired Cris Delighan enjoyed that flirtation more
than previous ones, and the other drummer-boys raged furiously
together, and Jakin preached sermons on the dangers of 'bein' tangled
along o' petticoats.'

But neither love nor virtue would have held Lew long in the paths of
propriety had not the rumour gone abroad that the Regiment was to be
sent on active service, to take part in a war which, for the sake of
brevity, we will call 'The War of the Lost Tribes.'

The barracks had the rumour almost before the Mess-room, and of all
the nine hundred men in barracks not ten had seen a shot fired in
anger. The Colonel had, twenty years ago, assisted at a Frontier
expedition; one of the Majors had seen service at the Cape; a
confirmed deserter in E Company had helped to clear streets in
Ireland; but that was all. The Regiment had been put by for many
years. The overwhelming mass of its rank and file had from three to
four years' service; the non-commissioned officers were under thirty
years old; and men and sergeants alike had forgotten to speak of the
stories written in brief upon the Colours--the New Colours that had
been formally blessed by an Archbishop in England ere the Regiment
came away.

They wanted to go to the Front--they were enthusiastically anxious to
go--but they had no knowledge of what war meant, and there was none to
tell them. They were an educated regiment, the percentage of
school-certificates in their ranks was high, and most of the men could
do more than read and write. They had been recruited in loyal
observance of the territorial idea; but they themselves had no notion
of that idea. They were made up of drafts from an over-populated
manufacturing district. The system had put flesh and muscle upon their
small bones, but it could not put heart into the sons of those who for
generations had done overmuch work for over-scanty pay, had sweated in
drying-rooms, stooped over looms, coughed among white-lead, and
shivered on lime-barges. The men had found food and rest in the Army,
and now they were going to fight 'niggers'--people who ran away if you
shook a stick at them. Wherefore they cheered lustily when the rumour
ran, and the shrewd, clerkly non-commissioned officers speculated on
the chances of batta and of saving their pay. At Headquarters men
said: 'The Fore and Fit have never been under fire within the last
generation. Let us, therefore, break them in easily by setting them to
guard lines of communication.' And this would have been done but for
the fact that British Regiments were wanted--badly wanted--at the
Front, and there were doubtful Native Regiments that could fill the
minor duties. 'Brigade 'em with two strong Regiments,' said
Headquarters. 'They may be knocked about a bit, though they'll learn
their business before they come through. Nothing like a night-alarm
and a little cutting up of stragglers to make a Regiment smart in the
field. Wait till they've had half-a-dozen sentries' throats cut.'

The Colonel wrote with delight that the temper of his men was
excellent, that the Regiment was all that could be wished and as sound
as a bell. The Majors smiled with a sober joy, and the subalterns
waltzed in pairs down the Mess-room after dinner, and nearly shot
themselves at revolver-practice. But there was consternation in the
hearts of Jakin and Lew. What was to be done with the Drums? Would the
Band go to the Front? How many of the Drums would accompany the
Regiment?

They took counsel together, sitting in a tree and smoking.

'It's more than a bloomin' toss-up they'll leave us be'ind at the
Depot with the women. You'll like that,' said Jakin sarcastically.

''Cause o' Cris, y' mean? Wot's a woman, or a 'ole bloomin' depot o'
women, 'longside o' the chanst of field-service? You know I'm as keen
on goin' as you,' said Lew.

''Wish I was a bloomin' bugler,' said Jakin sadly. 'They'll take Tom
Kidd along, that I can plaster a wall with, an' like as not they won't
take us.'

'Then let's go an' make Tom Kidd so bloomin' sick 'e can't bugle no
more. You 'old 'is 'ands an' I'll kick him,' said Lew, wriggling on
the branch.

'That ain't no good neither. We ain't the sort o' characters to
presoom on our rep'tations--they're bad. If they leave the Band at the
Depot we don't go, and no error _there_. If they take the Band we may
get cast for medical unfitness. Are you medical fit, Piggy?' said
Jakin, digging Lew in the ribs with force.

'Yus,' said Lew with an oath. 'The Doctor says your 'eart's weak
through smokin' on an empty stummick. Throw a chest an' I'll try yer.'

Jakin threw out his chest, which Lew smote with all his might. Jakin
turned very pale, gasped, crowed, screwed up his eyes, and
said--'That's all right.'

'You'll do,' said Lew. 'I've 'eard o' men dyin' when you 'it 'em fair
on the breastbone.'

'Don't bring us no nearer goin', though,' said Jakin. 'Do you know
where we're ordered?'

'Gawd knows, an' 'E won't split on a pal. Somewheres up to the Front
to kill Paythans--hairy big beggars that turn you inside out if they
get 'old o' you. They say their women are good-looking, too.'

'Any loot?' asked the abandoned Jakin.

'Not a bloomin' anna, they say, unless you dig up the ground an' see
what the niggers 'ave 'id. They're a poor lot.' Jakin stood upright on
the branch and gazed across the plain.

'Lew,' said he, 'there's the Colonel coming. 'Colonel's a good old
beggar. Let's go an' talk to 'im.'

Lew nearly fell out of the tree at the audacity of the suggestion.
Like Jakin he feared not God, neither regarded he Man, but there are
limits even to the audacity of drummer-boy, and to speak to a Colonel
was----

But Jakin had slid down the trunk and doubled in the direction of the
Colonel. That officer was walking wrapped in thought and visions of a
C.B.--yes, even a K.C.B., for had he not at command one of the best
Regiments of the Line--the Fore and Fit? And he was aware of two small
boys charging down upon him. Once before it had been solemnly reported
to him that 'the Drums were in a state of mutiny,' Jakin and Lew being
the ringleaders. This looked like an organised conspiracy.

The boys halted at twenty yards, walked to the regulation four paces,
and saluted together, each as well-set-up as a ramrod and little
taller.

The Colonel was in a genial mood; the boys appeared very forlorn and
unprotected on the desolate plain, and one of them was handsome.

'Well!' said the Colonel, recognising them. 'Are you going to pull me
down in the open? I'm sure I never interfere with you, even
though'--he sniffed suspiciously--'you have been smoking.'

It was time to strike while the iron was hot. Their hearts beat
tumultuously.

'Beg y' pardon, Sir,' began Jakin. 'The Reg'ment's ordered on active
service, Sir?'

'So I believe,' said the Colonel courteously.

'Is the Band goin', Sir?' said both together. Then, without pause,
'We're goin', Sir, ain't we?'

'You!' said the Colonel, stepping back the more fully to take in the
two small figures. 'You! You'd die in the first march.'

'No, we wouldn't, Sir. We can march with the Reg'ment
anywheres--p'rade an' anywhere else,' said Jakin.

'If Tom Kidd goes 'e'll shut up like a clasp-knife,' said Lew. 'Tom
'as very-close veins in both 'is legs, Sir.'

'Very how much?'

'Very-close veins, Sir. That's why they swells after long p'rade,
Sir. If 'e can go, we can go, Sir.'

Again the Colonel looked at them long and intently.

'Yes, the Band is going,' he said as gravely as though he had been
addressing a brother officer. 'Have you any parents, either of you
two?'

'No, Sir,' rejoicingly from Lew and Jakin. 'We're both orphans, Sir.
There's no one to be considered of on our account, Sir.'

'You poor little sprats, and you want to go up to the Front with the
Regiment, do you? Why?'

'I've wore the Queen's Uniform for two years,' said Jakin. 'It's very
'ard, Sir, that a man don't get no recompense for doin' of 'is dooty,
Sir.'

'An'--an' if I don't go, Sir,' interrupted Lew, 'the Bandmaster 'e
says 'e'll catch an' make a bloo--a blessed musician o' me, Sir.
Before I've seen any service, Sir.'

The Colonel made no answer for a long time. Then he said quietly: 'If
you're passed by the Doctor I daresay you can go. I shouldn't smoke if
I were you.'

The boys saluted and disappeared. The Colonel walked home and told the
story to his wife, who nearly cried over it. The Colonel was well
pleased. If that was the temper of the children, what would not the
men do?

Jakin and Lew entered the boys' barrack-room with great stateliness,
and refused to hold any conversation with their comrades for at least
ten minutes. Then, bursting with pride, Jakin drawled: 'I've bin
intervooin' the Colonel. Good old beggar is the Colonel. Says I to
'im, "Colonel," says I, "let me go to the Front, along o' the
Reg'ment."--"To the Front you shall go," says 'e, "an' I only wish
there was more like you among the dirty little devils that bang the
bloomin' drums." Kidd, if you throw your 'courtrements at me for
tellin' you the truth to your own advantage, your legs'll swell.'

None the less there was a Battle-Royal in the barrack-room, for the
boys were consumed with envy and hate, and neither Jakin nor Lew
behaved in conciliatory wise.

'I'm goin' out to say adoo to my girl,' said Lew, to cap the climax.
'Don't none o' you touch my kit because it's wanted for active
service; me bein' specially invited to go by the Colonel.'

He strolled forth and whistled in the clump of trees at the back of
the Married Quarters till Cris came to him, and, the preliminary
kisses being given and taken, Lew began to explain the situation.

'I'm goin' to the Front with the Reg'ment,' he said valiantly.

'Piggy, you're a little liar,' said Cris, but her heart misgave her,
for Lew was not in the habit of lying.

'Liar yourself, Cris,' said Lew, slipping an arm round her. 'I'm
goin'. When the Reg'ment marches out you'll see me with 'em, all
galliant and gay. Give us another kiss, Cris, on the strength of it.'

'If you'd on'y a-stayed at the Depot--where you _ought_ to ha'
bin--you could get as many of 'em as--as you dam please,' whimpered
Cris, putting up her mouth.

'It's 'ard, Cris. I grant you it's 'ard. But what's a man to do? If
I'd a-stayed at the Depot, you wouldn't think anything of me.'

'Like as not, but I'd 'ave you with me, Piggy. An' all the thinkin' in
the world isn't like kissin'.'

'An' all the kissin' in the world isn't like 'avin' a medal to wear on
the front o' your coat.'

'_You_ won't get no medal.'

'Oh yus, I shall though. Me an' Jakin are the only acting-drummers
that'll be took along. All the rest is full men, an' we'll get our
medals with them.'

'They might ha' taken anybody but you, Piggy. You'll get
killed--you're so venturesome. Stay with me, Piggy darlin', down at
the Depot, an' I'll love you true for ever.'

'Ain't you goin' to do that _now_, Cris? You said you was.'

'O' course I am, but th' other's more comfortable. Wait till you've
growed a bit, Piggy. You aren't no taller than me now.'

    [Illustration: Cris slid an arm round his neck.--P. 47.]

'I've bin in the Army for two years an' I'm not goin' to get out of a
chanst o' seein' service, an' don't you try to make me do so. I'll
come back, Cris, an' when I take on as a man I'll marry you--marry you
when I'm a Lance.'

'Promise, Piggy?'

Lew reflected on the future as arranged by Jakin a short time
previously, but Cris's mouth was very near to his own.

'I promise, s'elp me Gawd!' said he.

Cris slid an arm round his neck.

'I won't 'old you back no more, Piggy. Go away an' get your medal, an'
I'll make you a new button-bag as nice as I know how,' she whispered.

'Put some o' your 'air into it, Cris, an' I'll keep it in my pocket so
long's I'm alive.'

Then Cris wept anew, and the interview ended.

Public feeling among the drummer-boys rose to fever pitch and the
lives of Jakin and Lew became unenviable. Not only had they been
permitted to enlist two years before the regulation boy's
age--fourteen--but, by virtue, it seemed, of their extreme youth, they
were allowed to go to the Front--which thing had not happened to
acting-drummers within the knowledge of boy. The Band which was to
accompany the Regiment had been cut down to the regulation twenty
men, the surplus returning to the ranks. Jakin and Lew were attached
to the Band as supernumeraries, though they would much have preferred
being Company buglers.

''Don't matter much,' said Jakin after the medical inspection. 'Be
thankful that we're 'lowed to go at all. The Doctor 'e said that if we
could stand what we took from the Bazar-Sergeant's son we'd stand
pretty nigh anything.'

'Which we will,' said Lew, looking tenderly at the ragged and ill-made
housewife that Cris had given him, with a lock of her hair worked into
a sprawling 'L' upon the cover.

'It was the best I could,' she sobbed. 'I wouldn't let mother nor the
Sergeants' tailor 'elp me. Keep it always, Piggy, an' remember I love
you true.'

They marched to the railway station, nine hundred and sixty strong,
and every soul in cantonments turned out to see them go. The drummers
gnashed their teeth at Jakin and Lew marching with the Band, the
married women wept upon the platform, and the Regiment cheered its
noble self black in the face.

'A nice level lot,' said the Colonel to the Second-in-Command as they
watched the first four companies entraining.

'Fit to do anything,' said the Second-in-Command enthusiastically.
'But it seems to me they're a thought too young and tender for the
work in hand. It's bitter cold up at the Front now.'

'They're sound enough,' said the Colonel. 'We must take our chance of
sick casualties.'

So they went northward, ever northward, past droves and droves of
camels, armies of camp followers, and legions of laden mules, the
throng thickening day by day, till with a shriek the train pulled up
at a hopelessly congested junction where six lines of temporary track
accommodated six forty-waggon trains; where whistles blew, Babus
sweated, and Commissariat officers swore from dawn till far into the
night amid the wind-driven chaff of the fodder-bales and the lowing of
a thousand steers.

'Hurry up--you're badly wanted at the Front,' was the message that
greeted the Fore and Aft, and the occupants of the Red Cross carriages
told the same tale.

''Tisn't so much the bloomin' fightin',' gasped a headbound trooper of
Hussars to a knot of admiring Fore and Afts. ''Tisn't so much the
bloomin' fightin', though there's enough o' that. It's the bloomin'
food an' the bloomin' climate. Frost all night 'cept when it hails,
and biling sun all day, and the water stinks fit to knock you down. I
got my 'ead chipped like a egg; I've got pneumonia too, an' my guts is
all out o' order. 'Tain't no bloomin' picnic in those parts, I can
tell you.'

'Wot are the niggers like?' demanded a private.

'There's some prisoners in that train yonder. Go an' look at 'em.
They're the aristocracy o' the country. The common folk are a dashed
sight uglier. If you want to know what they fight with, reach under my
seat an' pull out the long knife that's there.'

They dragged out and beheld for the first time the grim, bone-handled,
triangular Afghan knife. It was almost as long as Lew.

'That's the thing to jint ye,' said the trooper feebly. 'It can take
off a man's arm at the shoulder as easy as slicing butter. I halved
the beggar that used that 'un, but there's more of his likes up above.
They don't understand thrustin', but they're devils to slice.'

The men strolled across the tracks to inspect the Afghan prisoners.
They were unlike any 'niggers' that the Fore and Aft had ever
met--these huge, black-haired, scowling sons of the Beni-Israel. As
the men stared the Afghans spat freely and muttered one to another
with lowered eyes.

'My eyes! Wot awful swine!' said Jakin, who was in the rear of the
procession. 'Say, old man, how you got _puckrowed_, eh? _Kiswasti_ you
wasn't hanged for your ugly face, hey?'

The tallest of the company turned, his leg-irons clanking at the
movement, and stared at the boy. 'See!' he cried to his fellows in
Pushto. 'They send children against us. What a people, and what
fools!'

    [Illustration: The men strolled across the tracks to inspect
    the Afghan prisoners.--P. 50.]

'_Hya!_' said Jakin, nodding his head cheerily. 'You go down-country.
_Khana_ get, _peenikapanee_ get--live like a bloomin' Raja _ke
marfik_. That's a better _bandobust_ than baynit get it in your
innards. Good-bye, ole man. Take care o' your beautiful figure-'ad,
an' try to look _kushy_.'

The men laughed and fell in for their first march, when they began to
realise that a soldier's life was not all beer and skittles. They were
much impressed with the size and bestial ferocity of the niggers whom
they had now learned to call 'Paythans,' and more with the exceeding
discomfort of their own surroundings. Twenty old soldiers in the corps
would have taught them how to make themselves moderately snug at
night, but they had no old soldiers, and, as the troops on the line of
march said, 'they lived like pigs.' They learned the heart-breaking
cussedness of camp-kitchens and camels and the depravity of an E.P.
tent and a wither-wrung mule. They studied animalculæ in water, and
developed a few cases of dysentery in their study.

At the end of their third march they were disagreeably surprised by
the arrival in their camp of a hammered iron slug which, fired from a
steady rest at seven hundred yards, flicked out the brains of a
private seated by the fire. This robbed them of their peace for a
night, and was the beginning of a long-range fire carefully calculated
to that end. In the daytime they saw nothing except an unpleasant puff
of smoke from a crag above the line of march. At night there were
distant spurts of flame and occasional casualties, which set the whole
camp blazing into the gloom and, occasionally, into opposite tents.
Then they swore vehemently and vowed that this was magnificent, but
not war.

Indeed it was not. The Regiment could not halt for reprisals against
the sharpshooters of the countryside. Its duty was to go forward and
make connection with the Scotch and Gurkha troops with which it was
brigaded. The Afghans knew this, and knew too, after their first
tentative shots, that they were dealing with a raw regiment.
Thereafter they devoted themselves to the task of keeping the Fore and
Aft on the strain. Not for anything would they have taken equal
liberties with a seasoned corps--with the wicked little Gurkhas, whose
delight it was to lie out in the open on a dark night and stalk their
stalkers--with the terrible, big men dressed in women's clothes, who
could be heard praying to their God in the night-watches, and whose
peace of mind no amount of 'sniping' could shake--or with those vile
Sikhs, who marched so ostentatiously unprepared and who dealt out such
grim reward to those who tried to profit by that unpreparedness. This
white regiment was different--quite different. It slept like a hog,
and, like a hog, charged in every direction when it was roused. Its
sentries walked with a footfall that could be heard for a quarter of a
mile, would fire at anything that moved--even a driven donkey--and
when they had once fired, could be scientifically 'rushed' and laid
out a horror and an offence against the morning sun. Then there were
camp-followers who straggled and could be cut up without fear. Their
shrieks would disturb the white boys, and the loss of their services
would inconvenience them sorely.

Thus, at every march, the hidden enemy became bolder and the regiment
writhed and twisted under attacks it could not avenge. The crowning
triumph was a sudden night-rush ending in the cutting of many
tent-ropes, the collapse of the sodden canvas, and a glorious knifing
of the men who struggled and kicked below. It was a great deed, neatly
carried out, and it shook the already shaken nerves of the Fore and
Aft. All the courage that they had been required to exercise up to
this point was the 'two o'clock in the morning courage'; and, so far,
they had only succeeded in shooting their comrades and losing their
sleep.

Sullen, discontented, cold, savage, sick, with their uniforms dulled
and unclean, the Fore and Aft joined their Brigade.

'I hear you had a tough time of it coming up,' said the Brigadier. But
when he saw the hospital-sheets his face fell.

'This is bad,' said he to himself. 'They're as rotten as sheep.' And
aloud to the Colonel--'I'm afraid we can't spare you just yet. We want
all we have, else I should have given you ten days to recover in.'

The Colonel winced. 'On my honour, Sir,' he returned, 'there is not
the least necessity to think of sparing us. My men have been rather
mauled and upset without a fair return. They only want to go in
somewhere where they can see what's before them.'

'Can't say I think much of the Fore and Fit,' said the Brigadier in
confidence to his Brigade-Major. 'They've lost all their soldiering,
and, by the trim of them, might have marched through the country from
the other side. A more fagged-out set of men I never put eyes on.'

'Oh, they'll improve as the work goes on. The parade gloss has been
rubbed off a little, but they'll put on field polish before long,'
said the Brigade-Major. 'They've been mauled, and they don't quite
understand it.'

They did not. All the hitting was on one side, and it was cruelly hard
hitting with accessories that made them sick. There was also the real
sickness that laid hold of a strong man and dragged him howling to the
grave. Worst of all, their officers knew just as little of the country
as the men themselves, and looked as if they did. The Fore and Aft
were in a thoroughly unsatisfactory condition, but they believed that
all would be well if they could once get a fair go-in at the enemy.
Pot-shots up and down the valleys were unsatisfactory, and the bayonet
never seemed to get a chance. Perhaps it was as well, for a
long-limbed Afghan with a knife had a reach of eight feet, and could
carry away lead that would disable three Englishmen.

The Fore and Fit would like some rifle-practice at the enemy--all
seven hundred rifles blazing together. That wish showed the mood of
the men.

The Gurkhas walked into their camp, and in broken, barrack-room
English strove to fraternise with them; offered them pipes of tobacco
and stood them treat at the canteen. But the Fore and Aft, not knowing
much of the nature of the Gurkhas, treated them as they would treat
any other 'niggers,' and the little men in green trotted back to their
firm friends the Highlanders, and with many grins confided to them:
'That dam white regiment no dam use. Sulky--ugh! Dirty--ugh! Hya, any
tot for Johnny?' Whereat the Highlanders smote the Gurkhas as to the
head, and told them not to vilify a British Regiment, and the Gurkhas
grinned cavernously, for the Highlanders were their elder brothers and
entitled to the privileges of kinship. The common soldier who touches
a Gurkha is more than likely to have his head sliced open.

Three days later the Brigadier arranged a battle according to the
rules of war and the peculiarity of the Afghan temperament. The enemy
were massing in inconvenient strength among the hills, and the moving
of many green standards warned him that the tribes were 'up' in aid of
the Afghan regular troops. A squadron and a half of Bengal Lancers
represented the available Cavalry, and two screw-guns borrowed from a
column thirty miles away the Artillery at the General's disposal.

'If they stand, as I've a very strong notion that they will, I fancy
we shall see an infantry fight that will be worth watching,' said the
Brigadier. 'We'll do it in style. Each regiment shall be played into
action by its Band, and we'll hold the Cavalry in reserve.'

'For _all_ the reserve?' somebody asked.

'For all the reserve; because we're going to crumple them up,' said
the Brigadier, who was an extraordinary Brigadier, and did not believe
in the value of a reserve when dealing with Asiatics. Indeed, when
you come to think of it, had the British Army consistently waited for
reserves in all its little affairs, the boundaries of Our Empire would
have stopped at Brighton beach.

That battle was to be a glorious battle.

The three regiments debouching from three separate gorges, after duly
crowning the heights above, were to converge from the centre, left,
and right upon what we will call the Afghan army, then stationed
towards the lower extremity of a flat-bottomed valley. Thus it will be
seen that three sides of the valley practically belonged to the
English, while the fourth was strictly Afghan property. In the event
of defeat the Afghans had the rocky hills to fly to, where the fire
from the guerilla tribes in aid would cover their retreat. In the
event of victory these same tribes would rush down and lend their
weight to the rout of the British.

The screw-guns were to shell the head of each Afghan rush that was
made in close formation, and the Cavalry, held in reserve in the right
valley, were to gently stimulate the break-up which would follow on
the combined attack. The Brigadier, sitting upon a rock overlooking
the valley, would watch the battle unrolled at his feet. The Fore and
Aft would debouch from the central gorge, the Gurkhas from the left,
and the Highlanders from the right, for the reason that the left
flank of the enemy seemed as though it required the most hammering. It
was not every day that an Afghan force would take ground in the open,
and the Brigadier was resolved to make the most of it.

'If we only had a few more men,' he said plaintively, 'we could
surround the creatures and crumple 'em up thoroughly. As it is, I'm
afraid we can only cut them up as they run. It's a great pity.'

The Fore and Aft had enjoyed unbroken peace for five days, and were
beginning, in spite of dysentery, to recover their nerve. But they
were not happy, for they did not know the work in hand, and had they
known, would not have known how to do it. Throughout those five days
in which old soldiers might have taught them the craft of the game,
they discussed together their misadventures in the past--how such an
one was alive at dawn and dead ere the dusk, and with what shrieks and
struggles such another had given up his soul under the Afghan knife.
Death was a new and horrible thing to the sons of mechanics who were
used to die decently of zymotic disease; and their careful
conservation in barracks had done nothing to make them look upon it
with less dread.

Very early in the dawn the bugles began to blow, and the Fore and
Aft, filled with a misguided enthusiasm, turned out without waiting
for a cup of coffee and a biscuit; and were rewarded by being kept
under arms in the cold while the other regiments leisurely prepared
for the fray. All the world knows that it is ill taking the breeks off
a Highlander. It is much iller to try to make him stir unless he is
convinced of the necessity for haste.

