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Title: Wee Willie Winkie and Other Stories, Volume II (of 2)
Author: Kipling, Rudyard
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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                          THE SERVICE EDITION

                                   OF

                              THE WORKS OF
                            RUDYARD KIPLING



                           WEE WILLIE WINKIE
                           AND OTHER STORIES


                                   BY
                            RUDYARD KIPLING


                             IN TWO VOLUMES

                                VOL. II


                       MACMILLAN AND CO., LIMITED
                      ST. MARTIN’S STREET, LONDON
                                  1914

------------------------------------------------------------------------



                                CONTENTS


                                                  Page
                  The Man who would be King          3

                  Wee Willie Winkie                 67
                    Baa Baa, Black Sheep            85
                    His Majesty the King           132
                    The Drums of the Fore and Aft  151



                       THE MAN WHO WOULD BE KING

    Brother to a Prince and fellow to a beggar if he be found worthy


The Law, as quoted, lays down a fair conduct of life, and one not easy
to follow. I have been fellow to a beggar again and again under
circumstances which prevented either of us finding out whether the other
was worthy. I have still to be brother to a Prince, though I once came
near to kinship with what might have been a veritable King, and was
promised the reversion of a Kingdom—army, law-courts, revenue, and
policy all complete. But, to-day, I greatly fear that my King is dead,
and if I want a crown I must go hunt it for myself.

The beginning of everything was in a railway train upon the road to Mhow
from Ajmir. There had been a Deficit in the Budget, which necessitated
travelling, not Second-class, which is only half as dear as First-class,
but by Intermediate, which is very awful indeed. There are no cushions
in the Intermediate class, and the population are either Intermediate,
which is Eurasian, or native, which for a long night journey is nasty,
or Loafer, which is amusing though intoxicated. Intermediates do not buy
from refreshment-rooms. They carry their food in bundles and pots, and
buy sweets from the native sweetmeat-sellers, and drink the roadside
water. That is why in the hot weather Intermediates are taken out of the
carriages dead, and in all weathers are most properly looked down upon.

My particular Intermediate happened to be empty till I reached
Nasirabad, when a big black-browed gentleman in shirt-sleeves entered,
and, following the custom of Intermediates, passed the time of day. He
was a wanderer and a vagabond like myself, but with an educated taste
for whisky. He told tales of things he had seen and done, of
out-of-the-way corners of the Empire into which he had penetrated, and
of adventures in which he risked his life for a few days’ food.

‘If India was filled with men like you and me, not knowing more than the
crows where they’d get their next day’s rations, it isn’t seventy
millions of revenue the land would be paying—it’s seven hundred
millions,’ said he; and as I looked at his mouth and chin I was disposed
to agree with him.

We talked politics—the politics of Loaferdom, that sees things from the
underside where the lath and plaster is not smoothed off—and we talked
postal arrangements because my friend wanted to send a telegram back
from the next station to Ajmir, the turning-off place from the Bombay to
the Mhow line as you travel westward. My friend had no money beyond
eight annas, which he wanted for dinner, and I had no money at all,
owing to the hitch in the Budget before mentioned. Further, I was going
into a wilderness where, though I should resume touch with the Treasury,
there were no telegraph offices. I was, therefore, unable to help him in
any way.

‘We might threaten a Station-master, and make him send a wire on tick,’
said my friend, ‘but that’d mean inquiries for you and for me, and
_I_’ve got my hands full these days. Did you say you are travelling back
along this line within any days?’

‘Within ten,’ I said.

‘Can’t you make it eight?’ said he. ‘Mine is rather urgent business.’

‘I can send your telegram within ten days if that will serve you,’ I
said.

‘I couldn’t trust the wire to fetch him now I think of it. It’s this
way. He leaves Delhi on the 23rd for Bombay. That means he’ll be running
through Ajmir about the night of the 23rd.’

‘But I’m going into the Indian Desert,’ I explained.