The Fore and Aft waited, leaning upon their rifles and listening to
the protests of their empty stomachs. The Colonel did his best to
remedy the default of lining as soon as it was borne in upon him that
the affair would not begin at once, and so well did he succeed that
the coffee was just ready when--the men moved off, their Band leading.
Even then there had been a mistake in time, and the Fore and Aft came
out into the valley ten minutes before the proper hour. Their Band
wheeled to the right after reaching the open, and retired behind a
little rocky knoll, still playing while the regiment went past.

It was not a pleasant sight that opened on the uninstructed view, for
the lower end of the valley appeared to be filled by an army in
position--real and actual regiments attired in red coats, and--of this
there was no doubt--firing Martini-Henry bullets which cut up the
ground a hundred yards in front of the leading company. Over that
pock-marked ground the regiment had to pass, and it opened the ball
with a general and profound courtesy to the piping pickets; ducking in
perfect time, as though it had been brazed on a rod. Being
half-capable of thinking for itself, it fired a volley by the simple
process of pitching its rifle into its shoulder and pulling the
trigger. The bullets may have accounted for some of the watchers on
the hillside, but they certainly did not affect the mass of enemy in
front, while the noise of the rifles drowned any orders that might
have been given.

'Good God!' said the Brigadier, sitting on the rock high above all.
'That regiment has spoilt the whole show. Hurry up the others, and let
the screw-guns get off.'

But the screw-guns, in working round the heights, had stumbled upon a
wasp's nest of a small mud fort which they incontinently shelled at
eight hundred yards, to the huge discomfort of the occupants, who were
unaccustomed to weapons of such devilish precision.

The Fore and Aft continued to go forward, but with shortened stride.
Where were the other regiments, and why did these niggers use
Martinis? They took open order instinctively, lying down and firing at
random, rushing a few paces forward and lying down again, according to
the regulations. Once in this formation, each man felt himself
desperately alone, and edged in towards his fellow for comfort's sake.

Then the crack of his neighbour's rifle at his ear led him to fire as
rapidly as he could--again for the sake of the comfort of the noise.
The reward was not long delayed. Five volleys plunged the files in
banked smoke impenetrable to the eye, and the bullets began to take
ground twenty or thirty yards in front of the firers, as the weight of
the bayonet dragged down and to the right arms wearied with holding
the kick of the leaping Martini. The Company Commanders peered
helplessly through the smoke, the more nervous mechanically trying to
fan it away with their helmets.

'High and to the left!' bawled a Captain till he was hoarse. 'No good!
Cease firing, and let it drift away a bit.'

Three and four times the bugles shrieked the order, and when it was
obeyed the Fore and Aft looked that their foe should be lying before
them in mown swaths of men. A light wind drove the smoke to leeward,
and showed the enemy still in position and apparently unaffected. A
quarter of a ton of lead had been buried a furlong in front of them,
as the ragged earth attested.

That was not demoralising to the Afghans, who have not European
nerves. They were waiting for the mad riot to die down, and were
firing quietly into the heart of the smoke. A private of the Fore and
Aft spun up his company shrieking with agony, another was kicking the
earth and gasping, and a third, ripped through the lower intestines by
a jagged bullet, was calling aloud on his comrades to put him out of
his pain. These were the casualties, and they were not soothing to
hear or see. The smoke cleared to a dull haze.

Then the foe began to shout with a great shouting, and a mass--a black
mass--detached itself from the main body, and rolled over the ground
at horrid speed. It was composed of, perhaps, three hundred men, who
would shout and fire and slash if the rush of their fifty comrades who
were determined to die carried home. The fifty were Ghazis,
half-maddened with drugs and wholly mad with religious fanaticism.
When they rushed the British fire ceased, and in the lull the order
was given to close ranks and meet them with the bayonet.

Any one who knew the business could have told the Fore and Aft that
the only way of dealing with a Ghazi rush is by volleys at long
ranges; because a man who means to die, who desires to die, who will
gain heaven by dying, must, in nine cases out of ten, kill a man who
has a lingering prejudice in favour of life. Where they should have
closed and gone forward, the Fore and Aft opened out and skirmished,
and where they should have opened out and fired, they closed and
waited.

A man dragged from his blankets half awake and unfed is never in a
pleasant frame of mind. Nor does his happiness increase when he
watches the whites of the eyes of three hundred six-foot fiends upon
whose beards the foam is lying, upon whose tongues is a roar of wrath,
and in whose hands are yard-long knives.

The Fore and Aft heard the Gurkha bugles bringing that regiment
forward at the double, while the neighing of the Highland pipes came
from the left. They strove to stay where they were, though the
bayonets wavered down the line like the oars of a ragged boat. Then
they felt body to body the amazing physical strength of their foes; a
shriek of pain ended the rush, and the knives fell amid scenes not to
be told. The men clubbed together and smote blindly--as often as not
at their own fellows. Their front crumpled like paper, and the fifty
Ghazis passed on; their backers, now drunk with success, fighting as
madly as they.

Then the rear-ranks were bidden to close up, and the subalterns dashed
into the stew--alone. For the rear-rank had heard the clamour in
front, the yells and the howls of pain, and had seen the dark stale
blood that makes afraid. They were not going to stay. It was the
rushing of the camps over again. Let their officers go to Hell, if
they chose; they would get away from the knives.

'Come on!' shrieked the subalterns, and their men, cursing them, drew
back, each closing into his neighbour and wheeling round.

Charteris and Devlin, subalterns of the last company, faced their
death alone in the belief that their men would follow.

'You've killed me, you cowards,' sobbed Devlin and dropped, cut from
the shoulder-strap to the centre of the chest, and a fresh detachment
of his men retreating, always retreating, trampled him under foot as
they made for the pass whence they had emerged.

    I kissed her in the kitchen and I kissed her in the hall.
                  Child'un, child'un, follow me!
    Oh Golly, said the cook, is he gwine to kiss us all?
                  Halla--Halla--Halla--Hallelujah!

The Gurkhas were pouring through the left gorge and over the heights
at the double to the invitation of their Regimental Quick-step. The
black rocks were crowned with dark green spiders as the bugles gave
tongue jubilantly:--

    In the morning! In the morning _by_ the bright light!
    When Gabriel blows his trumpet in the morning!

The Gurkha rear-companies tripped and blundered over loose stones. The
front-files halted for a moment to take stock of the valley and to
settle stray boot-laces. Then a happy little sigh of contentment
soughed down the ranks, and it was as though the land smiled, for
behold there below was the enemy, and it was to meet them that the
Gurkhas had doubled so hastily. There was much enemy. There would be
amusement. The little men hitched their _kukris_ well to hand, and
gaped expectantly at their officers as terriers grin ere the stone is
cast for them to fetch. The Gurkhas' ground sloped downward to the
valley, and they enjoyed a fair view of the proceedings. They sat upon
the boulders to watch, for their officers were not going to waste
their wind in assisting to repulse a Ghazi rush more than half a mile
away. Let the white men look to their own front.

'Hi! yi!' said the Subadar-Major, who was sweating profusely. 'Dam
fools yonder, stand close-order! This is no time for close-order, it
is the time for volleys. Ugh!'

Horrified, amused, and indignant, the Gurkhas beheld the retirement of
the Fore and Aft with a running chorus of oaths and commentaries.

'They run! The white men run! Colonel Sahib, may _we_ also do a little
running?' murmured Runbir Thappa, the Senior Jemadar.

But the Colonel would have none of it. 'Let the beggars be cut up a
little,' said he wrathfully. ''Serves 'em right. They'll be prodded
into facing round in a minute.' He looked through his field-glasses,
and caught the glint of an officer's sword.

'Beating 'em with the flat--damned conscripts! How the Ghazis are
walking into them!' said he.

The Fore and Aft, heading back, bore with them their officers. The
narrowness of the pass forced the mob into solid formation, and the
rear-rank delivered some sort of a wavering volley. The Ghazis drew
off, for they did not know what reserves the gorge might hide.
Moreover, it was never wise to chase white men too far. They returned
as wolves return to cover, satisfied with the slaughter that they had
done, and only stopping to slash at the wounded on the ground. A
quarter of a mile had the Fore and Aft retreated, and now, jammed in
the pass, was quivering with pain, shaken and demoralised with fear,
while the officers, maddened beyond control, smote the men with the
hilts and the flats of their swords.

'Get back! Get back, you cowards--you women! Right about face--column
of companies, form--you hounds!' shouted the Colonel, and the
subalterns swore aloud. But the Regiment wanted to go--to go anywhere
out of the range of those merciless knives. It swayed to and fro
irresolutely with shouts and outcries, while from the right the
Gurkhas dropped volley after volley of cripple-stopper Snider bullets
at long range into the mob of the Ghazis returning to their own
troops.

The Fore and Aft Band, though protected from direct fire by the rocky
knoll under which it had sat down, fled at the first rush. Jakin and
Lew would have fled also, but their short legs left them fifty yards
in the rear, and by the time the Band had mixed with the regiment,
they were painfully aware that they would have to close in alone and
unsupported.

'Get back to that rock,' gasped Jakin. 'They won't see us there.'

And they returned to the scattered instruments of the Band; their
hearts nearly bursting their ribs.

'Here's a nice show for _us_,' said Jakin, throwing himself full
length on the ground. 'A bloomin' fine show for British Infantry! Oh,
the devils! They've gone an' left us alone here! Wot'll we do?'

Lew took possession of a cast-off water bottle, which naturally was
full of canteen rum, and drank till he coughed again.

'Drink,' said he shortly.' They'll come back in a minute or two--you
see.'

Jakin drank, but there was no sign of the Regiment's return. They
could hear a dull clamour from the head of the valley of retreat, and
saw the Ghazis slink back, quickening their pace as the Gurkhas fired
at them.

'We're all that's left of the Band, an' we'll be cut up as sure as
death,' said Jakin.

'I'll die game, then,' said Lew thickly, fumbling with his tiny
drummer's sword. The drink was working on his brain as it was on
Jakin's.

''Old on! I know something better than fightin',' said Jakin, 'stung
by the splendour of a sudden thought' due chiefly to rum. 'Tip our
bloomin' cowards yonder the word to come back. The Paythan beggars are
well away. Come on, Lew! We won't get hurt. Take the fife and give me
the drum. The Old Step for all your bloomin' guts are worth! There's a
few of our men coming back now. Stand up, ye drunken little defaulter.
By your right--quick march!'

He slipped the drum-sling over his shoulder, thrust the fife into
Lew's hand, and the two boys marched out of the cover of the rock into
the open, making a hideous hash of the first bars of the 'British
Grenadiers.'

As Jakin had said, a few of the Fore and Aft were coming back sullenly
and shamefacedly under the stimulus of blows and abuse; their red
coats shone at the head of the valley, and behind them were wavering
bayonets. But between this shattered line and the enemy, who with
Afghan suspicion feared that the hasty retreat meant an ambush, and
had not moved therefore, lay half a mile of level ground dotted only
by the wounded.

    [Illustration: The tune settled into full swing, and the boys
    kept shoulder to shoulder.--P. 69.]

The tune settled into full swing and the boys kept shoulder to
shoulder, Jakin banging the drum as one possessed. The one fife made a
thin and pitiful squeaking, but the tune carried far, even to the
Gurkhas.

'Come on, you dogs!' muttered Jakin to himself. 'Are we to play for
hever?' Lew was staring straight in front of him and marching more
stiffly than ever he had done on parade.

And in bitter mockery of the distant mob, the old tune of the Old Line
shrilled and rattled:--

    Some talk of Alexander,
      And some of Hercules;
    Of Hector and Lysander,
      And such great names as these!

There was a far-off clapping of hands from the Gurkhas, and a roar
from the Highlanders in the distance, but never a shot was fired by
British or Afghan. The two little red dots moved forward in the open
parallel to the enemy's front.

    But of all the world's great heroes
      There's none that can compare,
    With a tow-row-row-row-row-row,
      To the British Grenadier!

The men of the Fore and Aft were gathering thick at the entrance to
the plain. The Brigadier on the heights far above was speechless with
rage. Still no movement from the enemy. The day stayed to watch the
children.

Jakin halted and beat the long roll of the Assembly, while the fife
squealed despairingly.

'Right about face! Hold up, Lew, you're drunk,' said Jakin. They
wheeled and marched back:--

    Those heroes of antiquity
      Ne'er saw a cannon-ball,
    Nor knew the force o' powder,

'Here they come!' said Jakin. 'Go on, Lew':--

    To scare their foes withal!

The Fore and Aft were pouring out of the valley. What officers had
said to men in that time of shame and humiliation will never be known;
for neither officers nor men speak of it now.

'They are coming anew!' shouted a priest among the Afghans. 'Do not
kill the boys! Take them alive and they shall be of our faith.'

But the first volley had been fired, and Lew dropped on his face.
Jakin stood for a minute, spun round and collapsed, as the Fore and
Aft came forward, the curses of their officers in their ears, and in
their hearts the shame of open shame.

Half the men had seen the drummers die, and they made no sign. They
did not even shout. They doubled out straight across the plain in open
order, and they did not fire.

'This,' said the Colonel of Gurkhas softly, 'is the real attack, as it
should have been delivered. Come on, my children.'

'Ulu-lu-lu-lu!' squealed the Gurkhas, and came down with a joyful
clicking of _kukris_--those vicious Gurkha knives.

On the right there was no rush. The Highlanders, cannily commending
their souls to God (for it matters as much to a dead man whether he
has been shot in a Border scuffle or at Waterloo), opened out and
fired according to their custom, that is to say without heat and
without intervals, while the screw-guns, having disposed of the
impertinent mud fort aforementioned, dropped shell after shell into
the clusters round the flickering green standards on the heights.

'Charrging is an unfortunate necessity,' murmured the Colour-Sergeant
of the right company of the Highlanders. 'It makes the men sweer so,
but I am thinkin' that it will come to a charrge if these black devils
stand much longer. Stewarrt, man, you're firing into the eye of the
sun, and he'll not take any harm for Government ammuneetion. A foot
lower and a great deal slower! What are the English doing? They're
very quiet there in the centre. Running again?'

The English were not running. They were hacking and hewing and
stabbing, for though one white man is seldom physically a match for an
Afghan in a sheepskin or wadded coat, yet, through the pressure of
many white men behind, and a certain thirst for revenge in his heart,
he becomes capable of doing much with both ends of his rifle. The Fore
and Aft held their fire till one bullet could drive through five or
six men, and the front of the Afghan force gave on the volley. They
then selected their men, and slew them with deep gasps and short
hacking coughs, and groanings of leather belts against strained
bodies, and realised for the first time that an Afghan attacked is far
less formidable than an Afghan attacking: which fact old soldiers
might have told them.

But they had no old soldiers in their ranks.

The Gurkhas' stall at the bazar was the noisiest, for the men were
engaged--to a nasty noise as of beef being cut on the block--with the
_kukri_, which they preferred to the bayonet; well knowing how the
Afghan hates the half-moon blade.

As the Afghans wavered, the green standards on the mountain moved down
to assist them in a last rally. This was unwise. The Lancers chafing
in the right gorge had thrice despatched their only subaltern as
galloper to report on the progress of affairs. On the third occasion
he returned, with a bullet-graze on his knee, swearing strange oaths
in Hindustani, and saying that all things were ready. So that Squadron
swung round the right of the Highlanders with a wicked whistling of
wind in the pennons of its lances, and fell upon the remnant just
when, according to all the rules of war, it should have waited for the
foe to show more signs of wavering.

But it was a dainty charge, deftly delivered, and it ended by the
Cavalry finding itself at the head of the pass by which the Afghans
intended to retreat; and down the track that the lances had made
streamed two companies of the Highlanders, which was never intended by
the Brigadier. The new development was successful. It detached the
enemy from his base as a sponge is torn from a rock, and left him
ringed about with fire in that pitiless plain. And as a sponge is
chased round the bath-tub by the hand of the bather, so were the
Afghans chased till they broke into little detachments much more
difficult to dispose of than large masses.

'See!' quoth the Brigadier. 'Everything has come as I arranged. We've
cut their base, and now we'll bucket 'em to pieces.'

A direct hammering was all that the Brigadier had dared to hope for,
considering the size of the force at his disposal; but men who stand
or fall by the errors of their opponents may be forgiven for turning
Chance into Design. The bucketing went forward merrily. The Afghan
forces were upon the run--the run of wearied wolves who snarl and bite
over their shoulders. The red lances dipped by twos and threes, and,
with a shriek, up rose the lance-butt, like a spar on a stormy sea, as
the trooper cantering forward cleared his point. The Lancers kept
between their prey and the steep hills, for all who could were trying
to escape from the valley of death. The Highlanders gave the fugitives
two hundred yards' law, and then brought them down, gasping and
choking ere they could reach the protection of the boulders above. The
Gurkhas followed suit; but the Fore and Aft were killing on their own
account, for they had penned a mass of men between their bayonets and
a wall of rock, and the flash of the rifles was lighting the wadded
coats.

'We cannot hold them, Captain Sahib!' panted a Ressaidar of Lancers.
'Let us try the carbine. The lance is good, but it wastes time.'

They tried the carbine, and still the enemy melted away--fled up the
hills by hundreds when there were only twenty bullets to stop them. On
the heights the screw-guns ceased firing--they had run out of
ammunition--and the Brigadier groaned, for the musketry fire could not
sufficiently smash the retreat. Long before the last volleys were
fired, the doolies were out in force looking for the wounded. The
battle was over, and, but for want of fresh troops, the Afghans would
have been wiped off the earth. As it was they counted their dead by
hundreds, and nowhere were the dead thicker than in the track of the
Fore and Aft.

But the Regiment did not cheer with the Highlanders, nor did they
dance uncouth dances with the Gurkhas among the dead. They looked
under their brows at the Colonel as they leaned upon their rifles and
panted.

'Get back to camp, you. Haven't you disgraced yourself enough for one
day! Go and look to the wounded. It's all you're fit for,' said the
Colonel. Yet for the past hour the Fore and Aft had been doing all
that mortal commander could expect. They had lost heavily because they
did not know how to set about their business with proper skill, but
they had borne themselves gallantly, and this was their reward.

A young and sprightly Colour-Sergeant, who had begun to imagine
himself a hero, offered his water-bottle to a Highlander, whose tongue
was black with thirst. 'I drink with no cowards,' answered the
youngster huskily, and, turning to a Gurkha, said, 'Hya, Johnny! Drink
water got it?' The Gurkha grinned and passed his bottle. The Fore and
Aft said no word.

They went back to camp when the field of strife had been a little
mopped up and made presentable, and the Brigadier, who saw himself a
Knight in three months, was the only soul who was complimentary to
them. The Colonel was heart-broken, and the officers were savage and
sullen.

'Well,' said the Brigadier, 'they are young troops of course, and it
was not unnatural that they should retire in disorder for a bit.'

'Oh, my only Aunt Maria!' murmured a junior Staff Officer. 'Retire in
disorder! It was a bally run!'

'But they came again, as we all know,' cooed the Brigadier, the
Colonel's ashy-white face before him, 'and they behaved as well as
could possibly be expected. Behaved beautifully, indeed. I was
watching them. It's not a matter to take to heart, Colonel. As some
German General said of his men, they wanted to be shooted over a
little, that was all.' To himself he said--'Now they're blooded I can
give 'em responsible work. It's as well that they got what they did.
'Teach 'em more than half-a-dozen rifle flirtations, that
will--later--run alone and bite. Poor old Colonel, though.'

All that afternoon the heliograph winked and flickered on the hills,
striving to tell the good news to a mountain forty miles away. And in
the evening there arrived, dusty, sweating, and sore, a misguided
Correspondent, who had gone out to assist at a trumpery
village-burning, and who had read off the message from afar, cursing
his luck the while.

'Let's have the details somehow--as full as ever you can, please. It's
the first time I've ever been left this campaign,' said the
Correspondent to the Brigadier; and the Brigadier, nothing loath, told
him how an Army of Communication had been crumpled up, destroyed, and
all but annihilated, by the craft, strategy, wisdom, and foresight of
the Brigadier.

But some say, and among these be the Gurkhas who watched on the
hillside, that that battle was won by Jakin and Lew, whose little
bodies were borne up just in time to fit two gaps at the head of the
big ditch-grave for the dead under the heights of Jagai.

[Illustration]

[Illustration]



THE MAN WHO WAS

    The Earth gave up her dead that tide,
      Into our camp he came,
    And said his say, and went his way,
      And left our hearts aflame.

    Keep tally--on the gun-butt score
      The vengeance we must take,
    When God shall bring full reckoning,
      For our dead comrade's sake.

                        _Ballad._

Let it be clearly understood that the Russian is a delightful person
till he tucks in his shirt. As an Oriental he is charming. It is only
when he insists upon being treated as the most easterly of western
peoples instead of the most westerly of easterns that he becomes a
racial anomaly extremely difficult to handle. The host never knows
which side of his nature is going to turn up next.

Dirkovitch was a Russian--a Russian of the Russians--who appeared to
get his bread by serving the Czar as an officer in a Cossack regiment,
and corresponding for a Russian newspaper with a name that was never
twice alike. He was a handsome young Oriental, fond of wandering
through unexplored portions of the earth, and he arrived in India from
nowhere in particular. At least no living man could ascertain whether
it was by way of Balkh, Badakshan, Chitral, Beluchistan, or Nepaul, or
anywhere else. The Indian Government, being in an unusually affable
mood, gave orders that he was to be civilly treated and shown
everything that was to be seen. So he drifted, talking bad English and
worse French, from one city to another, till he foregathered with Her
Majesty's White Hussars in the city of Peshawur, which stands at the
mouth of that narrow swordcut in the hills that men call the Khyber
Pass. He was undoubtedly an officer, and he was decorated after the
manner of the Russians with little enamelled crosses, and he could
talk, and (though this has nothing to do with his merits) he had been
given up as a hopeless task, or cask, by the Black Tyrone, who
individually and collectively, with hot whisky and honey, mulled
brandy, and mixed spirits of every kind, had striven in all
hospitality to make him drunk. And when the Black Tyrone, who are
exclusively Irish, fail to disturb the peace of head of a
foreigner--that foreigner is certain to be a superior man.

The White Hussars were as conscientious in choosing their wine as in
charging the enemy. All that they possessed, including some wondrous
brandy, was placed at the absolute disposition of Dirkovitch, and he
enjoyed himself hugely--even more than among the Black Tyrones.

But he remained distressingly European through it all. The White
Hussars were 'My dear true friends,' 'Fellow-soldiers glorious,' and
'Brothers inseparable.' He would unburden himself by the hour on the
glorious future that awaited the combined arms of England and Russia
when their hearts and their territories should run side by side and
the great mission of civilising Asia should begin. That was
unsatisfactory, because Asia is not going to be civilised after the
methods of the West. There is too much Asia and she is too old. You
cannot reform a lady of many lovers, and Asia has been insatiable in
her flirtations aforetime. She will never attend Sunday school or
learn to vote save with swords for tickets.

Dirkovitch knew this as well as any one else, but it suited him to
talk special-correspondently and to make himself as genial as he
could. Now and then he volunteered a little, a very little,
information about his own sotnia of Cossacks, left apparently to look
after themselves somewhere at the back of beyond. He had done rough
work in Central Asia, and had seen rather more help-your-self
fighting than most men of his years. But he was careful never to
betray his superiority, and more than careful to praise on all
occasions the appearance, drill, uniform, and organisation of Her
Majesty's White Hussars. And indeed they were a regiment to be
admired. When Lady Durgan, widow of the late Sir John Durgan, arrived
in their station, and after a short time had been proposed to by every
single man at mess, she put the public sentiment very neatly when she
explained that they were all so nice that unless she could marry them
all, including the Colonel and some majors already married, she was
not going to content herself with one hussar. Wherefore she wedded a
little man in a rifle regiment, being by nature contradictious; and
the White Hussars were going to wear crape on their arms, but
compromised by attending the wedding in full force, and lining the
aisle with unutterable reproach. She had jilted them all--from
Basset-Holmer the senior captain to little Mildred the junior
subaltern, who could have given her four thousand a year and a title.

The only person who did not share the general regard for the White
Hussars were a few thousand gentlemen of Jewish extraction who lived
across the border, and answered to the name of Paythan. They had once
met the regiment officially and for something less than twenty
minutes, but the interview, which was complicated with many
casualties, had filled them with prejudice. They even called the White
Hussars children of the devil and sons of persons whom it would be
perfectly impossible to meet in decent society. Yet they were not
above making their aversion fill their money-belts. The regiment
possessed carbines--beautiful Martini-Henri carbines that would lop a
bullet into an enemy's camp at one thousand yards, and were even
handier than the long rifle. Therefore they were coveted all along the
border, and since demand inevitably breeds supply, they were supplied
at the risk of life and limb for exactly their weight in coined
silver--seven and one-half pounds weight of rupees, or sixteen pounds
sterling reckoning the rupee at par. They were stolen at night by
snaky-haired thieves who crawled on their stomachs under the nose of
the sentries; they disappeared mysteriously from locked arm-racks, and
in the hot weather when all the barrack doors and windows were open,
they vanished like puffs of their own smoke. The border people desired
them for family vendettas and contingencies. But in the long cold
nights of the northern Indian winter they were stolen most
extensively. The traffic of murder was liveliest among the hills at
that season, and prices ruled high. The regimental guards were first
doubled and then trebled. A trooper does not much care if he loses a
weapon--Government must make it good--but he deeply resents the loss
of his sleep. The regiment grew very angry, and one rifle-thief bears
the visible marks of their anger upon him to this hour. That incident
stopped the burglaries for a time, and the guards were reduced
accordingly, and the regiment devoted itself to polo with unexpected
results; for it beat by two goals to one that very terrible polo corps
the Lushkar Light Horse, though the latter had four ponies apiece for
a short hour's fight, as well as a native officer who played like a
lambent flame across the ground.

They gave a dinner to celebrate the event. The Lushkar team came, and
Dirkovitch came, in the fullest full uniform of a Cossack officer,
which is as full as a dressing-gown, and was introduced to the
Lushkars, and opened his eyes as he regarded. They were lighter men
than the Hussars, and they carried themselves with the swing that is
the peculiar right of the Punjab Frontier Force and all Irregular
Horse. Like everything else in the Service it has to be learnt, but,
unlike many things, it is never forgotten, and remains on the body
till death.

The great beam-roofed mess-room of the White Hussars was a sight to be
remembered. All the mess plate was out on the long table--the same
table that had served up the bodies of five officers after a forgotten
fight long and long ago--the dingy, battered standards faced the door
of entrance, clumps of winter-roses lay between the silver
candlesticks, and the portraits of eminent officers deceased looked
down on their successors from between the heads of sambhur, nilghai,
markhor, and, pride of all the mess, two grinning snow-leopards that
had cost Basset-Holmer four months' leave that he might have spent in
England, instead of on the road to Thibet and the daily risk of his
life by ledge, snow-slide, and grassy slope.

The servants in spotless white muslin and the crest of their regiments
on the brow of their turbans waited behind their masters, who were
clad in the scarlet and gold of the White Hussars, and the cream and
silver of the Lushkar Light Horse. Dirkovitch's dull green uniform was
the only dark spot at the board, but his big onyx eyes made up for it.
He was fraternising effusively with the Captain of the Lushkar team,
who was wondering how many of Dirkovitch's Cossacks his own dark wiry
down-country-men could account for in a fair charge. But one does not
speak of these things openly.

    [Illustration: '_Rung ho_, Hira Singh!'--P. 85.]

The talk rose higher and higher, and the regimental band played
between the courses, as is the immemorial custom, till all tongues
ceased for a moment with the removal of the dinner-slips and the first
toast of obligation, when an officer rising said, 'Mr. Vice, the
Queen,' and little Mildred from the bottom of the table answered, 'The
Queen, God bless her,' and the big spurs clanked as the big men
heaved themselves up and drank the Queen upon whose pay they were
falsely supposed to settle their mess-bills. That Sacrament of the
Mess never grows old, and never ceases to bring a lump into the throat
of the listener wherever he be by sea or by land. Dirkovitch rose with
his 'brothers glorious,' but he could not understand. No one but an
officer can tell what the toast means; and the bulk have more
sentiment than comprehension. Immediately after the little silence
that follows on the ceremony there entered the native officer who had
played for the Lushkar team. He could not, of course, eat with the
mess, but he came in at dessert, all six feet of him, with the blue
and silver turban atop, and the big black boots below. The mess rose
joyously as he thrust forward the hilt of his sabre in token of fealty
for the Colonel of the White Hussars to touch, and dropped in a vacant
chair amid shouts of: '_Rung ho_, Hira Singh' (which being translated
means 'Go in and win'). 'Did I whack you over the knee, old man?'
'Ressaidar Sahib, what the devil made you play that kicking pig of a
pony in the last ten minutes?' '_Shabash_, Ressaidar Sahib!' Then the
voice of the Colonel, 'The health of Ressaidar Hira Singh!'

After the shouting had died away Hira Singh rose to reply, for he was
the cadet of a royal house, the son of a king's son, and knew what
was due on these occasions. Thus he spoke in the vernacular:--'Colonel
Sahib and officers of this regiment. Much honour have you done me.
This will I remember. We came down from afar to play you. But we were
beaten' ('No fault of yours, Ressaidar Sahib. Played on our own ground
y' know. Your ponies were cramped from the railway. Don't apologise!')
'Therefore perhaps we will come again if it be so ordained.' ('Hear!
Hear! Hear, indeed! Bravo! Hsh!') 'Then we will play you afresh'
('Happy to meet you.') 'till there are left no feet upon our ponies.
Thus far for sport.' He dropped one hand on his sword-hilt and his eye
wandered to Dirkovitch lolling back in his chair. 'But if by the will
of God there arises any other game which is not the polo game, then be
assured, Colonel Sahib and officers, that we will play it out side by
side, though _they_,' again his eye sought Dirkovitch, 'though _they_
I say have fifty ponies to our one horse.' And with a deep-mouthed
_Rung ho!_ that sounded like a musket-butt on flagstones he sat down
amid leaping glasses.

Dirkovitch, who had devoted himself steadily to the brandy,--the
terrible brandy aforementioned,--did not understand, nor did the
expurgated translations offered to him at all convey the point.
Decidedly Hira Singh's was the speech of the evening, and the clamour
might have continued to the dawn had it not been broken by the noise
of a shot without that sent every man feeling at his defenceless left
side. Then there was a scuffle and a yell of pain.

'Carbine-stealing again!' said the Adjutant, calmly sinking back in
his chair. 'This comes of reducing the guards. I hope the sentries
have killed him.'

The feet of armed men pounded on the veranda flags, and it was as
though something was being dragged.

'Why don't they put him in the cells till the morning?' said the
Colonel testily. 'See if they've damaged him, Sergeant.'

The mess-sergeant fled out into the darkness and returned with two
troopers and a Corporal, all very much perplexed.

'Caught a man stealin' carbines, Sir,' said the Corporal. 'Leastways
'e was crawlin' towards the barricks, Sir, past the main road
sentries, an' the sentry 'e sez, Sir----'

The limp heap of rags upheld by the three men groaned. Never was seen
so destitute and demoralised an Afghan. He was turbanless, shoeless,
caked with dirt, and all but dead with rough handling. Hira Singh
started slightly at the sound of the man's pain. Dirkovitch took
another glass of brandy.

'_What_ does the sentry say?' said the Colonel.

'Sez 'e speaks English, Sir,' said the Corporal.

'So you brought him into mess instead of handing him over to the
sergeant! If he spoke all the Tongues of the Pentecost you've no
business----'

Again the bundle groaned and muttered. Little Mildred had risen from
his place to inspect. He jumped back as though he had been shot.

'Perhaps it would be better, Sir, to send the men away,' said he to
the Colonel, for he was a much privileged subaltern. He put his arms
round the rag-bound horror as he spoke, and dropped him into a chair.
It may not have been explained that the littleness of Mildred lay in
his being six feet four and big in proportion. The Corporal, seeing
that an officer was disposed to look after the capture, and that the
Colonel's eye was beginning to blaze, promptly removed himself and his
men. The mess was left alone with the carbine-thief, who laid his head
on the table and wept bitterly, hopelessly, and inconsolably, as
little children weep.

Hira Singh leapt to his feet. 'Colonel Sahib,' said he, 'that man is
no Afghan, for they weep _Ai! Ai!_ Nor is he of Hindustan, for they
weep _Oh! Ho!_ He weeps after the fashion of the white men, who say
_Ow! Ow!_'

'Now where the dickens did you get that knowledge, Hira Singh?' said
the Captain of the Lushkar team.

'Hear him!' said Hira Singh simply, pointing at the crumpled figure
that wept as though it would never cease.

'He said, "My God!"' said little Mildred. 'I heard him say it.'

The Colonel and the mess-room looked at the man in silence. It is a
horrible thing to hear a man cry. A woman can sob from the top of her
palate, or her lips, or anywhere else, but a man must cry from his
diaphragm, and it rends him to pieces.

'Poor devil!' said the Colonel, coughing tremendously. 'We ought to
send him to hospital. He's been man-handled.'

Now the Adjutant loved his carbines. They were to him as his
grandchildren, the men standing in the first place. He grunted
rebelliously: 'I can understand an Afghan stealing, because he's built
that way. But I can't understand his crying. That makes it worse.'

The brandy must have affected Dirkovitch, for he lay back in his chair
and stared at the ceiling. There was nothing special in the ceiling
beyond a shadow as of a huge black coffin. Owing to some peculiarity
in the construction of the mess-room this shadow was always thrown
when the candles were lighted. It never disturbed the digestion of the
White Hussars. They were in fact rather proud of it.

'Is he going to cry all night?' said the Colonel, 'or are we supposed
to sit up with little Mildred's guest until he feels better?'

The man in the chair threw up his head and stared at the mess. 'Oh, my
God!' he said, and every soul in the mess rose to his feet. Then the
Lushkar Captain did a deed for which he ought to have been given the
Victoria Cross--distinguished gallantry in a fight against
overwhelming curiosity. He picked up his team with his eyes as the
hostess picks up the ladies at the opportune moment, and pausing only
by the Colonel's chair to say, 'This isn't _our_ affair, you know,
Sir,' led them into the veranda and the gardens. Hira Singh was the
last to go, and he looked at Dirkovitch. But Dirkovitch had departed
into a brandy-paradise of his own. His lips moved without sound and he
was studying the coffin on the ceiling.

'White--white all over,' said Basset-Holmer, the Adjutant. 'What a
pernicious renegade he must be! I wonder where he came from?'

The Colonel shook the man gently by the arm, and 'Who are you?' said
he.

There was no answer. The man stared round the mess-room and smiled in
the Colonel's face. Little Mildred, who was always more of a woman
than a man till 'Boot and saddle' was sounded, repeated the question
in a voice that would have drawn confidences from a geyser. The man
only smiled. Dirkovitch at the far end of the table slid gently from
his chair to the floor. No son of Adam in this present imperfect world
can mix the Hussars' champagne with the Hussars' brandy by five and
eight glasses of each without remembering the pit whence he was digged
and descending thither. The band began to play the tune with which the
White Hussars from the date of their formation have concluded all
their functions. They would sooner be disbanded than abandon that
tune; it is a part of their system. The man straightened himself in
his chair and drummed on the table with his fingers.

    [Illustration: He found the spring.--P. 91.]

'I don't see why we should entertain lunatics,' said the Colonel.
'Call a guard and send him off to the cells. We'll look into the
business in the morning. Give him a glass of wine first though.'

Little Mildred filled a sherry-glass with the brandy and thrust it
over to the man. He drank, and the tune rose louder, and he
straightened himself yet more. Then he put out his long-taloned hands
to a piece of plate opposite and fingered it lovingly. There was a
mystery connected with that piece of plate, in the shape of a spring
which converted what was a seven-branched candlestick, three springs
on each side and one in the middle, into a sort of wheel-spoke
candelabrum. He found the spring, pressed it, and laughed weakly. He
rose from his chair and inspected a picture on the wall, then moved on
to another picture, the mess watching him without a word. When he came
to the mantelpiece he shook his head and seemed distressed. A piece of
plate representing a mounted hussar in full uniform caught his eye. He
pointed to it, and then to the mantelpiece with inquiry in his eyes.

'What is it--oh what is it?' said little Mildred. Then as a mother
might speak to a child, 'That is a horse. Yes, a horse.'

Very slowly came the answer in a thick, passionless guttural--'Yes,
I--have seen. But--where is _the_ horse?'

You could have heard the hearts of the mess beating as the men drew
back to give the stranger full room in his wanderings. There was no
question of calling the guard.

Again he spoke--very slowly, 'Where is _our_ horse?'

There is but one horse in the White Hussars, and his portrait hangs
outside the door of the mess-room. He is the piebald drum-horse, the
king of the regimental band, that served the regiment for
seven-and-thirty years, and in the end was shot for old age. Half the
mess tore the thing down from its place and thrust it into the man's
hands. He placed it above the mantelpiece, it clattered on the ledge
as his poor hands dropped it, and he staggered towards the bottom of
the table, falling into Mildred's chair. Then all the men spoke to one
another something after this fashion, 'The drum-horse hasn't hung over
the mantelpiece since '67.' 'How does he know?' 'Mildred, go and speak
to him again.' 'Colonel, what are you going to do?' 'Oh, dry up, and
give the poor devil a chance to pull himself together.' 'It isn't
possible anyhow. The man's a lunatic.'

Little Mildred stood at the Colonel's side talking in his ear. 'Will
you be good enough to take your seats, please, gentlemen!' he said,
and the mess dropped into the chairs. Only Dirkovitch's seat, next to
little Mildred's, was blank, and little Mildred himself had found Hira
Singh's place. The wide-eyed mess-sergeant filled the glasses in dead
silence. Once more the Colonel rose, but his hand shook, and the port
spilled on the table as he looked straight at the man in little
Mildred's chair and said hoarsely, 'Mr. Vice, the Queen.' There was a
little pause, but the man sprung to his feet and answered without
hesitation, 'The Queen, God bless her!' and as he emptied the thin
glass he snapped the shank between his fingers.

Long and long ago, when the Empress of India was a young woman and
there were no unclean ideals in the land, it was the custom of a few
messes to drink the Queen's toast in broken glass, to the vast
delight of the mess-contractors. The custom is now dead, because there
is nothing to break anything for, except now and again the word of a
Government, and that has been broken already.

'That settles it,' said the Colonel, with a gasp. 'He's not a
sergeant. What in the world is he?'

The entire mess echoed the word, and the volley of questions would
have scared any man. It was no wonder that the ragged, filthy invader
could only smile and shake his head.

From under the table, calm and smiling, rose Dirkovitch, who had been
roused from healthful slumber by feet upon his body. By the side of
the man he rose, and the man shrieked and grovelled. It was a horrible
sight coming so swiftly upon the pride and glory of the toast that had
brought the strayed wits together.

Dirkovitch made no offer to raise him, but little Mildred heaved him
up in an instant. It is not good that a gentleman who can answer to
the Queen's toast should lie at the feet of a subaltern of Cossacks.

The hasty action tore the wretch's upper clothing nearly to the waist,
and his body was seamed with dry black scars. There is only one weapon
in the world that cuts in parallel lines, and it is neither the cane
nor the cat. Dirkovitch saw the marks, and the pupils of his eyes
dilated. Also his face changed. He said something that sounded like
_Shto ve takete_, and the man fawning answered, _Chetyre_.

    [Illustration: It is not good that a gentleman who can answer
    to the Queen's toast should lie at the feet of a subaltern of
    Cossacks.--P. 94.]

'What's that?' said everybody together.

'His number. That is number four, you know,' Dirkovitch spoke very
thickly.

'What has a Queen's officer to do with a qualified number?' said the
Colonel, and an unpleasant growl ran round the table.

'How can I tell?' said the affable Oriental with a sweet smile. 'He is
a--how you have it?--escape--run-a-way, from over there.' He nodded
towards the darkness of the night.

'Speak to him if he'll answer you, and speak to him gently,' said
little Mildred, settling the man in a chair. It seemed most improper
to all present that Dirkovitch should sip brandy as he talked in
purring, spitting Russian to the creature who answered so feebly and
with such evident dread. But since Dirkovitch appeared to understand
no one said a word. All breathed heavily, leaning forward, in the long
gaps of the conversation. The next time that they have no engagements
on hand the White Hussars intend to go to St. Petersburg in a body to
learn Russian.

'He does not know how many years ago,' said Dirkovitch facing the
mess, 'but he says it was very long ago in the war. I think that there
was an accident. He says he was of this glorious and distinguished
regiment in the war.'

'The rolls! The rolls! Holmer, get the rolls!' said little Mildred,
and the Adjutant dashed off bareheaded to the orderly-room, where the
muster-rolls of the regiment were kept. He returned just in time to
hear Dirkovitch conclude, 'Therefore, my dear friends, I am most sorry
to say there was an accident which would have been reparable if he had
apologised to that our colonel, which he had insulted.'

Then followed another growl which the Colonel tried to beat down. The
mess was in no mood just then to weigh insults to Russian colonels.

'He does not remember, but I think that there was an accident, and so
he was not exchanged among the prisoners, but he was sent to another
place--how do you say?--the country. _So_, he says, he came here. He
does not know how he came. Eh? He was at Chepany'--the man caught the
word, nodded, and shivered--'at Zhigansk and Irkutsk. I cannot
understand how he escaped. He says, too, that he was in the forests
for many years, but how many years he has forgotten--that with many
things. It was an accident; done because he did not apologise to that
our colonel. Ah!'

Instead of echoing Dirkovitch's sigh of regret, it is sad to record
that the White Hussars livelily exhibited un-Christian delight and
other emotions, hardly restrained by their sense of hospitality.
Holmer flung the frayed and yellow regimental rolls on the table, and
the men flung themselves at these.

'Steady! Fifty-six--fifty-five--fifty-four,' said Holmer. 'Here we
are. "Lieutenant Austin Limmason. _Missing._" That was before
Sebastopol. What an infernal shame! Insulted one of their colonels,
and was quietly shipped off. Thirty years of his life wiped out.'

'But he never apologised. Said he'd see him damned first,' chorussed
the mess.

'Poor chap! I suppose he never had the chance afterwards. How did he
come here?' said the Colonel.

The dingy heap in the chair could give no answer.

'Do you know who you are?'

It laughed weakly.

'Do you know that you are Limmason--Lieutenant Limmason of the White
Hussars?'

Swiftly as a shot came the answer, in a slightly surprised tone, 'Yes,
I'm Limmason, of course.' The light died out in his eyes, and the man
collapsed, watching every motion of Dirkovitch with terror. A flight
from Siberia may fix a few elementary facts in the mind, but it does
not seem to lead to continuity of thought. The man could not explain
how, like a homing pigeon, he had found his way to his own old mess
again. Of what he had suffered or seen he knew nothing. He cringed
before Dirkovitch as instinctively as he had pressed the spring of the
candlestick, sought the picture of the drum-horse, and answered to the
toast of the Queen. The rest was a blank that the dreaded Russian
tongue could only in part remove. His head bowed on his breast, and he
giggled and cowered alternately.

The devil that lived in the brandy prompted Dirkovitch at this
extremely inopportune moment to make a speech. He rose, swaying
slightly, gripped the table-edge, while his eyes glowed like opals,
and began:--

'Fellow-soldiers glorious--true friends and hospitables. It was an
accident, and deplorable--most deplorable.' Here he smiled sweetly all
round the mess. 'But you will think of this little, little thing. So
little, is it not? The Czar! Posh! I slap my fingers--I snap my
fingers at him. Do I believe in him? No! But in us Slav who has done
nothing, _him_ I believe. Seventy--how much--millions peoples that
have done nothing--not one thing. Posh! Napoleon was an episode.' He
banged a hand on the table. 'Hear you, old peoples, we have done
nothing in the world--out here. All our work is to do; and it shall be
done, old peoples. Get a-way!' He waved his hand imperiously, and
pointed to the man. 'You see him. He is no good to see. He was just
one little--oh, so little--accident, that no one remembered. Now he
is _That_! So will you be, brother soldiers so brave--so will you be.
But you will never come back. You will all go where he is gone,
or'--he pointed to the great coffin-shadow on the ceiling, and
muttering, 'Seventy millions--get a-way, you old peoples,' fell
asleep.

'Sweet, and to the point,' said little Mildred. 'What's the use of
getting wroth? Let's make this poor devil comfortable.'

But that was a matter suddenly and swiftly taken from the loving hands
of the White Hussars. The lieutenant had returned only to go away
again three days later, when the wail of the Dead March, and the tramp
of the squadrons, told the wondering Station, who saw no gap in the
mess-table, that an officer of the regiment had resigned his new-found
commission.

And Dirkovitch, bland, supple, and always genial, went away too, by a
night train. Little Mildred and another man saw him off, for he was
the guest of the mess, and even had he smitten the Colonel with the
open hand, the law of that mess allowed no relaxation of hospitality.

'Good-bye, Dirkovitch, and a pleasant journey,' said little Mildred.

'_Au revoir_,' said the Russian.

'Indeed! But we thought you were going home?'

'Yes, but I will come again. My dear friends, is that road shut?' He
pointed to where the North Star burned over the Khyber Pass.

'By Jove! I forgot. Of course. Happy to meet you, old man, any time
you like. Got everything you want? Cheroots, ice, bedding? That's all
right. Well, _au revoir_, Dirkovitch.'

'Um,' said the other man, as the tail-lights of the train grew small.
'Of--all--the--unmitigated----!'

Little Mildred answered nothing, but watched the North Star and hummed
a selection from a recent Simla burlesque that had much delighted the
White Hussars. It ran:--

    I'm sorry for Mister Bluebeard,
    I'm sorry to cause him pain;
    But a terrible spree there's sure to be
    When he comes back again.

[Illustration]

[Illustration]



THE COURTING OF DINAH SHADD

    What did the colonel's lady think
      Nobody never knew.
    Somebody asked the sergeant's wife
      An' she told 'em, true.
    When you git to a man in the case
      They're like a row o' pins,
    For the colonel's lady an' Judy O'Grady
      Are sisters under their skins.

                   _Barrack Room Ballad._


All day I had followed at the heels of a pursuing army engaged on one
of the finest battles that ever camp of exercise beheld. Thirty
thousand troops had by the wisdom of the Government of India been
turned loose over a few thousand square miles of country to practise
in peace what they would never attempt in war. Consequently cavalry
charged unshaken infantry at the trot. Infantry captured artillery by
frontal attacks delivered in line of quarter columns, and mounted
infantry skirmished up to the wheels of an armoured train which
carried nothing more deadly than a twenty-five pounder Armstrong, two
Nordenfeldts, and a few score volunteers all cased in three-eighths-inch
boiler-plate. Yet it was a very lifelike camp. Operations did not
cease at sundown; nobody knew the country and nobody spared man or
horse. There was unending cavalry scouting and almost unending forced
work over broken ground. The Army of the South had finally pierced the
centre of the Army of the North, and was pouring through the gap
hot-foot to capture a city of strategic importance. Its front extended
fanwise, the sticks being represented by regiments strung out along
the line of route backwards to the divisional transport columns and
all the lumber that trails behind an army on the move. On its right
the broken left of the Army of the North was flying in mass, chased by
the Southern horse and hammered by the Southern guns till these had
been pushed far beyond the limits of their last support. Then the
flying sat down to rest, while the elated commandant of the pursuing
force telegraphed that he held all in check and observation.

Unluckily he did not observe that three miles to his right flank a
flying column of Northern horse with a detachment of Gurkhas and
British troops had been pushed round, as fast as the failing light
allowed, to cut across the entire rear of the Southern Army, to break,
as it were, all the ribs of the fan where they converged by striking
at the transport, reserve ammunition, and artillery supplies. Their
instructions were to go in, avoiding the few scouts who might not have
been drawn off by the pursuit, and create sufficient excitement to
impress the Southern Army with the wisdom of guarding their own flank
and rear before they captured cities. It was a pretty manoeuvre,
neatly carried out.

Speaking for the second division of the Southern Army, our first
intimation of the attack was at twilight, when the artillery were
labouring in deep sand, most of the escort were trying to help them
out, and the main body of the infantry had gone on. A Noah's Ark of
elephants, camels, and the mixed menagerie of an Indian transport
train bubbled and squealed behind the guns, when there appeared from
nowhere in particular British infantry to the extent of three
companies, who sprang to the heads of the gun-horses and brought all
to a standstill amid oaths and cheers.