‘Well _and_ good,’ said he. ‘You’ll be changing at Marwar Junction to
get into Jodhpore territory—you must do that—and he’ll be coming through
Marwar Junction in the early morning of the 24th by the Bombay Mail. Can
you be at Marwar Junction on that time? ’Twon’t be inconveniencing you
because I know that there’s precious few pickings to be got out of these
Central India States—even though you pretend to be correspondent of the
_Backwoodsman_.’

‘Have you ever tried that trick?’ I asked.

‘Again and again, but the Residents find you out, and then you get
escorted to the Border before you’ve time to get your knife into them.
But about my friend here. I _must_ give him a word o’ mouth to tell him
what’s come to me or else he won’t know where to go. I would take it
more than kind of you if you was to come out of Central India in time to
catch him at Marwar Junction, and say to him: “He has gone South for the
week.” He’ll know what that means. He’s a big man with a red beard, and
a great swell he is. You’ll find him sleeping like a gentleman with all
his luggage round him in a Second-class compartment. But don’t you be
afraid. Slip down the window, and say: “He has gone South for the week,”
and he’ll tumble. It’s only cutting your time of stay in those parts by
two days. I ask you as a stranger—going to the West,’ he said with
emphasis.

‘Where have _you_ come from?’ said I.

‘From the East,’ said he, ‘and I am hoping that you will give him the
message on the Square—for the sake of my Mother as well as your own.’

Englishmen are not usually softened by appeals to the memory of their
mothers, but for certain reasons, which will be fully apparent, I saw
fit to agree.

‘It’s more than a little matter,’ said he, ‘and that’s why I asked you
to do it—and now I know that I can depend on you doing it. A
Second-class carriage at Marwar Junction, and a red-haired man asleep in
it. You’ll be sure to remember. I get out at the next station, and I
must hold on there till he comes or sends me what I want.’

‘I’ll give the message if I catch him,’ I said, ‘and for the sake of
your Mother as well as mine I’ll give you a word of advice. Don’t try to
run the Central India States just now as the correspondent of the
_Backwoodsman_. There’s a real one knocking about here, and it might
lead to trouble.’

‘Thank you,’ said he simply, ‘and when will the swine be gone? I can’t
starve because he’s ruining my work. I wanted to get hold of the
Degumber Rajah down here about his father’s widow, and give him a jump.’

‘What did he do to his father’s widow, then?’

‘Filled her up with red pepper and slippered her to death as she hung
from a beam. I found that out myself, and I’m the only man that would
dare going into the State to get hush-money for it. They’ll try to
poison me, same as they did in Chortumna when I went on the loot there.
But you’ll give the man at Marwar Junction my message?’

He got out at a little roadside station, and I reflected. I had heard,
more than once, of men personating correspondents of newspapers and
bleeding small Native States with threats of exposure, but I had never
met any of the caste before. They lead a hard life, and generally die
with great suddenness. The Native States have a wholesome horror of
English newspapers which may throw light on their peculiar methods of
government, and do their best to choke correspondents with champagne, or
drive them out of their mind with four-in-hand barouches. They do not
understand that nobody cares a straw for the internal administration of
Native States so long as oppression and crime are kept within decent
limits, and the ruler is not drugged, drunk, or diseased from one end of
the year to the other. They are the dark places of the earth, full of
unimaginable cruelty, touching the Railway and the Telegraph on one
side, and, on the other, the days of Harun-al-Raschid. When I left the
train I did business with divers Kings, and in eight days passed through
many changes of life. Sometimes I wore dress-clothes and consorted with
Princes and Politicals, drinking from crystal and eating from silver.
Sometimes I lay out upon the ground and devoured what I could get, from
a plate made of leaves, and drank the running water, and slept under the
same rug as my servant. It was all in the day’s work.

Then I headed for the Great Indian Desert upon the proper date, as I had
promised, and the night Mail set me down at Marwar Junction, where a
funny, little, happy-go-lucky, native-managed railway runs to Jodhpore.
The Bombay Mail from Delhi makes a short halt at Marwar. She arrived as
I got in, and I had just time to hurry to her platform and go down the
carriages. There was only one Second-class on the train. I slipped the
window and looked down upon a flaming red beard, half covered by a
railway rug. That was my man, fast asleep, and I dug him gently in the
ribs. He woke with a grunt, and I saw his face in the light of the
lamps. It was a great and shining face.