'How's that, umpire?' said the Major commanding the attack, and with
one voice the drivers and limber gunners answered 'Hout!' while the
Colonel of Artillery sputtered.

'All your scouts are charging our main body,' said the Major. 'Your
flanks are unprotected for two miles. I think we've broken the back of
this division. And listen,--there go the Gurkhas!'

A weak fire broke from the rear-guard more than a mile away, and was
answered by cheerful howlings. The Gurkhas, who should have swung
clear of the second division, had stepped on its tail in the dark, but
drawing off hastened to reach the next line of attack, which lay
almost parallel to us five or six miles away.

Our column swayed and surged irresolutely,--three batteries, the
divisional ammunition reserve, the baggage, and a section of the
hospital and bearer corps. The commandant ruefully promised to report
himself 'cut up' to the nearest umpire, and commending his cavalry and
all other cavalry to the special care of Eblis, toiled on to resume
touch with the rest of the division.

'We'll bivouac here to-night,' said the Major; 'I have a notion that
the Gurkhas will get caught. They may want us to re-form on. Stand
easy till the transport gets away.'

A hand caught my beast's bridle and led him out of the choking dust; a
larger hand deftly canted me out of the saddle; and two of the hugest
hands in the world received me sliding. Pleasant is the lot of the
special correspondent who falls into such hands as those of Privates
Mulvaney, Ortheris, and Learoyd.

'An' that's all right,' said the Irishman calmly. 'We thought we'd
find you somewheres here by. Is there anything av yours in the
transport? Orth'ris'll fetch ut out.'

Ortheris did 'fetch ut out,' from under the trunk of an elephant, in
the shape of a servant and an animal, both laden with medical
comforts. The little man's eyes sparkled.

'If the brutil an' licentious soldiery av these parts gets sight av
the thruck,' said Mulvaney, making practised investigation, 'they'll
loot ev'rything. They're bein' fed on iron-filin's an' dog-biscuit
these days, but glory's no compensation for a belly-ache. Praise be,
we're here to protect you, Sorr. Beer, sausage, bread (soft an' that's
a cur'osity), soup in a tin, whisky by the smell av ut, an' fowls!
Mother av Moses, but ye take the field like a confectioner! 'Tis
scand'lus.'

''Ere's a orficer,' said Ortheris significantly. 'When the sergent's
done lushin' the privit may clean the pot.'

I bundled several things into Mulvaney's haver-sack before the Major's
hand fell on my shoulder and he said tenderly, 'Requisitioned for the
Queen's service. Wolseley was quite wrong about special
correspondents: they are the soldier's best friends. Come and take
pot-luck with us to-night.'

And so it happened amid laughter and shoutings that my well-considered
commissariat melted away to reappear later at the mess-table, which
was a waterproof sheet spread on the ground. The flying column had
taken three days' rations with it, and there be few things nastier
than government rations--especially when government is experimenting
with German toys. Erbswurst, tinned beef of surpassing tinniness,
compressed vegetables, and meat-biscuits may be nourishing, but what
Thomas Atkins needs is bulk in his inside. The Major, assisted by his
brother officers, purchased goats for the camp and so made the
experiment of no effect. Long before the fatigue-party sent to collect
brushwood had returned, the men were settled down by their valises,
kettles and pots had appeared from the surrounding country and were
dangling over fires as the kid and the compressed vegetable bubbled
together; there rose a cheerful clinking of mess-tins; outrageous
demands for 'a little more stuffin' with that there liver-wing'; and
gust on gust of chaff as pointed as a bayonet and as delicate as a
gun-butt.

'The boys are in a good temper,' said the Major. 'They'll be singing
presently. Well, a night like this is enough to keep them happy.'

Over our heads burned the wonderful Indian stars, which are not all
pricked in on one plane, but, preserving an orderly perspective, draw
the eye through the velvet darkness of the void up to the barred doors
of heaven itself. The earth was a gray shadow more unreal than the
sky. We could hear her breathing lightly in the pauses between the
howling of the jackals, the movement of the wind in the tamarisks, and
the fitful mutter of musketry-fire leagues away to the left. A native
woman from some unseen hut began to sing, the mail-train thundered
past on its way to Delhi, and a roosting crow cawed drowsily. Then
there was a belt-loosening silence about the fires, and the even
breathing of the crowded earth took up the story.

The men, full fed, turned to tobacco and song,--their officers with
them. The subaltern is happy who can win the approval of the musical
critics in his regiment, and is honoured among the more intricate
step-dancers. By him, as by him who plays cricket cleverly, Thomas
Atkins will stand in time of need, when he will let a better officer
go on alone. The ruined tombs of forgotten Mussulman saints heard the
ballad of _Agra Town_, _The Buffalo Battery_, _Marching to Kabul_,
_The long, long Indian Day_, _The Place where the Punkah-coolie died_,
and that crashing chorus which announces,

    Youth's daring spirit, manhood's fire,
      Firm hand and eagle eye,
    Must he acquire, who would aspire
      To see the gray boar die.

To-day, of all those jovial thieves who appropriated my commissariat
and lay and laughed round that waterproof sheet, not one remains. They
went to camps that were not of exercise and battles without empires.
Burmah, the Soudan, and the frontier,--fever and fight,--took them in
their time.

I drifted across to the men's fires in search of Mulvaney, whom I
found strategically greasing his feet by the blaze. There is nothing
particularly lovely in the sight of a private thus engaged after a
long day's march, but when you reflect on the exact proportion of the
'might, majesty, dominion, and power' of the British Empire which
stands on those feet you take an interest in the proceedings.

'There's a blister, bad luck to ut, on the heel,' said Mulvaney. 'I
can't touch ut. Prick ut out, little man.'

Ortheris took out his housewife, eased the trouble with a needle,
stabbed Mulvaney in the calf with the same weapon, and was swiftly
kicked into the fire.

'I've bruk the best av my toes over you, ye grinnin' child av
disruption,' said Mulvaney, sitting cross-legged and nursing his feet;
then seeing me, 'Oh, ut's you, Sorr! Be welkim, an' take that
maraudin' scutt's place. Jock, hold him down on the cindhers for a
bit.'

But Ortheris escaped and went elsewhere, as I took possession of the
hollow he had scraped for himself and lined with his greatcoat.
Learoyd on the other side of the fire grinned affably and in a minute
fell fast asleep.

'There's the height av politeness for you,' said Mulvaney, lighting
his pipe with a flaming branch. 'But Jock's eaten half a box av your
sardines at wan gulp, an' I think the tin too. What's the best wid
you, Sorr, an' how did you happen to be on the losin' side this day
whin we captured you?'

'The Army of the South is winning all along the line,' I said.

'Then that line's the hangman's rope, savin' your presence. You'll
learn to-morrow how we rethreated to dhraw thim on before we made thim
trouble, an' that's what a woman does. By the same tokin, we'll be
attacked before the dawnin' an' ut would be betther not to slip your
boots. How do I know that? By the light av pure reason. Here are three
companies av us ever so far inside av the enemy's flank an' a crowd av
roarin', tarin', squealin' cavalry gone on just to turn out the whole
hornet's nest av them. Av course the enemy will pursue, by brigades
like as not, an' thin we'll have to run for ut. Mark my words. I am av
the opinion av Polonius whin he said, "Don't fight wid ivry scutt for
the pure joy av fightin', but if you do, knock the nose av him first
and frequint." We ought to ha' gone on an' helped the Gurkhas.'

'But what do you know about Polonius?' I demanded. This was a new side
of Mulvaney's character.

'All that Shakespeare iver wrote an' a dale more that the gallery
shouted,' said the man of war, carefully lacing his boots. 'Did I not
tell you av Silver's Theatre in Dublin, whin I was younger than I am
now an' a patron av the drama? Ould Silver wud never pay actor-man or
woman their just dues, an' by consequince his comp'nies was
collapsible at the last minut. Thin the bhoys wud clamour to take a
part, an' oft as not ould Silver made them pay for the fun. Faith,
I've seen Hamlut played wid a new black eye an' the queen as full as a
cornucopia. I remimber wanst Hogin that 'listed in the Black Tyrone
an' was shot in South Africa, he sejuced ould Silver into givin' him
Hamlut's part instid av me that had a fine fancy for rhetoric in those
days. Av course I wint into the gallery an' began to fill the pit wid
other peoples' hats, an' I passed the time av day to Hogin walkin'
through Denmark like a hamstrung mule wid a pall on his back.
"Hamlut," sez I, "there's a hole in your heel. Pull up your
shtockin's, Hamlut," sez I. "Hamlut, Hamlut, for the love av decincy
dhrop that skull an' pull up your shtockin's." The whole house begun
to tell him that. He stopped his soliloquishms mid-between. "My
shtockin's may be comin' down or they may not," sez he, screwin' his
eye into the gallery, for well he knew who I was. "But afther this
performince is over me an' the Ghost'll trample the tripes out av you,
Terence, wid your-ass's bray!" An' that's how I come to know about
Hamlut. Eyah! Those days, those days! Did you iver have onendin'
devilmint an' nothin' to pay for it in your life, Sorr?'

'Never, without having to pay,' I said.

'That's thrue! 'Tis mane whin you considher on ut; but ut's the same
wid horse or fut. A headache if you dhrink, an' a belly-ache if you
eat too much, an' a heart-ache to kape all down. Faith, the beast only
gets the colic, an' he's the lucky man.'

He dropped his head and stared into the fire, fingering his moustache
the while. From the far side of the bivouac the voice of Corbet-Nolan,
senior subaltern of B company, uplifted itself in an ancient and much
appreciated song of sentiment, the men moaning melodiously behind him.

    The north wind blew coldly, she drooped from that hour,
    My own little Kathleen, my sweet little Kathleen,
    Kathleen, my Kathleen, Kathleen O'Moore!

With forty-five O's in the last word: even at that distance you might
have cut the soft South Irish accent with a shovel.

'For all we take we must pay, but the price is cruel high,' murmured
Mulvaney when the chorus had ceased.

'What's the trouble?' I said gently, for I knew that he was a man of
an inextinguishable sorrow.

'Hear now,' said he. 'Ye know what I am now. _I_ know what I mint to
be at the beginnin' av my service. I've tould you time an' again, an'
what I have not Dinah Shadd has. An' what am I? Oh, Mary Mother av
Hiven, an ould dhrunken, untrustable baste av a privit that has seen
the reg'ment change out from colonel to drummer-boy, not wanst or
twice, but scores av times! Ay, scores! An' me not so near gettin'
promotion as in the first! An' me livin' on an' kapin' clear av clink,
not by my own good conduck, but the kindness av some orf'cer-bhoy
young enough to be son to me! Do I not know ut? Can I not tell whin
I'm passed over at p'rade, tho' I'm rockin' full av liquor an' ready
to fall all in wan piece, such as even a suckin' child might see,
bekaze, "Oh, 'tis only ould Mulvaney!" An' whin I'm let off in
ord'ly-room through some thrick of the tongue an' a ready answer an'
the ould man's mercy, is ut smilin' I feel whin I fall away an' go
back to Dinah Shadd, thryin' to carry ut all off as a joke? Not I!
'Tis hell to me, dumb hell through ut all; an' next time whin the fit
comes I will be as bad again. Good cause the reg'ment has to know me
for the best soldier in ut. Better cause have I to know mesilf for the
worst man. I'm only fit to tache the new drafts what I'll niver learn
myself; an' I am sure, as tho' I heard ut, that the minut wan av these
pink-eyed recruities gets away from my "Mind ye now," an' "Listen to
this, Jim, bhoy,"--sure I am that the sergint houlds me up to him for
a warnin'. So I tache, as they say at musketry-instruction, by direct
and ricochet fire. Lord be good to me, for I have stud some throuble!'

'Lie down and go to sleep,' said I, not being able to comfort or
advise. 'You're the best man in the regiment, and, next to Ortheris,
the biggest fool. Lie down and wait till we're attacked. What force
will they turn out? Guns, think you?'

'Try that wid your lorrds an' ladies, twistin' an' turnin' the talk,
tho' you mint ut well. Ye cud say nothin' to help me, an' yet ye niver
knew what cause I had to be what I am.'

'Begin at the beginning and go on to the end,' I said royally. 'But
rake up the fire a bit first.'

I passed Ortheris's bayonet for a poker.

'That shows how little we know what we do,' said Mulvaney, putting it
aside. 'Fire takes all the heart out av the steel, an' the next time,
maybe, that our little man is fighting for his life his bradawl'll
break, an' so you'll ha' killed him, manin' no more than to kape
yourself warm. 'Tis a recruity's thrick that. Pass the clanin'-rod,
Sorr.'

I snuggled down abashed; and after an interval the voice of Mulvaney
began.

'Did I iver tell you how Dinah Shadd came to be wife av mine?'

I dissembled a burning anxiety that I had felt for some months--ever
since Dinah Shadd, the strong, the patient, and the infinitely tender,
had of her own good love and free will washed a shirt for me, moving
in a barren land where washing was not.

'I can't remember,' I said casually. 'Was it before or after you made
love to Annie Bragin, and got no satisfaction?'

The story of Annie Bragin is written in another place. It is one of
the many less respectable episodes in Mulvaney's chequered career.

'Before--before--long before, was that business av Annie Bragin an'
the corp'ril's ghost. Niver woman was the worse for me whin I had
married Dinah. There's a time for all things, an' I know how to kape
all things in place--barrin' the dhrink, that kapes me in my place wid
no hope av comin' to be aught else.'

'Begin at the beginning,' I insisted. 'Mrs. Mulvaney told me that you
married her when you were quartered in Krab Bokhar barracks.'

'An' the same is a cess-pit,' said Mulvaney piously. 'She spoke thrue,
did Dinah. 'Twas this way. Talkin' av that, have ye iver fallen in
love, Sorr?'

I preserved the silence of the damned. Mulvaney continued:--

'Thin I will assume that ye have not. _I_ did. In the days av my
youth, as I have more than wanst tould you, I was a man that filled
the eye an' delighted the sowl av women. Niver man was hated as I have
bin. Niver man was loved as I--no, not within half a day's march av
ut! For the first five years av my service, whin I was what I wud give
my sowl to be now, I tuk whatever was within my reach an' digested
ut--an' that's more than most men can say. Dhrink I tuk, an' ut did me
no harm. By the Hollow av Hiven, I cud play wid four women at wanst,
an' kape them from findin' out anythin' about the other three, an'
smile like a full-blown marigold through ut all. Dick Coulhan, av the
battery we'll have down on us to-night, could drive his team no better
than I mine, an' I hild the worser cattle! An' so I lived, an' so I
was happy till afther that business wid Annie Bragin--she that turned
me off as cool as a meat-safe, an' taught me where I stud in the mind
av an honest woman. 'Twas no sweet dose to swallow.

'Afther that I sickened awhile an' tuk thought to my reg'mental work;
conceiting mesilf I wud study an' be a sargint, an' a major-gineral
twinty minutes afther that. But on top av my ambitiousness there was
an empty place in my sowl, an' me own opinion av mesilf cud not fill
ut. Sez I to mesilf, "Terence, you're a great man an' the best set-up
in the reg'mint. Go on an' get promotion." Sez mesilf to me, "What
for?" Sez I to mesilf, "For the glory av ut!" Sez mesilf to me, "Will
that fill these two strong arrums av yours, Terence?" "Go to the
devil," sez I to mesilf. "Go to the married lines," sez mesilf to me.
"'Tis the same thing," sez I to mesilf. "Av you're the same man, ut
is," said mesilf to me; an' wid that I considhered on ut a long while.
Did you iver feel that way, Sorr?'

I snored gently, knowing that if Mulvaney were uninterrupted he would
go on. The clamour from the bivouac fires beat up to the stars, as the
rival singers of the companies were pitted against each other.

'So I felt that way an' a bad time ut was. Wanst, bein' a fool, I wint
into the married lines more for the sake av spakin' to our ould
colour-sergint Shadd than for any thruck wid women-folk. I was a
corp'ril then--rejuced afterwards, but a corp'ril then. I've got a
photograft av mesilf to prove ut. "You'll take a cup av tay wid us?"
sez Shadd. "I will that," I sez, "tho' tay is not my divarsion."

'"'Twud be better for you if ut were," sez ould Mother Shadd, an' she
had ought to know, for Shadd, in the ind av his service, dhrank
bung-full each night.

    [Illustration: 'Thin whin the kettle was to be filled, Dinah
    came in--my Dinah.'--P. 117.]

'Wid that I tuk off my gloves--there was pipe-clay in thim, so that
they stud alone--an' pulled up my chair, lookin' round at the china
ornaments, an' bits av things in the Shadds' quarters. They were
things that belonged to a man, an' no camp-kit, here to-day and
dishipated next. "You're comfortable in this place, Sergint," sez I.
"'Tis the wife that did ut, boy," sez he, pointin' the stem av his
pipe to ould Mother Shadd, an' she smacked the top av his bald head
apon the compliment. "That manes you want money," sez she.

'An' thin--an' thin whin the kettle was to be filled, Dinah came
in--my Dinah--her sleeves rowled up to the elbow an' her hair in a
winkin' glory over her forehead, the big blue eyes beneath twinklin'
like stars on a frosty night, an' the tread av her two feet lighter
than waste-paper from the Colonel's basket in ord'ly-room whin ut's
emptied. Bein' but a shlip av a girl she went pink at seein' me, an' I
twisted me moustache an' looked at a picture forninst the wall. Niver
show a woman that ye care the snap av a finger for her, an' begad
she'll come bleatin' to your boot-heels!'

'I suppose that's why you followed Annie Bragin till everybody in the
married quarters laughed at you,' said I, remembering that unhallowed
wooing and casting off the disguise of drowsiness.

'I'm layin' down the gin'ral theory av the attack,' said Mulvaney,
driving his boot into the dying fire. 'If you read the _Soldier's
Pocket-book_, which niver any soldier reads, you'll see that there are
exceptions. Whin Dinah was out av the door (an' 'twas as tho' the
sunlight had shut too)--"Mother av Hiven, Sergint," sez I, "but is
that your daughter?"--"I've believed that way these eighteen years,"
sez ould Shadd, his eyes twinklin'; "but Mrs. Shadd has her own
opinion, like iv'ry woman."--"'Tis wid yours this time, for a
mericle," sez Mother Shadd. "Thin why in the name av fortune did I
niver see her before?" sez I. "Bekaze you've been thrapesin' round wid
the married women these three years past. She was a bit av a child
till last year, an' she shot up wid the spring," sez ould Mother
Shadd. "I'll thrapese no more," sez I. "D'you mane that?" sez ould
Mother Shadd, lookin' at me side-ways like a hen looks at a hawk whin
the chickens are runnin' free. "Try me, an' tell," sez I. Wid that I
pulled on my gloves, dhrank off the tay, an' went out av the house as
stiff as at gin'ral p'rade, for well I knew that Dinah Shadd's eyes
were in the small av my back out av the scullery window. Faith! that
was the only time I mourned I was not a cav'l'ry-man for the pride av
the spurs to jingle.

'I wint out to think, an' I did a powerful lot av thinkin', but ut all
came round to that shlip av a girl in the dotted blue dhress, wid the
blue eyes an' the sparkil in them. Thin I kept off canteen, an' I kept
to the married quarthers, or near by, on the chanst av meetin' Dinah.
Did I meet her? Oh, my time past, did I not; wid a lump in my throat
as big as my valise an' my heart goin' like a farrier's forge on a
Saturday morning? 'Twas "Good day to ye, Miss Dinah," an' "Good day
t'you, Corp'ril," for a week or two, and divil a bit further could I
get bekaze av the respect I had to that girl that I cud ha' broken
betune finger an' thumb.'

Here I giggled as I recalled the gigantic figure of Dinah Shadd when
she handed me my shirt.

'Ye may laugh,' grunted Mulvaney. 'But I'm speakin' the trut', an'
'tis you that are in fault. Dinah was a girl that wud ha' taken the
imperiousness out av the Duchess av Clonmel in those days. Flower
hand, foot av shod air, an' the eyes av the livin' mornin' she had
that is my wife to-day--ould Dinah, and niver aught else than Dinah
Shadd to me.

''Twas after three weeks standin' off an' on, an' niver makin' headway
excipt through the eyes, that a little drummer-boy grinned in me face
whin I had admonished him wid the buckle av my belt for riotin' all
over the place. "An' I'm not the only wan that doesn't kape to
barricks," sez he. I tuk him by the scruff av his neck,--my heart was
hung on a hair-thrigger those days, you will onderstand,--an' "Out wid
ut," sez I, "or I'll lave no bone av you unbreakable."--"Speak to
Dempsey," sez he howlin'. "Dempsey which?" sez I, "ye unwashed limb av
Satan."--"Av the Bob-tailed Dhragoons," sez he. "He's seen her home
from her aunt's house in the civil lines four times this
fortnight."--"Child!" sez I, dhroppin' him, "you're tongue's stronger
than your body. Go to your quarters. I'm sorry I dhressed you down."

'At that I went four ways to wanst huntin' Dempsey. I was mad to think
that wid all my airs among women I shud ha' been chated by a
basin-faced fool av a cav'l'ry-man not fit to trust on a trunk.
Presintly I found him in our lines--the Bobtails was quartered next
us--an' a tallowy, topheavy son av a she-mule he was wid his big brass
spurs an' his plastrons on his epigastrons an' all. But he niver
flinched a hair.

'"A word wid you, Dempsey," sez I. "You've walked wid Dinah Shadd four
times this fortnight gone."

'"What's that to you?" sez he. "I'll walk forty times more, an' forty
on top av that, ye shovel-futted clod-breakin' infantry
lance-corp'ril."

'Before I cud gyard he had his gloved fist home on my cheek an' down I
went full-sprawl. "Will that content you?" sez he, blowin' on his
knuckles for all the world like a Scots Greys orf'cer. "Content!" sez
I. "For your own sake, man, take off your spurs, peel your jackut, an'
onglove. 'Tis the beginnin' av the overture; stand up!"

    [Illustration: '"My collar-bone's bruk," sez he.'--P. 121.]

'He stud all he know, but he niver peeled his jacket, an' his
shoulders had no fair play. I was fightin' for Dinah Shadd an' that
cut on my cheek. What hope had he forninst me? "Stand up," sez I, time
an' again whin he was beginnin' to quarter the ground an' gyard high
an' go large. "This isn't ridin'-school," I sez. "O man, stand up an'
let me get in at ye." But whin I saw he wud be runnin' about, I grup
his shtock in my left an' his waist-belt in my right an' swung him
clear to my right front, head undher, he hammerin' my nose till the
wind was knocked out av him on the bare ground. "Stand up," sez I, "or
I'll kick your head into your chest!" and I wud ha' done ut too, so
ragin' mad I was.

'"My collar-bone's bruk," sez he. "Help me back to lines. I'll walk
wid her no more." So I helped him back.'

'And was his collar-bone broken?' I asked, for I fancied that only
Learoyd could neatly accomplish that terrible throw.

'He pitched on his left shoulder-point. Ut was. Next day the news was
in both barricks, an' whin I met Dinah Shadd wid a cheek on me like
all the reg'mintal tailor's samples, there was no "Good mornin',
Corp'ril," or aught else. "An' what have I done, Miss Shadd," sez I,
very bould, plantin' mesilf forninst her, "that ye should not pass the
time of day?"

'"Ye've half-killed rough-rider Dempsey," sez she, her dear blue eyes
fillin' up.

'"Maybe," sez I. "Was he a friend av yours that saw ye home four times
in the fortnight?"

'"Yes," sez she, but her mouth was down at the corners. "An'--an'
what's that to you?" she sez.

'"Ask Dempsey," sez I, purtendin' to go away.

'"Did you fight for me then, ye silly man?" she sez, tho' she knew ut
all along.

'"Who else?" sez I, an' I tuk wan pace to the front.

'"I wasn't worth ut," sez she, fingerin' in her apron.

'"That's for me to say," sez I. "Shall I say ut?"

'"Yes," sez she in a saint's whisper, an' at that I explained mesilf;
and she tould me what ivry man that is a man, an' many that is a
woman, hears wanst in his life.

'"But what made ye cry at startin', Dinah, darlin'?" sez I.