‘Tickets again?’ said he.

‘No,’ said I. ‘I am to tell you that he is gone South for the week. He
has gone South for the week!’

The train had begun to move out. The red man rubbed his eyes. ‘He has
gone South for the week,’ he repeated. ‘Now that’s just like his
impidence. Did he say that I was to give you anything? ’Cause I won’t.’

‘He didn’t,’ I said, and dropped away, and watched the red lights die
out in the dark. It was horribly cold because the wind was blowing off
the sands. I climbed into my own train—not an Intermediate Carriage this
time—and went to sleep.

If the man with the beard had given me a rupee I should have kept it as
a memento of a rather curious affair. But the consciousness of having
done my duty was my only reward.

Later on I reflected that two gentlemen like my friends could not do any
good if they forgathered and personated correspondents of newspapers,
and might, if they black-mailed one of the little rat-trap states of
Central India or Southern Rajputana, get themselves into serious
difficulties. I therefore took some trouble to describe them as
accurately as I could remember to people who would be interested in
deporting them; and succeeded, so I was later informed, in having them
headed back from the Degumber borders.

Then I became respectable, and returned to an Office where there were no
Kings and no incidents outside the daily manufacture of a newspaper. A
newspaper office seems to attract every conceivable sort of person, to
the prejudice of discipline. Zenana-mission ladies arrive, and beg that
the Editor will instantly abandon all his duties to describe a Christian
prize-giving in a back-slum of a perfectly inaccessible village;
Colonels who have been overpassed for command sit down and sketch the
outline of a series of ten, twelve, or twenty-four leading articles on
Seniority _versus_ Selection; Missionaries wish to know why they have
not been permitted to escape from their regular vehicles of abuse and
swear at a brother-missionary under special patronage of the editorial
We; stranded theatrical companies troop up to explain that they cannot
pay for their advertisements, but on their return from New Zealand or
Tahiti will do so with interest; inventors of patent punkah-pulling
machines, carriage couplings, and unbreakable swords and axle-trees,
call with specifications in their pockets and hours at their disposal;
tea-companies enter and elaborate their prospectuses with the office
pens; secretaries of ball-committees clamour to have the glories of
their last dance more fully described; strange ladies rustle in and say,
‘I want a hundred lady’s cards printed _at once_, please,’ which is
manifestly part of an Editor’s duty; and every dissolute ruffian that
ever tramped the Grand Trunk Road makes it his business to ask for
employment as a proof-reader. And, all the time, the telephone-bell is
ringing madly, and Kings are being killed on the Continent, and Empires
are saying, ‘You’re another,’ and Mister Gladstone is calling down
brimstone upon the British Dominions, and the little black copy-boys are
whining, ‘_kaa-pi chay-ha-yeh_’ (copy wanted) like tired bees, and most
of the paper is as blank as Modred’s shield.

But that is the amusing part of the year. There are six other months
when none ever comes to call, and the thermometer walks inch by inch up
to the top of the glass, and the office is darkened to just above
reading-light, and the press-machines are red-hot of touch, and nobody
writes anything but accounts of amusements in the Hill-stations or
obituary notices. Then the telephone becomes a tinkling terror, because
it tells you of the sudden deaths of men and women that you knew
intimately, and the prickly-heat covers you with a garment, and you sit
down and write: ‘A slight increase of sickness is reported from the
Khuda Janta Khan District. The outbreak is purely sporadic in its
nature, and, thanks to the energetic efforts of the District
authorities, is now almost at an end. It is, however, with deep regret
we record the death, etc.’

Then the sickness really breaks out, and the less recording and
reporting the better for the peace of the subscribers. But the Empires
and the Kings continue to divert themselves as selfishly as before, and
the Foreman thinks that a daily paper really ought to come out once in
twenty-four hours, and all the people at the Hill-stations in the middle
of their amusements say: ‘Good gracious! Why can’t the paper be
sparkling? I’m sure there’s plenty going on up here.’