'"Your--your bloody cheek," sez she, duckin' her little head down on
my sash (I was on duty for the day) an' whimperin' like a sorrowful
angil.

'Now a man cud take that two ways. I tuk ut as pleased me best an' my
first kiss wid ut. Mother av Innocence! but I kissed her on the tip av
the nose an' undher the eye; an' a girl that lets a kiss come
tumbleways like that has never been kissed before. Take note av that,
Sorr. Thin we wint hand in hand to ould Mother Shadd like two little
childher, an' she said 'twas no bad thing, an' ould Shadd nodded
behind his pipe, an' Dinah ran away to her own room. That day I throd
on rollin' clouds. All earth was too small to hould me. Begad, I cud
ha' hiked the sun out av the sky for a live coal to my pipe, so
magnificent I was. But I tuk recruities at squad-drill instid, an'
began wid general battalion advance whin I shud ha' been
balance-steppin' them. Eyah! that day! that day!'

A very long pause. 'Well?' said I.

''Twas all wrong,' said Mulvaney, with an enormous sigh. 'An' I know
that ev'ry bit av ut was my own foolishness. That night I tuk maybe
the half av three pints--not enough to turn the hair of a man in his
natural senses. But I was more than half drunk wid pure joy, an' that
canteen beer was so much whisky to me. I can't tell how it came about,
but _bekaze_ I had no thought for any wan except Dinah, _bekaze_ I
hadn't slipped her little white arms from my neck five minuts,
_bekaze_ the breath of her kiss was not gone from my mouth, I must go
through the married lines on my way to quarters an' I must stay
talkin' to a red-headed Mullingar heifer av a girl, Judy Sheehy, that
was daughter to Mother Sheehy, the wife of Nick Sheehy, the
canteen-sergint--the Black Curse av Shielygh be on the whole brood
that are above groun' this day!

'"An' what are ye houldin' your head that high for, Corp'ril?" sez
Judy. "Come in an' thry a cup av tay," she sez, standin' in the
doorway. Bein' an ontrustable fool, an' thinkin' av anything but tay,
I wint.

'"Mother's at canteen," sez Judy, smoothin' the hair av hers that was
like red snakes, an' lookin' at me corner-ways out av her green cats'
eyes. "Ye will not mind, Corp'ril?"

'"I can endure," sez I; ould Mother Sheehy bein' no divarsion av mine,
nor her daughter too. Judy fetched the tea things an' put thim on the
table, leanin' over me very close to get thim square. I dhrew back,
thinkin' av Dinah.

'"Is ut afraid you are av a girl alone?" sez Judy.

'"No," sez I. "Why should I be?"

'"That rests wid the girl," sez Judy, dhrawin' her chair next to mine.

'"Thin there let ut rest," sez I; an' thinkin' I'd been a trifle
onpolite, I sez, "The tay's not quite sweet enough for my taste. Put
your little finger in the cup, Judy. 'Twill make ut necthar."

'"What's necthar?" sez she.

'"Somethin' very sweet," sez I; an' for the sinful life av me I cud
not help lookin' at her out av the corner av my eye, as I was used to
look at a woman.

'"Go on wid ye, Cor'pril," sez she. "You're a flirrt."

'"On me sowl I'm not," sez I.

'"Then you're a cruel handsome man, an' that's worse," sez she,
heavin' big sighs an' lookin' cross-ways.

'"You know your own mind," sez I.

'"Twud be better for me if I did not," she sez.

'"There's a dale to be said on both sides av that," sez I, unthinkin'.

'"Say your own part av ut, then, Terence, darlin'," sez she; "for
begad I'm thinkin' I've said too much or too little for an honest
girl," an' wid that she put her arms round my neck an' kissed me.

'"There's no more to be said afther that," sez I, kissin' her back
again--oh the mane scutt that I was, my head ringin' wid Dinah Shadd!
How does ut come about, Sorr, that when a man has put the comether on
wan woman, he's sure bound to put it on another? 'Tis the same thing
at musketry. Wan day ivry shot goes wide or into the bank, an' the
next, lay high lay low, sight or snap, ye can't get off the bull's-eye
for ten shots runnin'.'

'That only happens to a man who has had a good deal of experience. He
does it without thinking,' I replied.

'Thankin' you for the complimint, Sorr, ut may be so. But I'm doubtful
whether you mint ut for a complimint. Hear now; I sat there wid Judy
on my knee tellin' me all manner av nonsinse an' only sayin' "yes" an'
"no," when I'd much better ha' kept tongue betune teeth. An' that was
not an hour afther I had left Dinah! What I was thinkin' av I cannot
say. Presintly, quiet as a cat, ould Mother Sheehy came in
velvet-dhrunk. She had her daughter's red hair, but 'twas bald in
patches, an' I could see in her wicked ould face, clear as lightnin',
what Judy wud be twenty years to come. I was for jumpin' up, but Judy
niver moved.

'"Terence has promust, mother," sez she, an' the could sweat bruk out
all over me. Ould Mother Sheehy sat down of a heap an' began playin'
wid the cups. "Thin you're a well-matched pair," she sez very thick.
"For he's the biggest rogue that iver spoiled the queen's
shoe-leather, an'----"

'"I'm off, Judy," sez I. "Ye should not talk nonsinse to your mother.
Get her to bed, girl."

'"Nonsinse!" sez the ould woman, prickin' up her ears like a cat an'
grippin' the table-edge. "'Twill be the most nonsinsical nonsinse for
you, ye grinnin' badger, if nonsinse 'tis. Git clear, you. I'm goin'
to bed."

'I ran out into the dhark, my head in a stew an' my heart sick, but I
had sinse enough to see that I'd brought ut all on mysilf. "It's this
to pass the time av day to a panjandhrum av hell-cats," sez I. "What
I've said, an' what I've not said do not matther. Judy an' her dam
will hould me for a promust man, an' Dinah will give me the go, an' I
desarve ut. I will go an' get dhrunk," sez I, "an' forget about ut,
for 'tis plain I'm not a marrin' man."

'On my way to canteen I ran against Lascelles, colour-sergeant that
was av E comp'ny, a hard, hard man, wid a torment av a wife. "You've
the head av a drowned man on your shoulders," sez he; "an' you're
goin' where you'll get a worse wan. Come back," sez he. "Let me go,"
sez I. "I've thrown my luck over the wall wid my own hand!"--"Then
that's not the way to get ut back again," sez he. "Have out wid your
throuble, you fool-bhoy." An' I tould him how the matther was.

'He sucked in his lower lip. "You've been thrapped," sez he. "Ju
Sheehy wud be the betther for a man's name to hers as soon as can. An'
ye thought ye'd put the comether on her,--that's the natural vanity of
the baste. Terence, you're a big born fool, but you're not bad enough
to marry into that comp'ny. If you said anythin', an' for all your
protestations I'm sure ye did--or did not, which is worse,--eat ut
all--lie like the father of all lies, but come out av ut free av Judy.
Do I not know what ut is to marry a woman that was the very spit an'
image av Judy whin she was young? I'm gettin' old an' I've larnt
patience, but you, Terence, you'd raise hand on Judy an' kill her in a
year. Never mind if Dinah gives you the go, you've desarved ut; never
mind if the whole reg'mint laughs you all day. Get shut av Judy an'
her mother. They can't dhrag you to church, but if they do, they'll
dhrag you to hell. Go back to your quarters and lie down," sez he.
Thin over his shoulder, "You _must_ ha' done with thim."

'Next day I wint to see Dinah, but there was no tucker in me as I
walked. I knew the throuble wud come soon enough widout any handlin'
av mine, an' I dreaded ut sore.

'I heard Judy callin' me, but I hild straight on to the Shadds'
quarthers, an' Dinah wud ha' kissed me but I put her back.

'"Whin all's said, darlin'," sez I, "you can give ut me if ye will,
tho' I misdoubt 'twill be so easy to come by then."

'I had scarce begun to put the explanation into shape before Judy an'
her mother came to the door. I think there was a veranda, but I'm
forgettin'.

'"Will ye not step in?" sez Dinah, pretty and polite, though the
Shadds had no dealin's with the Sheehys. Old Mother Shadd looked up
quick, an' she was the fust to see the throuble; for Dinah was her
daughter.

'"I'm pressed for time to-day," sez Judy as bould as brass; "an' I've
only come for Terence,--my promust man. 'Tis strange to find him here
the day afther the day."

'Dinah looked at me as though I had hit her, an' I answered straight.

'"There was some nonsinse last night at the Sheehys' quarthers, an'
Judy's carryin' on the joke, darlin'," sez I.

'"At the Sheehys' quarthers?" sez Dinah very slow, an' Judy cut in
wid: "He was there from nine till ten, Dinah Shadd, an' the betther
half av that time I was sittin' on his knee, Dinah Shadd. Ye may look
an' ye may look an' ye may look me up an' down, but ye won't look away
that Terence is my promust man. Terence, darlin', 'tis time for us to
be comin' home."

'Dinah Shadd niver said word to Judy. "Ye left me at half-past eight,"
she sez to me, "an' I niver thought that ye'd leave me for
Judy,--promises or no promises. Go back wid her, you that have to be
fetched by a girl! I'm done with you," sez she, and she ran into her
own room, her mother followin'. So I was alone wid those two women
and at liberty to spake my sentiments.

'"Judy Sheehy," sez I, "if you made a fool av me betune the lights you
shall not do ut in the day. I niver promised you words or lines."

'"You lie," sez ould Mother Sheehy, "an' may ut choke you where you
stand!" She was far gone in dhrink.

'"An' tho' ut choked me where I stud I'd not change," sez I. "Go home,
Judy. I take shame for a decent girl like you dhraggin' your mother
out bareheaded on this errand. Hear now, and have ut for an answer. I
gave my word to Dinah Shadd yesterday, an', more blame to me, I was
wid you last night talkin' nonsinse but nothin' more. You've chosen to
thry to hould me on ut. I will not be held thereby for anythin' in the
world. Is that enough?"

'Judy wint pink all over. "An' I wish you joy av the perjury," sez
she, duckin' a curtsey. "You've lost a woman that would ha' wore her
hand to the bone for your pleasure; an' 'deed, Terence, ye were not
thrapped...." Lascelles must ha' spoken plain to her. "I am such as
Dinah is--'deed I am! Ye've lost a fool av a girl that'll niver look
at you again, and ye've lost what ye niver had--your common honesty.
If you manage your men as you manage your love makin', small wondher
they call you the worst corp'ril in the comp'ny. Come away, mother,"
sez she.

'But divil a fut would the ould woman budge! "D'you hould by that?"
sez she, peerin' up under her thick gray eyebrows.

'"Ay, an' wud," sez I, "tho' Dinah gave me the go twinty times. I'll
have no thruck with you or yours," sez I. "Take your child away, ye
shameless woman."

'"An' am I shameless?" sez she, bringin' her hands up above her head.
"Thin what are you, ye lyin', schamin', weak-kneed, dhirty-souled son
av a sutler? Am _I_ shameless? Who put the open shame on me an' my
child that we shud go beggin' through the lines in the broad daylight
for the broken word of a man? Double portion of my shame be on you,
Terence Mulvaney, that think yourself so strong! By Mary and the
saints, by blood and water an' by ivry sorrow that came into the world
since the beginnin', the black blight fall on you and yours, so that
you may niver be free from pain for another when ut's not your own!
May your heart bleed in your breast drop by drop wid all your friends
laughin' at the bleedin'! Strong you think yourself? May your strength
be a curse to you to dhrive you into the divil's hands against your
own will! Clear-eyed you are? May your eyes see clear evry step av the
dark path you take till the hot cindhers av hell put thim out! May
the ragin' dry thirst in my own ould bones go to you that you shall
niver pass bottle full nor glass empty. God preserve the light av your
onderstandin' to you, my jewel av a bhoy, that ye may niver forget
what you mint to be an' do, whin you're wallowin' in the muck! May ye
see the betther and follow the worse as long as there's breath in your
body; an' may ye die quick in a strange land, watchin' your death
before ut takes you, an' onable to stir hand or foot!"

'I heard a scufflin' in the room behind, and thin Dinah Shadd's hand
dhropped into mine like a rose-leaf into a muddy road.

'"The half av that I'll take," sez she, "an' more too if I can. Go
home, ye silly talkin' woman,--go home an' confess."

'"Come away! Come away!" sez Judy, pullin' her mother by the shawl.
"'Twas none av Terence's fault. For the love av Mary stop the
talkin'!"

'"An' you!" said ould Mother Sheehy, spinnin' round forninst Dinah.
"Will ye take the half av that man's load? Stand off from him, Dinah
Shadd, before he takes you down too--you that look to be a
quarther-master-sergeant's wife in five years. You look too high,
child. You shall _wash_ for the quarther-master-sergeant, whin he
plases to give you the job out av charity; but a privit's wife you
shall be to the end, an' evry sorrow of a privit's wife you shall
know and niver a joy but wan, that shall go from you like the running
tide from a rock. The pain av bearin' you shall know but niver the
pleasure av giving the breast; an' you shall put away a man-child into
the common ground wid niver a priest to say a prayer over him, an' on
that man-child ye shall think ivry day av your life. Think long, Dinah
Shadd, for you'll niver have another tho' you pray till your knees are
bleedin'. The mothers av childer shall mock you behind your back when
you're wringing over the wash-tub. You shall know what ut is to help a
dhrunken husband home an' see him go to the gyard-room. Will that
plase you, Dinah Shadd, that won't be seen talkin' to my daughter? You
shall talk to worse than Judy before all's over. The sergints' wives
shall look down on you contemptuous, daughter av a sergint, an' you
shall cover ut all up wid a smiling face whin your heart's burstin'.
Stand off av him, Dinah Shadd, for I've put the Black Curse of
Shielygh upon him an' his own mouth shall make ut good."

    [Illustration: '"The half av that I'll take," sez she.'--P.
    132.]

'She pitched forward on her head an' began foamin' at the mouth. Dinah
Shadd ran out wid water, an' Judy dhragged the ould woman into the
veranda till she sat up.

'"I'm old an' forlore," she sez, thremblin' an' cryin', "and 'tis like
I say a dale more than I mane."

'"When you're able to walk--go," says ould Mother Shadd. "This house
has no place for the likes av you that have cursed my daughter."

'"Eyah!" said the ould woman. "Hard words break no bones, an' Dinah
Shadd'll kape the love av her husband till my bones are green corn.
Judy, darlin', I misremember what I came here for. Can you lend us the
bottom av a taycup av tay, Mrs. Shadd?"

'But Judy dhragged her off cryin' as tho' her heart wud break. An'
Dinah Shadd an' I, in ten minutes we had forgot ut all.'

'Then why do you remember it now?' said I.

'Is ut like I'd forget? Ivry word that wicked ould woman spoke fell
thrue in my life aftherwards, an' I cud ha' stud ut all--stud ut
all,--excipt when my little Shadd was born. That was on the line av
march three months afther the regiment was taken with cholera. We were
betune Umballa an' Kalka thin, an' I was on picket. Whin I came off
duty the women showed me the child, an' ut turned on uts side an' died
as I looked. We buried him by the road, an' Father Victor was a day's
march behind wid the heavy baggage, so the comp'ny captain read a
prayer. An' since then I've been a childless man, an' all else that
ould Mother Sheehy put upon me an' Dinah Shadd. What do you think,
Sorr?'

I thought a good deal, but it seemed better then to reach out for
Mulvaney's hand. The demonstration nearly cost me the use of three
fingers. Whatever he knows of his weaknesses, Mulvaney is entirely
ignorant of his strength.

'But what do you think?' he repeated, as I was straightening out the
crushed fingers.

My reply was drowned in yells and outcries from the next fire, where
ten men were shouting for 'Orth'ris,' 'Privit Orth'ris,' 'Mistah
Or--ther--ris!' 'Deah boy,' 'Cap'n Orth'ris,' 'Field-Marshal
Orth'ris,' 'Stanley, you pen'north o' pop, come 'ere to your own
comp'ny!' And the Cockney, who had been delighting another audience
with recondite and Rabelaisian yarns, was shot down among his admirers
by the major force.

'You've crumpled my dress-shirt 'orrid,' said he, 'an' I shan't sing
no more to this 'ere bloomin' drawin'-room.'

Learoyd, roused by the confusion, uncoiled himself, crept behind
Ortheris, and slung him aloft on his shoulders.

'Sing, ye bloomin' hummin' bird!' said he, and Ortheris, beating time
on Learoyd's skull, delivered himself, in the raucous voice of the
Ratcliffe Highway, of this song:--

    My girl she give me the go onst,
      When I was a London lad,
    An' I went on the drink for a fortnight,
      An' then I went to the bad.
    The Queen she gave me a shillin'
      To fight for 'er over the seas;
    But Guv'ment built me a fever-trap,
      An' Injia gave me disease.

    _Chorus._

      Ho! don't you 'eed what a girl says,
        An' don't you go for the beer;
      But I was an ass when I was at grass,
        An' that is why I'm here.

    I fired a shot at a Afghan,
      The beggar 'e fired again,
    An' I lay on my bed with a 'ole in my 'ed,
      An' missed the next campaign!
    I up with my gun at a Burman
      Who carried a bloomin' _dah_,
    But the cartridge stuck and the bay'nit bruk,
      An' all I got was the scar.

    _Chorus._

      Ho! don't you aim at a Afghan
        When you stand on the sky-line clear;
      An' don't you go for a Burman
        If none o' your friends is near.

    I served my time for a corp'ral,
      An' wetted my stripes with pop,
    For I went on the bend with a intimate friend,
      An' finished the night in the 'shop.'

    I served my time for a sergeant;
      The colonel 'e sez 'No!
    The most you'll see is a full C.B.'[2]
      An' ... very next night 'twas so.

    _Chorus._

      Ho! don't you go for a corp'ral
        Unless your 'ed is clear;
      But I was an ass when I was at grass,
        An' that is why I'm 'ere.

    I've tasted the luck o' the army
      In barrack an' camp an' clink,
    An' I lost my tip through the bloomin' trip
      Along o' the women an' drink.
    I'm down at the heel o' my service
      An' when I am laid on the shelf,
    My very wust friend from beginning to end
      By the blood of a mouse was myself!

    _Chorus._

      Ho! don't you 'eed what a girl says,
        An' don't you go for the beer;
      But I was an ass when I was at grass,
        An' that is why I'm 'ere.

Ay, listen to our little man now, singin' an' shoutin' as tho' trouble
had niver touched him. D' you remember when he went mad with the
home-sickness?' said Mulvaney, recalling a never-to-be-forgotten
season when Ortheris waded through the deep waters of affliction and
behaved abominably. 'But he's talkin' bitter truth, though. Eyah!

    'My very worst frind from beginnin' to ind
      By the blood av a mouse was mesilf!'
     .     .     .     .     .

When I woke I saw Mulvaney, the night-dew gemming his moustache,
leaning on his rifle at picket, lonely as Prometheus on his rock, with
I know not what vultures tearing his liver.

[Illustration]

FOOTNOTES:

[2] Confined to barracks.


[Illustration]



THE INCARNATION OF KRISHNA MULVANEY

    Wohl auf, my bully cavaliers
      We ride to church to-day,
    The man that hasn't got a horse
      Must steal one straight away.
        .     .     .     .     .
    Be reverent, men, remember
      This is a Gottes haus
    Du, Conrad, cut along der aisle
      And schenck der whisky aus.

              _Hans Breitmann's Ride to Church._


Once upon a time, very far from England, there lived three men who
loved each other so greatly that neither man nor woman could come
between them. They were in no sense refined, nor to be admitted to the
outer-door mats of decent folk, because they happened to be private
soldiers in Her Majesty's Army; and private soldiers of our service
have small time for self-culture. Their duty is to keep themselves and
their accoutrements specklessly clean, to refrain from getting drunk
more often than is necessary, to obey their superiors, and to pray
for a war. All these things my friends accomplished; and of their own
motion threw in some fighting-work for which the Army Regulations did
not call. Their fate sent them to serve in India, which is not a
golden country, though poets have sung otherwise. There men die with
great swiftness, and those who live suffer many and curious things. I
do not think that my friends concerned themselves much with the social
or political aspects of the East. They attended a not unimportant war
on the northern frontier, another one on our western boundary, and a
third in Upper Burma. Then their regiment sat still to recruit, and
the boundless monotony of cantonment life was their portion. They were
drilled morning and evening on the same dusty parade-ground. They
wandered up and down the same stretch of dusty white road, attended
the same church and the same grog-shop, and slept in the same
lime-washed barn of a barrack for two long years. There was Mulvaney,
the father in the craft, who had served with various regiments from
Bermuda to Halifax, old in war, scarred, reckless, resourceful, and in
his pious hours an unequalled soldier. To him turned for help and
comfort six and a half feet of slow-moving, heavy-footed Yorkshireman,
born on the wolds, bred in the dales, and educated chiefly among the
carriers' carts at the back of York railway-station. His name was
Learoyd, and his chief virtue an unmitigated patience which helped him
to win fights. How Ortheris, a fox-terrier of a Cockney, ever came to
be one of the trio, is a mystery which even to-day I cannot explain.
'There was always three av us,' Mulvaney used to say. 'An' by the
grace av God, so long as our service lasts, three av us they'll always
be. 'Tis betther so.'

They desired no companionship beyond their own, and it was evil for
any man of the regiment who attempted dispute with them. Physical
argument was out of the question as regarded Mulvaney and the
Yorkshireman; and assault on Ortheris meant a combined attack from
these twain--a business which no five men were anxious to have on
their hands. Therefore they flourished, sharing their drinks, their
tobacco, and their money; good luck and evil; battle and the chances
of death; life and the chances of happiness from Calicut in Southern,
to Peshawur in Northern India.

Through no merit of my own it was my good fortune to be in a measure
admitted to their friendship--frankly by Mulvaney from the beginning,
sullenly and with reluctance by Learoyd, and suspiciously by Ortheris,
who held to it that no man not in the Army could fraternise with a
red-coat. 'Like to like,' said he. 'I'm a bloomin' sodger--he's a
bloomin' civilian. 'Taint natural--that's all.'

But that was not all. They thawed progressively, and in the thawing
told me more of their lives and adventures than I am ever likely to
write.

Omitting all else, this tale begins with the Lamentable Thirst that
was at the beginning of First Causes. Never was such a thirst--Mulvaney
told me so. They kicked against their compulsory virtue, but the
attempt was only successful in the case of Ortheris. He, whose talents
were many, went forth into the highways and stole a dog from a
'civilian'--_videlicet_, some one, he knew not who, not in the Army.
Now that civilian was but newly connected by marriage with the Colonel
of the regiment, and outcry was made from quarters least anticipated
by Ortheris, and, in the end, he was forced, lest a worse thing should
happen, to dispose at ridiculously unremunerative rates of as
promising a small terrier as ever graced one end of a leading string.
The purchase-money was barely sufficient for one small outbreak, which
led him to the guard-room. He escaped, however, with nothing worse
than a severe reprimand, and a few hours of punishment drill. Not for
nothing had he acquired the reputation of being 'the best soldier of
his inches' in the regiment. Mulvaney had taught personal cleanliness
and efficiency as the first articles of his companions' creed. 'A
dhirty man,' he was used to say, in the speech of his kind, 'goes to
Clink for a weakness in the knees, an' is coort-martialled for a pair
av socks missin'; but a clane man, such as is an ornament to his
service--a man whose buttons are gold, whose coat is wax upon him, an'
whose 'coutrements are widout a speck--_that_ man may, spakin' in
reason, do fwhat he likes an' dhrink from day to divil. That's the
pride av bein' dacint.'

We sat together, upon a day, in the shade of a ravine far from the
barracks, where a watercourse used to run in rainy weather. Behind us
was the scrub jungle, in which jackals, peacocks, the gray wolves of
the North-Western Provinces, and occasionally a tiger estrayed from
Central India, were supposed to dwell. In front lay the cantonment,
glaring white under a glaring sun; and on either side ran the broad
road that led to Delhi.