That is the dark half of the moon, and, as the advertisements say, ‘must
be experienced to be appreciated.’

It was in that season, and a remarkably evil season, that the paper
began running the last issue of the week on Saturday night, which is to
say Sunday morning, after the custom of a London paper. This was a great
convenience, for immediately after the paper was put to bed, the dawn
would lower the thermometer from 96° to almost 84° for half an hour, and
in that chill—you have no idea how cold is 84° on the grass until you
begin to pray for it—a very tired man could get off to sleep ere the
heat roused him.

One Saturday night it was my pleasant duty to put the paper to bed
alone. A King or courtier or a courtesan or a Community was going to die
or get a new Constitution, or do something that was important on the
other side of the world, and the paper was to be held open till the
latest possible minute in order to catch the telegram.

It was a pitchy black night, as stifling as a June night can be, and the
_loo_, the red-hot wind from the westward, was booming among the
tinder-dry trees and pretending that the rain was on its heels. Now and
again a spot of almost boiling water would fall on the dust with the
flop of a frog, but all our weary world knew that was only pretence. It
was a shade cooler in the press-room than the office, so I sat there,
while the type ticked and clicked, and the night-jars hooted at the
windows, and the all but naked compositors wiped the sweat from their
foreheads, and called for water. The thing that was keeping us back,
whatever it was, would not come off, though the _loo_ dropped and the
last type was set, and the whole round earth stood still in the choking
heat, with its finger on its lip, to wait the event. I drowsed, and
wondered whether the telegraph was a blessing, and whether this dying
man, or struggling people, might be aware of the inconvenience the delay
was causing. There was no special reason beyond the heat and worry to
make tension, but, as the clock-hands crept up to three o’clock, and the
machines spun their fly-wheels two or three times to see that all was in
order before I said the word that would set them off, I could have
shrieked aloud.

Then the roar and rattle of the wheels shivered the quiet into little
bits. I rose to go away, but two men in white clothes stood in front of
me. The first one said: ‘It’s him!’ The second said: ‘So it is!’ And
they both laughed almost as loudly as the machinery roared, and mopped
their foreheads. ‘We seed there was a light burning across the road, and
we were sleeping in that ditch there for coolness, and I said to my
friend here, The office is open. Let’s come along and speak to him as
turned us back from the Degumber State,’ said the smaller of the two. He
was the man I had met in the Mhow train, and his fellow was the
red-bearded man of Marwar Junction. There was no mistaking the eyebrows
of the one or the beard of the other.

I was not pleased, because I wished to go to sleep, not to squabble with
loafers. ‘What do you want?’ I asked.

‘Half an hour’s talk with you, cool and comfortable, in the office,’
said the red-bearded man. ‘We’d _like_ some drink—the Contrack doesn’t
begin yet, Peachey, so you needn’t look—but what we really want is
advice. We don’t want money. We ask you as a favour, because we found
out you did us a bad turn about Degumber State.’

I led from the press-room to the stifling office with the maps on the
walls, and the red-haired man rubbed his hands. ‘That’s something like,’
said he. ‘This was the proper shop to come to. Now, Sir, let me
introduce to you Brother Peachey Carnehan, that’s him, and Brother
Daniel Dravot, that is _me_, and the less said about our professions the
better, for we have been most things in our time. Soldier, sailor,
compositor, photographer, proof-reader, street-preacher, and
correspondents of the _Backwoodsman_ when we thought the paper wanted
one. Carnehan is sober, and so am I. Look at us first, and see that’s
sure. It will save you cutting into my talk. We’ll take one of your
cigars apiece, and you shall see us light up.’

I watched the test. The men were absolutely sober, so I gave them each a
tepid whisky and soda.

‘Well _and_ good,’ said Carnehan of the eyebrows, wiping the froth from
his moustache. ‘Let me talk now, Dan. We have been all over India,
mostly on foot. We have been boiler-fitters, engine-drivers, petty
contractors, and all that, and we have decided that India isn’t big
enough for such as us.’