It was the scrub that suggested to my mind the wisdom of Mulvaney
taking a day's leave and going upon a shooting-tour. The peacock is a
holy bird throughout India, and he who slays one is in danger of being
mobbed by the nearest villagers; but on the last occasion that
Mulvaney had gone forth, he had contrived, without in the least
offending local religious susceptibilities, to return with six
beautiful peacock skins which he sold to profit. It seemed just
possible then----

'But fwhat manner av use is ut to me goin' out widout a dhrink? The
ground's powdher-dhry underfoot, an' ut gets unto the throat fit to
kill,' wailed Mulvaney, looking at me reproachfully. 'An' a peacock is
not a bird you can catch the tail av onless ye run. Can a man run on
wather--an' jungle-wather too?'

Ortheris had considered the question in all its bearings. He spoke,
chewing his pipe-stem meditatively the while:--

    'Go forth, return in glory,
    To Clusium's royal 'ome:
    An' round these bloomin' temples 'ang
    The bloomin' shields o' Rome.

You better go. You ain't like to shoot yourself--not while there's a
chanst of liquor. Me an' Learoyd'll stay at 'ome an' keep shop--'case
o' anythin' turnin' up. But you go out with a gas-pipe gun an' ketch
the little peacockses or somethin'. You kin get one day's leave easy
as winkin'. Go along an' get it, an' get peacockses or somethin'.'

'Jock,' said Mulvaney, turning to Learoyd, who was half asleep under
the shadow of the bank. He roused slowly.

'Sitha, Mulvaney, go,' said he.

And Mulvaney went; cursing his allies with Irish fluency and
barrack-room point.

'Take note,' said he, when he had won his holiday, and appeared
dressed in his roughest clothes with the only other regimental
fowling-piece in his hand. 'Take note, Jock, an' you, Orth'ris, I am
goin' in the face av my own will--all for to please you. I misdoubt
anythin' will come av permiscuous huntin' afther peacockses in a
desolit lan'; an' I know that I will lie down an' die wid thirrrst. Me
catch peacockses for you, ye lazy scutts--an' be sacrificed by the
peasanthry--ugh!'

He waved a huge paw and went away.

At twilight, long before the appointed hour, he returned empty-handed,
much begrimed with dirt.

'Peacockses?' queried Ortheris from the safe rest of a barrack-room
table whereon he was smoking cross-legged, Learoyd fast asleep on a
bench.

'Jock,' said Mulvaney without answering, as he stirred up the sleeper.
'Jock, can ye fight? Will ye fight?'

Very slowly the meaning of the words communicated itself to the
half-roused man. He understood--and again--what might these things
mean? Mulvaney was shaking him savagely. Meantime the men in the room
howled with delight. There was war in the confederacy at last--war and
the breaking of bonds.

Barrack-room etiquette is stringent. On the direct challenge must
follow the direct reply. This is more binding than the ties of tried
friendship. Once again Mulvaney repeated the question. Learoyd
answered by the only means in his power, and so swiftly that the
Irishman had barely time to avoid the blow. The laughter around
increased. Learoyd looked bewilderedly at his friend--himself as
greatly bewildered. Ortheris dropped from the table because his world
was falling.

'Come outside,' said Mulvaney, and as the occupants of the
barrack-room prepared joyously to follow, he turned and said
furiously, 'There will be no fight this night--onless any wan av you
is wishful to assist. The man that does, follows on.'

No man moved. The three passed out into the moonlight, Learoyd
fumbling with the buttons of his coat. The parade-ground was deserted
except for the scurrying jackals. Mulvaney's impetuous rush carried
his companions far into the open ere Learoyd attempted to turn round
and continue the discussion.

'Be still now. 'Twas my fault for beginnin' things in the middle av an
end, Jock. I should ha' comminst wid an explanation; but Jock, dear,
on your sowl are ye fit, think you, for the finest fight that iver
was--betther than fightin' me? Considher before ye answer.'

More than ever puzzled, Learoyd turned round two or three times, felt
an arm, kicked tentatively, and answered, 'Ah'm fit.' He was
accustomed to fight blindly at the bidding of the superior mind.

They sat them down, the men looking on from afar, and Mulvaney
untangled himself in mighty words.

'Followin' your fools' scheme I wint out into the thrackless desert
beyond the barricks. An' there I met a pious Hindu dhriving a
bullock-kyart. I tuk ut for granted he wud be delighted for to convoy
me a piece, an' I jumped in----'

'You long, lazy, black-haired swine,' drawled Ortheris, who would have
done the same thing under similar circumstances.

''Twas the height av policy. That naygur-man dhruv miles an' miles--as
far as the new railway line they're buildin' now back av the Tavi
River. "'Tis a kyart for dhirt only," says he now an' again
timoreously, to get me out av ut. "Dhirt I am," sez I, "an' the
dhryest that you ever kyarted. Dhrive on, me son, an' glory be wid
you." At that I wint to slape, an' took no heed till he pulled up on
the embankmint av the line where the coolies were pilin' mud. There
was a matther av two thousand coolies on that line--you remimber that.
Prisintly a bell rang, an' they throops off to a big pay-shed.
"Where's the white man in charge?" sez I to my kyart-dhriver. "In the
shed," sez he, "engaged on a riffle."--"A fwhat?" sez I. "Riffle," sez
he. "You take ticket. He take money. You get nothin'."--"Oho!" sez I,
"that's fwhat the shuperior an' cultivated man calls a raffle, me
misbeguided child av darkness an' sin. Lead on to that raffle, though
fwhat the mischief 'tis doin' so far away from uts home--which is the
charity-bazar at Christmas, an' the Colonel's wife grinnin' behind the
tea-table--is more than I know." Wid that I wint to the shed an' found
'twas pay-day among the coolies. Their wages was on a table forninst a
big, fine, red buck av a man--sivun fut high, four fut wide, an' three
fut thick, wid a fist on him like a corn-sack. He was payin' the
coolies fair an' easy, but he wud ask each man if he wud raffle that
month, an' each man sez, "Yes," av course. Thin he wud deduct from
their wages accordin'. Whin all was paid, he filled an ould cigar-box
full av gun-wads an' scatthered ut among the coolies. They did not
take much joy av that performince, an' small wondher. A man close to
me picks up a black gunwad an' sings out, "I have ut."--"Good may ut
do you," sez I. The coolie wint forward to this big, fine, red man,
who threw a cloth off av the most sumpshus, jooled, enamelled an'
variously bedivilled sedan-chair I iver saw.'

'Sedan-chair! Put your 'ead in a bag. That was a palanquin. Don't
yer know a palanquin when you see it?' said Ortheris with great scorn.

    [Illustration: '"Out of this," sez he, "I'm in charge av this
    section av construction."--"I'm in charge av mesilf," sez I,
    "an' it's like I will stay a while."'--P. 149.]

'I chuse to call ut sedan-chair, an' chair ut shall be, little man,'
continued the Irishman. ''Twas a most amazin' chair--all lined wid
pink silk an' fitted wid red silk curtains. "Here ut is," sez the red
man. "Here ut is," sez the coolie, an' he grinned weakly-ways. "Is ut
any use to you?" sez the red man. "No," sez the coolie; "I'd like to
make a presint av ut to you."--"I am graciously pleased to accept that
same," sez the red man; an' at that all the coolies cried aloud in
fwhat was mint for cheerful notes, an' wint back to their diggin',
lavin' me alone in the shed. The red man saw me, an' his face grew
blue on his big, fat neck. "Fwhat d'you want here?" sez he.
"Standin'-room an' no more," sez I, "onless it may be fwhat ye niver
had, an' that's manners, ye rafflin' ruffian," for I was not goin' to
have the Service throd upon. "Out of this," sez he. "I'm in charge av
this section av construction."--"I'm in charge av mesilf," sez I, "an'
it's like I will stay a while. D'ye raffle much in these
parts?"--"Fwhat's that to you?" sez he. "Nothin'," sez I, "but a great
dale to you, for begad I'm thinkin' you get the full half av your
revenue from that sedan-chair. Is ut always raffled so?" I sez, an'
wid that I wint to a coolie to ask questions. Bhoys, that man's name
is Dearsley, an' he's been rafflin' that ould sedan-chair monthly
this matther av nine months. Ivry coolie on the section takes a
ticket--or he gives 'em the go--wanst a month on pay-day. Ivry coolie
that wins ut gives ut back to him, for 'tis too big to carry away, an'
he'd sack the man that thried to sell ut. That Dearsley has been
makin' the rowlin' wealth av Roshus by nefarious rafflin'. Think av
the burnin' shame to the sufferin' coolie-man that the army in Injia
are bound to protect an' nourish in their bosoms! Two thousand coolies
defrauded wanst a month!'

'Dom t' coolies. Has't gotten t' cheer, man?' said Learoyd.

'Hould on. Havin' onearthed this amazin' an' stupenjus fraud committed
by the man Dearsley, I hild a council av war; he thryin' all the time
to sejuce me into a fight wid opprobrious language. That sedan-chair
niver belonged by right to any foreman av coolies. 'Tis a king's chair
or a quane's. There's gold on ut an' silk an' all manner av
trapesemints. Bhoys, 'tis not for me to countenance any sort av
wrong-doin'--me bein' the ould man--but--anyway he has had ut nine
months, an' he dare not make throuble av ut was taken from him. Five
miles away, or ut may be six----'

There was a long pause, and the jackals howled merrily. Learoyd bared
one arm, and contemplated it in the moonlight. Then he nodded partly
to himself and partly to his friends. Ortheris wriggled with
suppressed emotion.

'I thought ye wud see the reasonableness av ut,' said Mulvaney. 'I
made bould to say as much to the man before. He was for a direct front
attack--fut, horse, an' guns--an' all for nothin', seem' that I had no
thransport to convey the machine away. "I will not argue wid you," sez
I, "this day, but subsequintly, Mister Dearsley, me rafflin' jool, we
talk ut out lengthways. 'Tis no good policy to swindle the naygur av
his hard-earned emolumints, an' by presint informashin'"--'twas the
kyart man that tould me--"ye've been perpethrating that same for nine
months. But I'm a just man," sez I, "an' overlookin' the presumpshin
that yondher settee wid the gilt top was not come by honust,"--at that
he turned sky-green, so I knew things was more thrue than
tellable--"not come by honust, I'm willin' to compound the felony for
this month's winnin's."'

'Ah! Ho!' from Learoyd and Ortheris.

'That man Dearsley's rushin' on his fate,' continued Mulvaney,
solemnly wagging his head. 'All Hell had no name bad enough for me
that tide. Faith, he called me a robber! Me! that was savin' him from
continuin' in his evil ways widout a remonstrince--an' to a man av
conscience a remonstrince may change the chune av his life. "'Tis not
for me to argue," sez I, "fwhatever ye are, Mister Dearsley, but, by
my hand, I'll take away the temptation for you that lies in that
sedan-chair."--"You will have to fight me for ut," sez he, "for well I
know you will never dare make report to any one."--"Fight I will," sez
I, "but not this day, for I'm rejuced for want av nourishment."--"Ye're
an ould bould hand," sez he, sizin' up me an' down; "an' a jool of a
fight we will have. Eat now an' dhrink, an' go your way." Wid that he
gave me some hump an' whisky--good whisky--an' we talked av this an'
that the while. "It goes hard on me now," sez I, wipin' my mouth, "to
confiscate that piece of furniture, but justice is justice."--"Ye've
not got ut yet," sez he; "there's the fight between."--"There is," sez
I, "an' a good fight. Ye shall have the pick av the best quality in my
regimint for the dinner you have given this day." Thin I came hot-foot
to you two. Hould your tongue, the both. 'Tis this way. To-morrow we
three will go there an' he shall have his pick betune me an' Jock.
Jock's a deceivin' fighter, for he is all fat to the eye, an' he moves
slow. Now I'm all beef to the look, an' I move quick. By my reckonin'
the Dearsley man won't take me; so me an' Orth'ris'll see fair play.
Jock, I tell you, 'twill be big fightin'--whipped, wid the cream above
the jam. Afther the business 'twill take a good three av us--Jock'll
be very hurt--to haul away that sedan-chair.'

'Palanquin.' This from Ortheris.

'Fwhatever ut is, we must have ut. 'Tis the only sellin' piece av
property widin reach that we can get so cheap. An' fwhat's a fight
afther all? He has robbed the naygur-man, dishonust. We rob him honust
for the sake av the whisky he gave me.'

'But wot'll we do with the bloomin' article when we've got it? Them
palanquins are as big as 'ouses, an' uncommon 'ard to sell, as
M'Cleary said when ye stole the sentry-box from the Curragh.'

'Who's goin' to do t' fightin'?' said Learoyd, and Ortheris subsided.
The three returned to barracks without a word. Mulvaney's last
argument clinched the matter. This palanquin was property, vendible
and to be attained in the simplest and least embarrassing fashion. It
would eventually become beer. Great was Mulvaney.

Next afternoon a procession of three formed itself and disappeared
into the scrub in the direction of the new railway line. Learoyd alone
was without care, for Mulvaney dived darkly into the future, and
little Ortheris feared the unknown. What befell at that interview in
the lonely pay-shed by the side of the half-built embankment, only a
few hundred coolies know, and their tale is a confusing one, running
thus:--

'We were at work. Three men in red coats came. They saw the
Sahib--Dearsley Sahib. They made oration; and noticeably the small
man among the red-coats. Dearsley Sahib also made oration, and used
many very strong words. Upon this talk they departed together to an
open space, and there the fat man in the red coat fought with Dearsley
Sahib after the custom of white men--with his hands, making no noise,
and never at all pulling Dearsley Sahib's hair. Such of us as were not
afraid beheld these things for just so long a time as a man needs to
cook the mid-day meal. The small man in the red coat had possessed
himself of Dearsley Sahib's watch. No, he did not steal that watch. He
held it in his hand, and at certain seasons made outcry, and the twain
ceased their combat, which was like the combat of young bulls in
spring. Both men were soon all red, but Dearsley Sahib was much more
red than the other. Seeing this, and fearing for his life--because we
greatly loved him--some fifty of us made shift to rush upon the
red-coats. But a certain man,--very black as to the hair, and in no
way to be confused with the small man, or the fat man who
fought,--that man, we affirm, ran upon us, and of us he embraced some
ten or fifty in both arms, and beat our heads together, so that our
livers turned to water, and we ran away. It is not good to interfere
in the fightings of white men. After that Dearsley Sahib fell and did
not rise, these men jumped upon his stomach and despoiled him of all
his money, and attempted to fire the pay-shed, and departed. Is it
true that Dearsley Sahib makes no complaint of these latter things
having been done? We were senseless with fear, and do not at all
remember. There was no palanquin near the pay-shed. What do we know
about palanquins? Is it true that Dearsley Sahib does not return to
this place, on account of his sickness, for ten days? This is the
fault of those bad men in the red coats, who should be severely
punished; for Dearsley Sahib is both our father and mother, and we
love him much. Yet, if Dearsley Sahib does not return to this place at
all, we will speak the truth. There was a palanquin, for the up-keep
of which we were forced to pay nine-tenths of our monthly wage. On
such mulctings Dearsley Sahib allowed us to make obeisance to him
before the palanquin. What could we do? We were poor men. He took a
full half of our wages. Will the Government repay us those moneys?
Those three men in red coats bore the palanquin upon their shoulders
and departed. All the money that Dearsley Sahib had taken from us was
in the cushions of that palanquin. Therefore they stole it. Thousands
of rupees were there--all our money. It was our bank-box, to fill
which we cheerfully contributed to Dearsley Sahib three-sevenths of
our monthly wage. Why does the white man look upon us with the eye of
disfavour? Before God, there was a palanquin, and now there is no
palanquin; and if they send the police here to make inquisition, we
can only say that there never has been any palanquin. Why should a
palanquin be near these works? We are poor men, and we know nothing.'

Such is the simplest version of the simplest story connected with the
descent upon Dearsley. From the lips of the coolies I received it.
Dearsley himself was in no condition to say anything, and Mulvaney
preserved a massive silence, broken only by the occasional licking of
the lips. He had seen a fight so gorgeous that even his power of
speech was taken from him. I respected that reserve until, three days
after the affair, I discovered in a disused stable in my quarters a
palanquin of unchastened splendour--evidently in past days the litter
of a queen. The pole whereby it swung between the shoulders of the
bearers was rich with the painted _papier-maché_ of Cashmere. The
shoulder-pads were of yellow silk. The panels of the litter itself
were ablaze with the loves of all the gods and goddesses of the Hindu
Pantheon--lacquer on cedar. The cedar sliding doors were fitted with
hasps of translucent Jaipur enamel and ran in grooves shod with
silver. The cushions were of brocaded Delhi silk, and the curtains
which once hid any glimpse of the beauty of the king's palace were
stiff with gold. Closer investigation showed that the entire fabric
was everywhere rubbed and discoloured by time and wear; but even
thus it was sufficiently gorgeous to deserve housing on the threshold
of a royal zenana. I found no fault with it, except that it was in my
stable. Then, trying to lift it by the silver-shod shoulder-pole, I
laughed. The road from Dearsley's pay-shed to the cantonment was a
narrow and uneven one, and, traversed by three very inexperienced
palanquin-bearers, one of whom was sorely battered about the head,
must have been a path of torment. Still I did not quite recognise the
right of the three musketeers to turn me into a 'fence' for stolen
property.

    [Illustration: 'Nine roun's they were even matched, an' at the
    tenth----.'--P. 157.]

'I'm askin' you to warehouse ut,' said Mulvaney, when he was brought
to consider the question. 'There's no steal in ut. Dearsley tould us
we cud have ut if we fought. Jock fought--an', oh, Sorr, when the
throuble was at uts finest an' Jock was bleedin' like a stuck pig, an'
little Orth'ris was shquealin' on one leg chewin' big bites out av
Dearsley's watch, I wud ha' given my place at the fight to have had
you see wan round. He tuk Jock, as I suspicioned he would, an' Jock
was deceptive. Nine roun's they were even matched, an' at the
tenth---- About that palanquin now. There's not the least throuble in
the world, or we wud not ha' brought ut here. You will ondherstand
that the Queen--God bless her!--does not reckon for a privit soldier
to kape elephints an' palanquins an' sich in barricks. Afther we had
dhragged ut down from Dearsley's through that cruel scrub that near
broke Orth'ris's heart, we set ut in the ravine for a night; an' a
thief av a porcupine an' a civet-cat av a jackal roosted in ut, as
well we knew in the mornin'. I put ut to you, Sorr, is an elegint
palanquin, fit for the princess, the natural abidin' place av all the
vermin in cantonmints? We brought ut to you, afther dhark, and put ut
in your shtable. Do not let your conscience prick. Think av the
rejoicin' men in the pay-shed yonder--lookin' at Dearsley wid his head
tied up in a towel--an' well knowin' that they can dhraw their pay
ivry month widout stoppages for riffles. Indirectly, Sorr, you have
rescued from an onprincipled son av a night-hawk the peasanthry av a
numerous village. An' besides, will I let that sedan-chair rot on our
hands? Not I. 'Tis not every day a piece av pure joolry comes into the
market. There's not a king widin these forty miles'--he waved his hand
round the dusty horizon--'not a king wud not be glad to buy ut. Some
day mesilf, whin I have leisure, I'll take ut up along the road an'
dishpose av ut.'

'How?' said I, for I knew the man was capable of anything.

'Get into ut, av coorse, and keep wan eye open through the curtains.
Whin I see a likely man av the native persuasion, I will descind
blushin' from my canopy and say, "Buy a palanquin, ye black scutt?" I
will have to hire four men to carry me first, though; and that's
impossible till next pay-day.'

Curiously enough, Learoyd, who had fought for the prize, and in the
winning secured the highest pleasure life had to offer him, was
altogether disposed to undervalue it, while Ortheris openly said it
would be better to break the thing up. Dearsley, he argued, might be a
many-sided man, capable, despite his magnificent fighting qualities,
of setting in motion the machinery of the civil law--a thing much
abhorred by the soldier. Under any circumstances their fun had come
and passed; the next pay-day was close at hand, when there would be
beer for all. Wherefore longer conserve the painted palanquin?

'A first-class rifle-shot an' a good little man av your inches you
are,' said Mulvaney. 'But you niver had a head worth a soft-boiled
egg. 'Tis me has to lie awake av nights schamin' an' plottin' for the
three av us. Orth'ris, me son, 'tis no matther av a few gallons av
beer--no, nor twenty gallons--but tubs an' vats an' firkins in that
sedan-chair. Who ut was, an' what ut was, an' how ut got there, we do
not know; but I know in my bones that you an' me an' Jock wid his
sprained thumb will get a fortune thereby. Lave me alone, an' let me
think.'

Meantime the palanquin stayed in my stall, the key of which was in
Mulvaney's hands.

Pay-day came, and with it beer. It was not in experience to hope that
Mulvaney, dried by four weeks' drought, would avoid excess. Next
morning he and the palanquin had disappeared. He had taken the
precaution of getting three days' leave 'to see a friend on the
railway,' and the Colonel, well knowing that the seasonal outburst was
near, and hoping it would spend its force beyond the limits of his
jurisdiction, cheerfully gave him all he demanded. At this point
Mulvaney's history, as recorded in the mess-room, stopped.

Ortheris carried it not much further. 'No, 'e wasn't drunk,' said the
little man loyally, 'the liquor was no more than feelin' its way round
inside of 'im; but 'e went an' filled that 'ole bloomin' palanquin
with bottles 'fore 'e went off. 'E's gone an' 'ired six men to carry
'im, an' I 'ad to 'elp 'im into 'is nupshal couch, 'cause 'e wouldn't
'ear reason. 'E's gone off in 'is shirt an' trousies, swearin'
tremenjus--gone down the road in the palanquin, wavin' 'is legs out o'
windy.'

'Yes,' said I, 'but where?'

'Now you arx me a question. 'E said 'e was goin' to sell that
palanquin, but from observations what happened when I was stuffin'
'im through the door, I fancy 'e's gone to the new embankment to mock
at Dearsley. 'Soon as Jock's off duty I'm goin' there to see if 'e's
safe--not Mulvaney, but t'other man. My saints, but I pity 'im as
'elps Terence out o' the palanquin when 'e's once fair drunk!'

'He'll come back without harm,' I said.

''Corse 'e will. On'y question is, what'll 'e be doin' on the road?
Killing Dearsley, like as not. 'E shouldn't 'a gone without Jock or
me.'

Reinforced by Learoyd, Ortheris sought the foreman of the coolie-gang.
Dearsley's head was still embellished with towels. Mulvaney, drunk or
sober, would have struck no man in that condition, and Dearsley
indignantly denied that he would have taken advantage of the
intoxicated brave.

'I had my pick o' you two,' he explained to Learoyd, 'and you got my
palanquin--not before I'd made my profit on it. Why'd I do harm when
everything's settled?' Your man _did_ come here--drunk as Davy's sow
on a frosty night--came a-purpose to mock me--stuck his head out of
the door an' called me a crucified hodman. I made him drunker, an'
sent him along. But I never touched him.'

To these things Learoyd, slow to perceive the evidences of sincerity,
answered only, 'If owt comes to Mulvaaney 'long o' you, I'll gripple
you, clouts or no clouts on your ugly head, an' I'll draw t' throat
twistyways, man. See there now.'

The embassy removed itself, and Dearsley, the battered, laughed alone
over his supper that evening.

Three days passed--a fourth and a fifth. The week drew to a close and
Mulvaney did not return. He, his royal palanquin, and his six
attendants, had vanished into air. A very large and very tipsy
soldier, his feet sticking out of the litter of a reigning princess,
is not a thing to travel along the ways without comment. Yet no man of
all the country round had seen any such wonder. He was, and he was
not; and Learoyd suggested the immediate smashment of Dearsley as a
sacrifice to his ghost. Ortheris insisted that all was well, and in
the light of past experience his hopes seemed reasonable.

'When Mulvaney goes up the road,' said he, ''e's like to go a very
long ways up, specially when 'e's so blue drunk as 'e is now. But what
gits me is 'is not bein' 'eard of pullin' wool off the niggers
somewheres about. That don't look good. The drink must ha' died out in
'im by this, unless 'e's broke a bank, an' then--why don't 'e come
back? 'E didn't ought to ha' gone off without us.'

Even Ortheris's heart sank at the end of the seventh day, for half the
regiment were out scouring the countryside, and Learoyd had been
forced to fight two men who hinted openly that Mulvaney had deserted.
To do him justice, the Colonel laughed at the notion, even when it was
put forward by his much-trusted Adjutant.

'Mulvaney would as soon think of deserting as you would,' said he.
'No; he's either fallen into a mischief among the villagers--and yet
that isn't likely, for he'd blarney himself out of the Pit; or else he
is engaged on urgent private affairs--some stupendous devilment that
we shall hear of at mess after it has been the round of the
barrack-rooms. The worst of it is that I shall have to give him
twenty-eight days' confinement at least for being absent without
leave, just when I most want him to lick the new batch of recruits
into shape. I never knew a man who could put a polish on young
soldiers as quickly as Mulvaney can. How does he do it?'

'With blarney and the buckle-end of a belt, Sir,' said the Adjutant.
'He is worth a couple of non-commissioned officers when we are dealing
with an Irish draft, and the London lads seem to adore him. The worst
of it is that if he goes to the cells the other two are neither to
hold nor to bind till he comes out again. I believe Ortheris preaches
mutiny on those occasions, and I know that the mere presence of
Learoyd mourning for Mulvaney kills all the cheerfulness of his room.
The sergeants tell me that he allows no man to laugh when he feels
unhappy. They are a queer gang.'

'For all that, I wish we had a few more of them. I like a
well-conducted regiment, but these pasty-faced, shifty-eyed,
mealy-mouthed young slouchers from the Depot worry me sometimes with
their offensive virtue. They don't seem to have backbone enough to do
anything but play cards and prowl round the married quarters. I
believe I'd forgive that old villain on the spot if he turned up with
any sort of explanation that I could in decency accept.'

'Not likely to be much difficulty about that, Sir,' said the Adjutant.
'Mulvaney's explanations are only one degree less wonderful than his
performances. They say that when he was in the Black Tyrone, before he
came to us, he was discovered on the banks of the Liffey trying to
sell his colonel's charger to a Donegal dealer as a perfect lady's
hack. Shackbolt commanded the Tyrone then.'

'Shackbolt must have had apoplexy at the thought of his ramping
war-horses answering to that description. He used to buy unbacked
devils, and tame them on some pet theory of starvation. What did
Mulvaney say?'

'That he was a member of the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to
Animals, anxious to "sell the poor baste where he would get something
to fill out his dimples." Shackbolt laughed, but I fancy that was why
Mulvaney exchanged to ours.'

'I wish he were back,' said the Colonel; 'for I like him and believe
he likes me.'

That evening, to cheer our souls, Learoyd, Ortheris, and I went into
the waste to smoke out a porcupine. All the dogs attended, but even
their clamour--and they began to discuss the shortcomings of
porcupines before they left cantonments--could not take us out of
ourselves. A large, low moon turned the tops of the plume-grass to
silver, and the stunted camelthorn bushes and sour tamarisks into the
likenesses of trooping devils. The smell of the sun had not left the
earth, and little aimless winds blowing across the rose-gardens to the
southward brought the scent of dried roses and water. Our fire once
started, and the dogs craftily disposed to wait the dash of the
porcupine, we climbed to the top of a rain-scarred hillock of earth,
and looked across the scrub seamed with cattle paths, white with the
long grass, and dotted with spots of level pond-bottom, where the
snipe would gather in winter.

'This,' said Ortheris, with a sigh, as he took in the unkempt
desolation of it all, 'this is sanguinary. This is unusually
sanguinary. Sort o' mad country. Like a grate when the fire's put out
by the sun.' He shaded his eyes against the moonlight. 'An' there's a
loony dancin' in the middle of it all. Quite right. I'd dance too if I
wasn't so downheart.'

There pranced a Portent in the face of the moon--a huge and ragged
spirit of the waste, that flapped its wings from afar. It had risen
out of the earth; it was coming towards us, and its outline was never
twice the same. The toga, tablecloth, or dressing-gown, whatever the
creature wore, took a hundred shapes. Once it stopped on a
neighbouring mound and flung all its legs and arms to the winds.

'My, but that scarecrow 'as got 'em bad!' said Ortheris. 'Seems like
if 'e comes any furder we'll 'ave to argify with 'im.'

Learoyd raised himself from the dirt as a bull clears his flanks of
the wallow. And as a bull bellows, so he, after a short minute at
gaze, gave tongue to the stars.

'MULVAANEY! MULVAANEY! A-hoo!'

Oh then it was that we yelled, and the figure dipped into the hollow,
till, with a crash of rending grass, the lost one strode up to the
light of the fire, and disappeared to the waist in a wave of joyous
dogs! Then Learoyd and Ortheris gave greeting, bass and falsetto
together, both swallowing a lump in the throat.

    [Illustration: There pranced a Portent in the face of the
    moon.--P. 166.]

'You damned fool!' said they, and severally pounded him with their
fists.

'Go easy!' he answered; wrapping a huge arm round each. 'I would have
you to know that I am a god, to be treated as such--tho', by my faith,
I fancy I've got to go to the guard-room just like a privit soldier.'

The latter part of the sentence destroyed the suspicions raised by the
former. Any one would have been justified in regarding Mulvaney as
mad. He was hatless and shoeless, and his shirt and trousers were
dropping off him. But he wore one wondrous garment--a gigantic cloak
that fell from collar-bone to heel--of pale pink silk, wrought all
over in cunningest needlework of hands long since dead, with the loves
of the Hindu gods. The monstrous figures leaped in and out of the
light of the fire as he settled the folds round him.

Ortheris handled the stuff respectfully for a moment while I was
trying to remember where I had seen it before. Then he screamed, 'What
_'ave_ you done with the palanquin? You're wearin' the linin'.'

'I am,' said the Irishman, 'an' by the same token the 'broidery is
scrapin' my hide off. I've lived in this sumpshus counterpane for four
days. Me son, I begin to ondherstand why the naygur is no use. Widout
me boots, an' me trousies like an openwork stocking on a gyurl's leg
at a dance, I begin to feel like a naygur-man--all fearful an'
timoreous. Give me a pipe an' I'll tell on.'

He lit a pipe, resumed his grip of his two friends, and rocked to and
fro in a gale of laughter.

'Mulvaney,' said Ortheris sternly, ''taint no time for laughin'.
You've given Jock an' me more trouble than you're worth. You 'ave been
absent without leave an' you'll go into cells for that; an' you 'ave
come back disgustin'ly dressed an' most improper in the linin' o' that
bloomin' palanquin. Instid of which you laugh. An' _we_ thought you
was dead all the time.'

'Bhoys,' said the culprit, still shaking gently, 'whin I've done my
tale you may cry if you like, an' little Orth'ris here can thrample my
inside out. Ha' done an' listen. My performinces have been stupenjus:
my luck has been the blessed luck av the British Army--an' there's no
betther than that. I went out dhrunk an' dhrinkin' in the palanquin,
and I have come back a pink god. Did any of you go to Dearsley afther
my time was up? He was at the bottom of ut all.'

'Ah said so,' murmured Learoyd. 'To-morrow ah'll smash t' face in upon
his heead.'

'Ye will not. Dearsley's a jool av a man. Afther Ortheris had put me
into the palanquin an' the six bearer-men were gruntin' down the
road, I tuk thought to mock Dearsley for that fight. So I tould thim,
"Go to the embankmint," and there, bein' most amazin' full, I shtuck
my head out av the concern an' passed compliments wid Dearsley. I must
ha' miscalled him outrageous, for whin I am that way the power av the
tongue comes on me. I can bare remimber tellin' him that his mouth
opened endways like the mouth av a skate, which was thrue afther
Learoyd had handled ut; an' I clear remimber his takin' no manner nor
matter av offence, but givin' me a big dhrink of beer. 'Twas the beer
did the thrick, for I crawled back into the palanquin, steppin' on me
right ear wid me left foot, an' thin I slept like the dead. Wanst I
half roused, an' begad the noise in my head was tremenjus--roarin' and
rattlin' an' poundin', such as was quite new to me. "Mother av Mercy,"
thinks I, "phwat a concertina I will have on my shoulders whin I
wake!" An' wid that I curls mysilf up to sleep before ut should get
hould on me. Bhoys, that noise was not dhrink, 'twas the rattle av a
thrain!'

There followed an impressive pause.

'Yes, he had put me on a thrain--put me palanquin an' all, an' six
black assassins av his own coolies that was in his nefarious
confidence, on the flat av a ballast-thruck, and we were rowlin' an'
bowlin' along to Benares. Glory be that I did not wake up thin an'
introjuce mysilf to the coolies. As I was sayin' I slept for the
betther part av a day an' a night. But remimber you, that that man
Dearsley had packed me off on wan av his material-thrains to Benares,
all for to make me overstay my leave an' get me into the cells.'

The explanation was an eminently rational one. Benares lay at least
ten hours by rail from the cantonments, and nothing in the world could
have saved Mulvaney from arrest as a deserter had he appeared there in
the apparel of his orgies. Dearsley had not forgotten to take revenge.
Learoyd, drawing back a little, began to play soft blows over selected
portions of Mulvaney's body. His thoughts were away on the embankment,
and they meditated evil for Dearsley. Mulvaney continued:--

'Whin I was full awake the palanquin was set down in a street, I
suspicioned, for I cud hear people passin' an' talkin'. But I knew
well I was far from home. There is a queer smell upon our
cantonments--a smell av dried earth and brick-kilns wid whiffs av
cavalry stable-litter. This place smelt marigold flowers an' bad
water, an' wanst somethin' alive came an' blew heavy with his muzzle
at the chink av the shutter. "It's in a village I am," thinks I to
mysilf, "an' the parochial buffalo is investigatin' the palanquin."
But anyways I had no desire to move. Only lie still whin you're in
foreign parts an' the standin' luck av the British Army will carry ye
through. That is an epigram. I made ut.

'Thin a lot av whishperin' divils surrounded the palanquin. "Take ut
up," sez wan man. "But who'll pay us?" sez another. "The Maharanee's
minister, av coorse," sez the man. "Oho!" sez I to mysilf, "I'm a
quane in me own right, wid a minister to pay me expenses. I'll be an
emperor if I lie still long enough; but this is no village I've
found." I lay quiet, but I gummed me right eye to a crack av the
shutters, an' I saw that the whole street was crammed wid palanquins
an' horses, an' a sprinklin' av naked priests all yellow powder an'
tigers' tails. But I may tell you, Orth'ris an' you, Learoyd, that av
all the palanquins ours was the most imperial an' magnificent. Now a
palanquin means a native lady all the world over, except whin a
soldier av the quane happens to be takin' a ride. "Women an' priests!"
sez I. "Your father's son is in the right pew this time, Terence.
There will be proceedin's." Six black divils in pink muslin tuk up the
palanquin, an' oh! but the rowlin' an' the rockin' made me sick. Thin
we got fair jammed among the palanquins--not more than fifty av
them--an' we grated an' bumped like Queenstown potato-smacks in a
runnin' tide. I cud hear the women gigglin' and squirkin' in their
palanquins, but mine was the royal equipage. They made way for ut,
an', begad, the pink muslin men o' mine were howlin', "Room for the
Maharanee av Gokral-Seetarun." Do you know aught av the lady, Sorr?'

'Yes,' said I. 'She is a very estimable old queen of the Central
Indian States, and they say she is fat. How on earth could she go to
Benares without all the city knowing her palanquin?'

''Twas the eternal foolishness av the naygur-man. They saw the
palanquin lying loneful an' forlornsome, an' the beauty av ut, after
Dearsley's men had dhropped ut and gone away, an' they gave ut the
best name that occurred to thim. Quite right too. For aught we know
the ould lady was thravellin' _incog_--like me. I'm glad to hear she's
fat. I was no light weight mysilf, an' my men were mortial anxious to
dhrop me under a great big archway promiscuously ornamented wid the
most improper carvin's an' cuttin's I iver saw. Begad! they made me
blush--like a--like a Maharanee.'

'The temple of Prithi-Devi,' I murmured, remembering the monstrous
horrors of that sculptured archway at Benares.

'Pretty Devilskins, savin' your presence, Sorr! There was nothin'
pretty about ut, except me. 'Twas all half dhark, an' whin the coolies
left they shut a big black gate behind av us, an' half a company av
fat yellow priests began pully-haulin' the palanquins into a dharker
place yet--a big stone hall full av pillars, an' gods, an' incense,
an' all manner av similar thruck. The gate disconcerted me, for I
perceived I wud have to go forward to get out, my retreat bein' cut
off. By the same token a good priest makes a bad palanquin-coolie.
Begad! they nearly turned me inside out draggin' the palanquin to the
temple. Now the disposishin av the forces inside was this way. The
Maharanee av Gokral-Seetarun--that was me--lay by the favour av
Providence on the far left flank behind the dhark av a pillar carved
with elephints' heads. The remainder av the palanquins was in a big
half circle facing in to the biggest, fattest, an' most amazin'
she-god that iver I dreamed av. Her head ran up into the black above
us, an' her feet stuck out in the light av a little fire av melted
butter that a priest was feedin' out av a butter-dish. Thin a man
began to sing an' play on somethin' back in the dhark, an' 'twas a
queer song. Ut made my hair lift on the back av my neck. Thin the
doors av all the palanquins slid back, an' the women bundled out. I
saw what I'll niver see again. 'Twas more glorious than
thransformations at a pantomime, for they was in pink an' blue an'
silver an' red an' grass green, wid dimonds an' imralds an' great red
rubies all over thim. But that was the least part av the glory. O
bhoys, they were more lovely than the like av any loveliness in hiven;
ay, their little bare feet were better than the white hands av a
lord's lady, an' their mouths were like puckered roses, an' their eyes
were bigger an' dharker than the eyes av any livin' women I've seen.
Ye may laugh, but I'm speakin' truth. I niver saw the like, an' niver
I will again.'

'Seeing that in all probability you were watching the wives and
daughters of most of the kings of India, the chances are that you
won't,' I said, for it was dawning on me that Mulvaney had stumbled
upon a big Queens' Praying at Benares.

'I niver will,' he said mournfully. 'That sight doesn't come twist to
any man. It made me ashamed to watch. A fat priest knocked at my door.
I didn't think he'd have the insolince to disturb the Maharanee av
Gokral-Seetarun, so I lay still. "The old cow's asleep," sez he to
another. "Let her be," sez that. "'Twill be long before she has a
calf!" I might ha' known before he spoke that all a woman prays for in
Injia--an' for matter o' that in England too--is childher. That made
me more sorry I'd come, me bein', as you well know, a childless man.'

He was silent for a moment, thinking of his little son, dead many
years ago.

'They prayed, an' the butter-fires blazed up an' the incense turned
everything blue, an' between that an' the fires the women looked as
tho' they were all ablaze an' twinklin'. They took hold av the
she-god's knees, they cried out an' they threw themselves about, an'
that world-without-end-amen music was dhrivin' thim mad. Mother av
Hiven! how they cried, an' the ould she-god grinnin' above thim all so
scornful! The dhrink was dyin' out in me fast, an' I was thinkin'
harder than the thoughts wud go through my head--thinkin' how to get
out, an' all manner of nonsense as well. The women were rockin' in
rows, their di'mond belts clickin', an' the tears runnin' out betune
their hands, an' the lights were goin' lower an' dharker. Thin there
was a blaze like lightnin' from the roof, an' that showed me the
inside av the palanquin, an' at the end where my foot was, stood the
livin' spit an' image o' mysilf worked on the linin'. This man here,
ut was.'

He hunted in the folds of his pink cloak, ran a hand under one, and
thrust into the firelight a foot-long embroidered presentment of the
great god Krishna, playing on a flute. The heavy jowl, the staring
eye, and the blue-black moustache of the god made up a far-off
resemblance to Mulvaney.

'The blaze was gone in a wink, but the whole schame came to me thin.
I believe I was mad too. I slid the off-shutter open an' rowled out
into the dhark behind the elephint-head pillar, tucked up my trousies
to my knees, slipped off my boots an' tuk a general hould av all the
pink linin' av the palanquin. Glory be, ut ripped out like a woman's
dhriss when you tread on ut at a sergeants' ball, an' a bottle came
with ut. I tuk the bottle an' the next minut I was out av the dhark av
the pillar, the pink linin' wrapped round me most graceful, the music
thunderin' like kettledrums, an' a could draft blowin' round my bare
legs. By this hand that did ut, I was Krishna tootlin' on the
flute--the god that the rig'mental chaplain talks about. A sweet sight
I must ha' looked. I knew my eyes were big, and my face was wax-white,
an' at the worst I must ha' looked like a ghost. But they took me for
the livin' god. The music stopped, and the women were dead dumb, an' I
crooked my legs like a shepherd on a china basin, an' I did the
ghost-waggle with my feet as I had done ut at the rig'mental theatre
many times, an' I slid acrost the width av that temple in front av the
she-god tootlin' on the beer bottle.'

'Wot did you toot?' demanded Ortheris the practical.

    [Illustration: 'I was Krishna tootlin' on the flute.'--P. 176.]

'Me? Oh!' Mulvaney sprang up, suiting the action to the word, and
sliding gravely in front of us, a dilapidated but imposing deity in
the half light. 'I sang--

    'Only say
    You'll be Mrs. Brallaghan.
    Don't say nay,
    Charmin' Judy Callaghan.

I didn't know me own voice when I sang. An' oh! 'twas pitiful to see
the women. The darlin's were down on their faces. Whin I passed the
last wan I cud see her poor little fingers workin' one in another as
if she wanted to touch my feet. So I dhrew the tail av this pink
overcoat over her head for the greater honour, an' I slid into the
dhark on the other side av the temple, and fetched up in the arms av a
big fat priest. All I wanted was to get away clear. So I tuk him by
his greasy throat an' shut the speech out av him. "Out!" sez I. "Which
way, ye fat heathen?"--"Oh!" sez he. "Man," sez I. "White man, soldier
man, common soldier man. Where in the name av confusion is the back
door?" The women in the temple were still on their faces, an' a young
priest was holdin' out his arms above their heads.

'"This way," sez my fat friend, duckin' behind a big bull-god an'
divin' into a passage. Thin I remimbered that I must ha' made the
miraculous reputation av that temple for the next fifty years. "Not
so fast," I sez, an' I held out both my hands wid a wink. That ould
thief smiled like a father. I tuk him by the back av the neck in case
he should be wishful to put a knife into me unbeknowst, an' I ran him
up an' down the passage twice to collect his sensibilities! "Be
quiet," sez he, in English. "Now you talk sense," I sez. "Fwhat'll you
give me for the use av that most iligant palanquin I have no time to
take away?"--"Don't tell," sez he. "Is ut like?" sez I. "But ye might
give me my railway fare. I'm far from my home an' I've done you a
service." Bhoys, 'tis a good thing to be a priest. The ould man niver
throubled himself to dhraw from a bank. As I will prove to you
subsequint, he philandered all round the slack av his clothes an'
began dribblin' ten-rupee notes, old gold mohurs, and rupees into my
hand till I could hould no more.'

'You lie!' said Ortheris. 'You're mad or sunstrook. A native don't
give coin unless you cut it out o' 'im. 'Tain't nature.'

'Then my lie an' my sunstroke is concealed under that lump av sod
yonder,' retorted Mulvaney unruffled, nodding across the scrub. 'An'
there's a dale more in nature than your squidgy little legs have iver
taken you to, Orth'ris, me son. Four hundred an' thirty-four rupees
by my reckonin', _an'_ a big fat gold necklace that I took from him as
a remimbrancer, was our share in that business.'

'An' 'e give it you for love?' said Ortheris.

'We were alone in that passage. Maybe I was a trifle too pressin', but
considher fwhat I had done for the good av the temple and the
iverlastin' joy av those women. 'Twas cheap at the price. I wud ha'
taken more if I cud ha' found 'ut. I turned the ould man upside down
at the last, but he was milked dhry. Thin he opened a door in another
passage an' I found mysilf up to my knees in Benares river-water, an'
bad smellin' ut is. More by token I had come out on the river-line
close to the burnin' ghat and contagious to a cracklin' corpse. This
was in the heart av the night, for I had been four hours in the
temple. There was a crowd av boats tied up, so I tuk wan an' wint
across the river. Thin I came home acrost country, lyin' up by day.'

'How on earth did you manage?' I said.

'How did Sir Frederick Roberts get from Cabul to Candahar? He marched
an' he niver tould how near he was to breakin' down. That's why he is
fwhat he is. An' now----' Mulvaney yawned portentously. 'Now I will go
an' give myself up for absince widout leave. It's eight-an'-twenty
days an' the rough end of the Colonel's tongue in orderly-room, any
way you look at ut. But 'tis cheap at the price.'

'Mulvaney,' said I softly. 'If there happens to be any sort of excuse
that the Colonel can in any way accept, I have a notion that you'll
get nothing more than the dressing-down. The new recruits are in,
and----'

'Not a word more, Sorr. Is ut excuses the old man wants? 'Tis not my
way, but he shall have thim. I'll tell him I was engaged in financial
operations connected wid a church,' and he flapped his way to
cantonments and the cells, singing lustily:--

    'So they sent a corp'ril's file,
    And they put me in the gyard-room
    For conduck unbecomin' of a soldier.'

And when he was lost in the mist of the moonlight we could hear the
refrain:--

    'Bang upon the big drum, bash upon the cymbals,
    As we go marchin' along, boys, oh!
    For although in this campaign
    There's no whisky nor champagne,
    We'll keep our spirits goin' with a song, boys!'

Therewith he surrendered himself to the joyful and almost weeping
guard, and was made much of by his fellows. But to the Colonel he said
that he had been smitten with sunstroke and had lain insensible on a
villager's cot for untold hours; and between laughter and good-will
the affair was smoothed over, so that he could, next day, teach the
new recruits how to 'Fear God, Honour the Queen, Shoot Straight, and
Keep Clean.'

[Illustration]

[Illustration]



THE TAKING OF LUNGTUNGPEN

    So we loosed a bloomin' volley,
      An' we made the beggars cut,
    An' when our pouch was emptied out,
      We used the bloomin' butt,
          Ho! My!
          Don't yer come anigh,
    When Tommy is a playin' with the baynit an' the butt.

                    _Barrack Room Ballad._


My friend Private Mulvaney told me this, sitting on the parapet of the
road to Dagshai, when we were hunting butterflies together. He had
theories about the Army, and coloured clay pipes perfectly. He said
that the young soldier is the best to work with, 'on account av the
surpassing innocinse av the child.'

'Now, listen!' said Mulvaney, throwing himself full length on the wall
in the sun. 'I'm a born scutt av the barrick-room! The Army's mate an'
dhrink to me, bekaze I'm wan av the few that can't quit ut. I've put
in sivinteen years, an' the pipeclay's in the marrow av me. Av I cud
have kept out av wan big dhrink a month, I wud have been a Hon'ry
Lift'nint by this time--a nuisince to my betthers, a laughin'-shtock
to my equils, an' a curse to meself. Bein' fwhat I am, I'm Privit
Mulvaney, wid no good-conduc' pay an' a devourin' thirst. Always
barrin' me little frind Bobs Bahadur, I know as much about the Army as
most men.'

I said something here.

'Wolseley be shot! Betune you an' me an' that butterfly net, he's a
ramblin', incoherint sort av a divil, wid wan oi on the Quane an' the
Coort, an' the other on his blessed silf--everlastin'ly playing Saysar
an' Alexandrier rowled into a lump. Now Bobs is a sensible little man.
Wid Bobs an' a few three-year-olds, I'd swape any army av the earth
into a towel, an' throw it away aftherwards. Faith, I'm not jokin'!
'Tis the bhoys--the raw bhoys--that don't know fwhat a bullut manes,
an' wudn't care av they did--that dhu the work. They're crammed wid
bull-mate till they fairly _ramps_ wid good livin'; and thin, av they
don't fight, they blow each other's hids off. 'Tis the trut' I'm
tellin' you. They shud be kept on water an' rice in the hot weather;
but there'd be a mut'ny av 'twas done.

'Did ye iver hear how Privit Mulvaney tuk the town av Lungtungpen? I
thought not! 'Twas the Lift'nint got the credit; but 'twas me planned
the schame. A little before I was inviladed from Burma, me an'
four-an'-twenty young wans undher a Lift'nint Brazenose was ruinin'
our dijeshins thryin' to catch dacoits. An' such double-ended divils I
niver knew! 'Tis only a _dah_ an' a Snider that makes a dacoit. Widout
thim, he's a paceful cultivator, an' felony for to shoot. We hunted,
an' we hunted, an' tuk fever an' elephints now an' again; but no
dacoits. Evenshually, we _puckarowed_ wan man. "Trate him tinderly,"
sez the Lift'nint. So I tuk him away into the jungle, wid the Burmese
Interprut'r an' my clanin'-rod. Sez I to the man, "My paceful
squireen," sez I, "you shquot on your hunkers an' dimonstrate to _my_
frind here, where _your_ frinds are whin they're at home?" Wid that I
introjuced him to the clanin'-rod, an' he comminst to jabber; the
Interprut'r interprutin' in betweens, an' me helpin' the Intilligince
Departmint wid my clanin'-rod whin the man misremimbered.

'Prisintly, I learn that, acrost the river, about nine miles away, was
a town just dhrippin' wid dahs, an' bohs an' arrows, an' dacoits, an'
elephints, an' _jingles_. "Good!" sez I; "this office will now close!"

'That night, I went to the Lift'nint an' communicates my information.
I never thought much of Lift'nint Brazenose till that night. He was
shtiff wid books an' the-ouries, an' all manner av thrimmin's no
manner av use. "Town did ye say?" sez he. "Accordin' to the-ouries av
War, we shud wait for reinforcemints."--"Faith!" thinks I, "we'd
betther dig our graves thin"; for the nearest throops was up to their
shtocks in the marshes out Mimbu way. "But," says the Lift'nint,
"since 'tis a speshil case, I'll make an excepshin. We'll visit this
Lungtungpen to-night."

    [Illustration: '"Shtrip, bhoys," sez I. "Shtrip to the buff,
    an' shwim in where glory waits!"'--P. 185.]

'The bhoys was fairly woild wid deloight whin I tould 'em; an', by
this an' that, they wint through the jungle like buck-rabbits. About
midnight we come to the shtrame which I had clane forgot to minshin to
my orficer. I was on, ahead, wid four bhoys, an' I thought that the
Lift'nint might want to the-ourise. "Shtrip, bhoys," sez I. "Shtrip to
the buff, an' shwim in where glory waits!"--"But I _can't_ shwim!" sez
two av thim. "To think I should live to hear that from a bhoy wid a
board-school edukashin!" sez I. "Take a lump av thimber, an' me an'
Conolly here will ferry ye over, ye young ladies!"

'We got an ould tree-trunk, an' pushed off wid the kits an' the rifles
on it. The night was chokin' dhark, an' just as we was fairly
embarked, I heard the Lift'nint behind av me callin' out. "There's a
bit av a _nullah_ here, Sorr," sez I, "but I can feel the bottom
already." So I cud, for I was not a yard from the bank."

'"Bit av a _nullah_! Bit av an eshtuary!" sez the Lift'nint. "Go on,
ye mad Irishman! Shtrip, bhoys!" I heard him laugh; an' the bhoys
began shtrippin' an' rollin' a log into the wather to put their kits
on. So me an' Conolly shtruck out through the warm wather wid our
log, an' the rest come on behind.

'That shtrame was miles woide! Orth'ris, on the rear-rank log,
whispers we had got into the Thames below Sheerness by mistake. "Kape
on shwimmin', ye little blayguard," sez I, "an' don't go pokin' your
dirty jokes at the Irriwaddy."--"Silince, men!" sings out the
Lift'nint. So we shwum on into the black dhark, wid our chests on the
logs, trustin' in the Saints an' the luck av the British Army.

'Evenshually, we hit ground--a bit av sand--an' a man. I put my heel
on the back av him. He skreeched an' ran.

'"_Now_ we've done it!" sez Lift'nint Brazenose. "Where the Divil _is_
Lungtungpen?" There was about a minute and a half to wait. The bhoys
laid a hould av their rifles an' some thried to put their belts on; we
was marchin' wid fixed baynits av coorse. Thin we knew where
Lungtungpen was; for we had hit the river-wall av it in the dhark, an'
the whole town blazed wid thim messin' _jingles_ an' Sniders like a
cat's back on a frosty night. They was firin' all ways at wanst; but
over our hids into the shtrame.

'"Have you got your rifles?" sez Brazenose. "Got 'em!" sez Orth'ris.
"I've got that thief Mulvaney's for all my back-pay, an' she'll kick
my heart sick wid that blunderin' long shtock av hers."--"Go on!"
yells Brazenose, whippin' his sword out. "Go on an' take the town!
An' the Lord have mercy on our sowls!"

    [Illustration: 'There was a _melly_ av a sumpshus kind for a
    whoile.'--P. 187.]

'Thin the bhoys gave wan divastatin' howl, an' pranced into the dhark,
feelin' for the town, an' blindin' an' stiffin' like Cavalry Ridin'
Masters whin the grass pricked their bare legs. I hammered wid the
butt at some bamboo-thing that felt wake, an' the rest come an'
hammered contagious, while the _jingles_ was jingling, an' feroshus
yells from inside was shplittin' our ears. We was too close under the
wall for thim to hurt us.

'Evenshually, the thing, whatever ut was, bruk; an' the six-and-twinty
av us tumbled, wan after the other, naked as we was borrun, into the
town of Lungtungpen. There was a _melly_ av a sumpshus kind for a
whoile; but whether they tuk us, all white an' wet, for a new breed av
divil, or a new kind av dacoit, I don't know. They ran as though we
was both, an' we wint into thim, baynit an' butt, shriekin' wid
laughin'. There was torches in the shtreets, an' I saw little Orth'ris
rubbin' his showlther ivry time he loosed my long-shtock Martini; an'
Brazenose walkin' into the gang wid his sword, like Diarmid av the
Gowlden Collar--barring he hadn't a stitch av clothin' on him. We
diskivered elephints wid dacoits under their bellies, an', what wid
wan thing an' another, we was busy till mornin' takin' possession av
the town of Lungtungpen.

'Thin we halted an' formed up, the wimmen howlin' in the houses an'
Lift'nint Brazenose blushin' pink in the light av the mornin' sun.
'Twas the most ondasint p'rade I iver tuk a hand in. Foive-and-twenty
privits an' an orficer av the Line in review ordher, an' not as much
as wud dust a fife betune 'em all in the way of clothin'! Eight av us
had their belts an' pouches on; but the rest had gone in wid a handful
av cartridges an' the skin God gave thim. _They_ was as nakid as
Vanus.

'"Number off from the right!" sez the Lift'nint. "Odd numbers fall out
to dress; even numbers pathrol the town till relieved by the dressing
party." Let me tell you, pathrollin' a town wid nothing on is an
ex_pay_rience. I pathrolled for tin minutes, an' begad, before 'twas
over, I blushed. The women laughed so. I niver blushed before or
since; but I blushed all over my carkiss thin. Orth'ris didn't
pathrol. He sez only, "Portsmith Barricks an' the 'Aard av a Sunday!"
Thin he lay down an' rowled any ways wid laughin'.

'Whin we was all dhressed, we counted the dead--sivinty-foive dacoits
besides wounded. We tuk five elephints, a hunder' an' sivinty Sniders,
two hunder' dahs, and a lot av other burglarious thruck. Not a man av
us was hurt--excep' maybe the Lift'nint, an' he from the shock to his
dasincy.

'The Headman av Lungtungpen, who surrinder'd himself, asked the
Interprut'r--"Av the English fight like that wid their clo'es off,
what in the wurruld do they do wid their clo'es on?" Orth'ris began
rowlin' his eyes an' crackin' his fingers an' dancin' a step-dance for
to impress the Headman. He ran to his house; an' we spint the rest av
the day carryin' the Lift'nint on our showlthers round the town, an'
playin' wid the Burmese babies--fat, little, brown little divils, as
pretty as picturs.

'Whin I was inviladed for the dysent'ry to India, I sez to the
Lift'nint, "Sorr," sez I, "you've the makin's in you av a great man;
but, av you'll let an ould sodger spake, you're too fond of
the-ourisin'." He shuk hands wid me and sez, "Hit high, hit low,
there's no plasin' you, Mulvaney. You've seen me waltzin' through
Lungtungpen like a Red Injin widout the war-paint, an' you say I'm too
fond av the-ourisin'?"--"Sorr," sez I, for I loved the bhoy; "I wud
waltz wid you in that condishin through _Hell_, an' so wud the rest av
the men!" Thin I wint downshtrame in the flat an' left him my
blessin'. May the Saints carry ut where ut should go, for he was a
fine upstandin' young orficer.

'To reshume. Fwhat I've said jist shows the use av three-year-olds.
Wud fifty seasoned sodgers have taken Lungtungpen in the dhark that
way? No! They'd know the risk av fever and chill. Let alone the
shootin'. Two hundher' might have done ut. But the three-year-olds
know little an' care less; an' where there's no fear, there's no
danger. Catch thim young, feed thim high, an' by the honour av that
great little man Bobs, behind a good orficer 'tisn't only dacoits
they'd smash wid their clo'es off--'tis Con-ti-nental Ar-r-r-mies!
They tuk Lungtungpen nakid; an' they'd take St. Pethersburg in their
dhrawers! Begad, they would that!

'Here's your pipe, Sorr. Shmoke her tinderly wid honey-dew, afther
letting the reek av the Canteen plug die away. But 'tis no good,
thanks to you all the same, fillin' my pouch wid your chopped hay.
Canteen baccy's like the Army. It shpoils a man's taste for moilder
things.'

So saying, Mulvaney took up his butterfly-net, and returned to
barracks.

[Illustration]

[Illustration]



THE MADNESS OF PRIVATE ORTHERIS

    Oh! Where would I be when my froat was dry?
    Oh! Where would I be when the bullets fly?
    Oh! Where would I be when I come to die?
                       Why,
    Somewheres anigh my chum.
        If 'e's liquor 'e'll give me some,
        If I'm dyin' 'e'll 'old my 'ead,
        An' 'e'll write 'em 'Ome when I'm dead.--
        Gawd send us a trusty chum!

                    _Barrack Room Ballad._


My friends Mulvaney and Ortheris had gone on a shooting expedition for
one day. Learoyd was still in hospital, recovering from fever picked
up in Burma. They sent me an invitation to join them, and were
genuinely pained when I brought beer--almost enough beer to satisfy
two Privates of the Line--and Me.

''Twasn't for that we bid you welkim, Sorr,' said Mulvaney sulkily.
''Twas for the pleasure av your comp'ny.'

Ortheris came to the rescue with--'Well, 'e won't be none the worse
for bringin' liquor with 'im. We ain't a file o' Dooks. We're bloomin'
Tommies, ye cantankris Hirishman; an' 'ere's your very good 'ealth!'

We shot all the forenoon, and killed two pariah-dogs, four green
parrots, sitting, one kite by the burning-ghaut, one snake flying, one
mud-turtle, and eight crows. Game was plentiful. Then we sat down to
tiffin--'bull-mate an' bran bread,' Mulvaney called it--by the side of
the river, and took pot shots at the crocodiles in the intervals of
cutting up the food with our only pocket-knife. Then we drank up all
the beer, and threw the bottles into the water and fired at them.
After that, we eased belts and stretched ourselves on the warm sand
and smoked. We were too lazy to continue shooting.

Ortheris heaved a big sigh, as he lay on his stomach with his head
between his fists. Then he swore quietly into the blue sky.

'Fwhat's that for?' said Mulvaney. 'Have ye not drunk enough?'

'Tott'nim Court Road, an' a gal I fancied there. Wot's the good of
sodgerin'?'

'Orth'ris, me son,' said Mulvaney hastily, ''tis more than likely
you've got throuble in your inside wid the beer. I feel that way
mesilf whin my liver gets rusty.'

    [Illustration: Ortheris heaved a big sigh.--P. 192.]

Ortheris went on slowly, not heeding the interruption:--

'I'm a Tommy--a bloomin', eight-anna, dog-stealin' Tommy, with a
number instead of a decent name. Wot's the good o' me? If I 'ad a
stayed at 'Ome, I might a married that gal and a kep' a little shorp
in the 'Ammersmith 'Igh.--"S. Orth'ris, Prac-ti-cal Taxi-der-mist."
With a stuff' fox, like they 'as in the Haylesbury Dairies, in the
winder, an' a little case of blue and yaller glass-heyes, an' a little
wife to call "shorp!" "shorp!" when the door-bell rung. As it _his_,
I'm on'y a Tommy--a Bloomin' Gawd-forsaken Beer-swillin' Tommy. "Rest
on your harms--_'versed_. Stan' at--_hease_; _'shun_. 'Verse--_harms_.
Right an' lef'--_tarrn_. Slow--_march_. 'Alt--_front_. Rest on your
harms--_'versed_. With blank-cartridge--_load_." An' that's the end o'
me.' He was quoting fragments from Funeral Parties' Orders.

'Stop ut!' shouted Mulvaney. 'Whin you've fired into nothin' as often
as me, over a better man than yoursilf, you will not make a mock av
thim orders. 'Tis worse than whistlin' the _Dead March_ in barricks.
An' you full as a tick, an' the sun cool, an' all an' all! I take
shame for you. You're no better than a Pagin--you an' your
firin'-parties an' your glass-eyes. Won't _you_ stop ut, Sorr?'

What could I do? Could I tell Ortheris anything that he did not know
of the pleasures of his life? I was not a Chaplain nor a Subaltern,
and Ortheris had a right to speak as he thought fit.

'Let him run, Mulvaney,' I said. 'It's the beer.'

'No! 'Tisn't the beer,' said Mulvaney. 'I know fwhat's comin'. He's
tuk this way now an' agin, an' it's bad--it's bad--for I'm fond av the
bhoy.'

Indeed, Mulvaney seemed needlessly anxious; but I knew that he looked
after Ortheris in a fatherly way.

'Let me talk, let me talk,' said Ortheris dreamily. 'D'you stop your
parrit screamin' of a 'ot day when the cage is a-cookin' 'is pore
little pink toes orf, Mulvaney?'

'Pink toes! D'ye mane to say you've pink toes undher your bullswools,
ye blandanderin','--Mulvaney gathered himself together for a terrific
denunciation--'school-misthress! Pink toes! How much Bass wid the
label did that ravin' child dhrink?'

''Tain't Bass,' said Ortheris. 'It's a bitterer beer nor that. It's
'ome-sickness!'

'Hark to him! An' he goin' Home in the _Sherapis_ in the inside av
four months!'

'I don't care. It's all one to me. 'Ow d'you know I ain't 'fraid o'
dyin' 'fore I gets my discharge paipers?' He recommenced, in a
sing-song voice, the Orders.

I had never seen this side of Ortheris's character before, but
evidently Mulvaney had, and attached serious importance to it. While
Ortheris babbled, with his head on his arms, Mulvaney whispered to
me:--

'He's always tuk this way whin he's been checked overmuch by the
childher they make Sarjints nowadays. That an' havin' nothin' to do. I
can't make ut out anyways.'

'Well, what does it matter? Let him talk himself through.'

Ortheris began singing a parody of _The Ramrod Corps_, full of
cheerful allusions to battle, murder, and sudden death. He looked out
across the river as he sang; and his face was quite strange to me.
Mulvaney caught me by the elbow to ensure attention.

'Matther? It matthers everything! 'Tis some sort av fit that's on him.
I've seen ut. 'Twill hould him all this night, an' in the middle av it
he'll get out av his cot an' go rakin' in the rack for his
'courtremints. Thin he'll come over to me an' say, "I'm goin' to
Bombay. Answer for me in the mornin'." Thin me an' him will fight as
we've done before--him to go an' me to hould him--an' so we'll both
come on the books for disturbin' in barricks. I've belted him, an'
I've bruk his head, an' I've talked to him, but 'tis no manner av use
whin the fit's on him. He's as good a bhoy as ever stepped whin his
mind's clear. I know fwhat's comin', though, this night in barricks.
Lord send he doesn't loose on me whin I rise to knock him down. 'Tis
that that's in my mind day an' night.'

This put the case in a much less pleasant light, and fully accounted
for Mulvaney's anxiety. He seemed to be trying to coax Ortheris out of
the fit; for he shouted down the bank where the boy was lying:--

'Listen now, you wid the "pore pink toes" an' the glass-eyes! Did you
shwim the Irriwaddy at night, behin' me, as a bhoy shud; or were you
hidin' under a bed, as you was at Ahmid Kheyl?'

This was at once a gross insult and a direct lie, and Mulvaney meant
it to bring on a fight. But Ortheris seemed shut up in some sort of
trance. He answered slowly, without a sign of irritation, in the same
cadenced voice as he had used for his firing-party orders:--

'_Hi_ swum the Irriwaddy in the night, as you know, for to take the
town of Lungtungpen, nakid an' without fear. _Hand_ where I was at
Ahmed Kheyl you know, and four bloomin' Paythans know too. But that
was summat to do, an' I didn't think o' dyin'. Now I'm sick to go
'Ome--go 'Ome--go 'Ome! No, I ain't mammysick, because my uncle brung
me up, but I'm sick for London again; sick for the sounds of 'er, an'
the sights of 'er, and the stinks of 'er; orange-peel and hasphalte
an' gas comin' in over Vaux'all Bridge. Sick for the rail goin' down
to Box 'Ill, with your gal on your knee an' a new clay pipe in your
face. That, an' the Stran' lights where you knows ev'ry one, an' the
Copper that takes you up is a old friend that tuk you up before, when
you was a little, smitchy boy lying loose 'tween the Temple an' the
Dark Harches. No bloomin' guard-mountin', no bloomin' rotten-stone,
nor khaki, an' yourself your own master with a gal to take an' see the
Humaners practisin' a-hookin' dead corpses out of the Serpentine o'
Sundays. An' I lef' all that for to serve the Widder beyond the seas,
where there ain't no women and there ain't no liquor worth 'avin', and
there ain't nothin' to see, nor do, nor say, nor feel, nor think. Lord
love you, Stanley Orth'ris, but you're a bigger bloomin' fool than the
rest o' the reg'ment and Mulvaney wired together! There's the Widder
sittin' at 'Ome with a gold crownd on 'er 'ead; and 'ere am Hi,
Stanley Orth'ris, the Widder's property, a rottin' FOOL!'

His voice rose at the end of the sentence, and he wound up with a
six-shot Anglo-Vernacular oath. Mulvaney said nothing, but looked at
me as if he expected that I could bring peace to poor Ortheris's
troubled brain.

I remembered once at Rawal Pindi having seen a man, nearly mad with
drink, sobered by being made a fool of. Some regiments may know what I
mean. I hoped that we might slake off Ortheris in the same way, though
he was perfectly sober. So I said:--

'What's the use of grousing there, and speaking against The Widow?'

'I didn't!' said Ortheris. 'S'elp me, Gawd, I never said a word agin
'er, an' I wouldn't--not if I was to desert this minute!'

Here was my opening. 'Well, you meant to, anyhow. What's the use of
cracking-on for nothing? Would you slip it now if you got the chance?'

'On'y try me!' said Ortheris, jumping to his feet as if he had been
stung.

Mulvaney jumped too. 'Fwhat are you going to do?' said he.

'Help Ortheris down to Bombay or Karachi, whichever he likes. You can
report that he separated from you before tiffin, and left his gun on
the bank here!'

'I'm to report that--am I?' said Mulvaney slowly. 'Very well. If
Orth'ris manes to desert now, and will desert now, an' you, Sorr, who
have been a frind to me an' to him, will help him to ut, I, Terence
Mulvaney, on my oath which I've never bruk yet, will report as you
say. But----' here he stepped up to Ortheris, and shook the stock of
the fowling-piece in his face--'your fistes help you, Stanley
Orth'ris, if ever I come across you agin!'

'I don't care!' said Ortheris. 'I'm sick o' this dorg's life. Give me
a chanst. Don't play with me. Le' me go!'

'Strip,' said I, 'and change with me, and then I'll tell you what to
do.'

I hoped that the absurdity of this would check Ortheris; but he had
kicked off his ammunition-boots and got rid of his tunic almost before
I had loosed my shirt-collar. Mulvaney gripped me by the arm:--

'The fit's on him: the fit's workin' on him still! By my Honour and
Sowl, we shall be accessiry to a desartion yet. Only twenty-eight
days, as you say, Sorr, or fifty-six, but think o' the shame--the
black shame to him an' me!' I had never seen Mulvaney so excited.

But Ortheris was quite calm, and, as soon as he had exchanged clothes
with me, and I stood up a Private of the Line, he said shortly, 'Now!
Come on. What nex'? D'ye mean fair. What must I do to get out o' this
'ere a-Hell?'

I told him that, if he would wait for two or three hours near the
river, I would ride into the Station and come back with one hundred
rupees. He would, with that money in his pocket, walk to the nearest
side-station on the line, about five miles away, and would there take
a first-class ticket for Karachi. Knowing that he had no money on him
when he went out shooting, his regiment would not immediately wire to
the seaports, but would hunt for him in the native villages near the
river. Further, no one would think of seeking a deserter in a
first-class carriage. At Karachi, he was to buy white clothes and
ship, if he could, on a cargo-steamer.

Here he broke in. If I helped him to Karachi, he would arrange all the
rest. Then I ordered him to wait where he was until it was dark enough
for me to ride into the station without my dress being noticed. Now
God in His wisdom has made the heart of the British Soldier, who is
very often an unlicked ruffian, as soft as the heart of a little
child, in order that he may believe in and follow his officers into
tight and nasty places. He does not so readily come to believe in a
'civilian,' but, when he does, he believes implicitly and like a dog.
I had had the honour of the friendship of Private Ortheris, at
intervals, for more than three years, and we had dealt with each other
as man by man. Consequently, he considered that all my words were
true, and not spoken lightly.

Mulvaney and I left him in the high grass near the river-bank, and
went away, still keeping to the high grass, towards my horse. The
shirt scratched me horribly.

    [Illustration: We set off at the double and found him plunging
    about wildly through the grass.--P. 201.]

We waited nearly two hours for the dusk to fall and allow me to ride
off. We spoke of Ortheris in whispers, and strained our ears to catch
any sound from the spot where we had left him. But we heard nothing
except the wind in the plume-grass.

'I've bruk his head,' said Mulvaney earnestly, 'time an' agin. I've
nearly kilt him wid the belt, an' _yet_ I can't knock thim fits out av
his soft head. No! An' he's not soft, for he's reasonable an' likely
by natur'. Fwhat is ut? Is ut his breedin' which is nothin', or his
edukashin which he niver got? You that think ye know things, answer me
that.'

But I found no answer. I was wondering how long Ortheris, in the bank
of the river, would hold out, and whether I should be forced to help
him to desert, as I had given my word.

Just as the dusk shut down and, with a very heavy heart, I was
beginning to saddle up my horse, we heard wild shouts from the river.

The devils had departed from Private Stanley Ortheris, No. 22639, B
company. The loneliness, the dusk, and the waiting had driven them out
as I had hoped. We set off at the double and found him plunging about
wildly through the grass, with his coat off--my coat off, I mean. He
was calling for us like a madman.

When we reached him he was dripping with perspiration, and trembling
like a startled horse. We had great difficulty in soothing him. He
complained that he was in civilian kit, and wanted to tear my clothes
off his body. I ordered him to strip, and we made a second exchange as
quickly as possible.

The rasp of his own 'grayback' shirt and the squeak of his boots
seemed to bring him to himself. He put his hands before his eyes and
said:--

'Wot was it? I ain't mad, I ain't sunstrook, an' I've bin an' gone an'
said, an' bin an' gone an' done---- _Wot_ 'ave I bin an' done!'

'Fwhat have you done?' said Mulvaney. 'You've dishgraced
yourself--though that's no matter. You've dishgraced B comp'ny, an'
worst av all, you've dishgraced _Me_! Me that taught you how for to
walk abroad like a man--whin you was a dhirty little, fish-backed
little, whimperin' little recruity. As you are now, Stanley Orth'ris!'

Ortheris said nothing for a while. Then he unslung his belt, heavy
with the badges of half-a-dozen regiments that his own had lain with,
and handed it over to Mulvaney.

'I'm too little for to mill you, Mulvaney,' said he, 'an' you've
strook me before; but you can take an' cut me in two with this 'ere if
you like.'

Mulvaney turned to me.

'Lave me to talk to him, Sorr,' said Mulvaney.

I left, and on my way home thought a good deal over Ortheris in
particular, and my friend Private Thomas Atkins, whom I love, in
general.

But I could not come to any conclusion of any kind whatever.



THE END



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