They certainly were too big for the office. Dravot’s beard seemed to
fill half the room and Carnehan’s shoulders the other half, as they sat
on the big table. Carnehan continued: ‘The country isn’t half worked out
because they that governs it won’t let you touch it. They spend all
their blessed time in governing it, and you can’t lift a spade, nor chip
a rock, nor look for oil, nor anything like that, without all the
Government saying, “Leave it alone, and let us govern.” Therefore, such
_as_ it is, we will let it alone, and go away to some other place where
a man isn’t crowded and can come to his own. We are not little men, and
there is nothing that we are afraid of except Drink, and we have signed
a Contrack on that. _Therefore_, we are going away to be Kings.’

‘Kings in our own right,’ muttered Dravot.

‘Yes, of course,’ I said. ‘You’ve been tramping in the sun, and it’s a
very warm night, and hadn’t you better sleep over the notion? Come
to-morrow.’

‘Neither drunk nor sunstruck,’ said Dravot. ‘We have slept over the
notion half a year, and require to see Books and Atlases, and we have
decided that there is only one place now in the world that two strong
men can Sar-a-_whack_. They call it Kafiristan. By my reckoning it’s the
top right-hand comer of Afghanistan, not more than three hundred miles
from Peshawar. They have two-and-thirty heathen idols there, and we’ll
be the thirty-third and fourth. It’s a mountaineous country, and the
women of those parts are very beautiful.’

‘But that is provided against in the Contrack,’ said Carnehan. ‘Neither
Woman nor Liqu-or, Daniel.’

‘And that’s all we know, except that no one has gone there, and they
fight, and in any place where they fight a man who knows how to drill
men can always be a King. We shall go to those parts and say to any King
we find—“D’you want to vanquish your foes?” and we will show him how to
drill men; for that we know better than anything else. Then we will
subvert that King and seize his Throne and establish a Dy-nasty.’

‘You’ll be cut to pieces before you’re fifty miles across the Border,’ I
said. ‘You have to travel through Afghanistan to get to that country.
It’s one mass of mountains and peaks and glaciers, and no Englishman has
been through it. The people are utter brutes, and even if you reached
them you couldn’t do anything.’

‘That’s more like,’ said Carnehan. ‘If you could think us a little more
mad we would be more pleased. We have come to you to know about this
country, to read a book about it, and to be shown maps. We want you to
tell us that we are fools and to show us your books.’ He turned to the
bookcases.

‘Are you at all in earnest?’ I said.

‘A little,’ said Dravot sweetly. ‘As big a map as you have got, even if
it’s all blank where Kafiristan is, and any books you’ve got. We can
read, though we aren’t very educated.’

I uncased the big thirty-two-miles-to-the-inch map of India, and two
smaller Frontier maps, hauled down volume INF-KAN of the _Encyclopædia
Britannica_, and the men consulted them.

‘See here!’ said Dravot, his thumb on the map. ‘Up to Jagdallak, Peachey
and me know the road. We was there with Roberts’ Army. We’ll have to
turn off to the right at Jagdallak through Laghmann territory. Then we
get among the hills—fourteen thousand feet—fifteen thousand—it will be
cold work there, but it don’t look very far on the map.’

I handed him Wood on the _Sources of the Oxus_. Carnehan was deep in the
_Encyclopædia_.

‘They’re a mixed lot,’ said Dravot reflectively; ‘and it won’t help us
to know the names of their tribes. The more tribes the more they’ll
fight, and the better for us. From Jagdallak to Ashang. H’mm!’

‘But all the information about the country is as sketchy and inaccurate
as can be,’ I protested. ‘No one knows anything about it really. Here’s
the file of the _United Services’ Institute_. Read what Bellew says.’

‘Blow Bellew!’ said Carnehan. ‘Dan, they’re a stinkin’ lot of heathens,
but this book here says they think they’re related to us English.’

I smoked while the men pored over Raverty, Wood, the maps, and the
_Encyclopædia_.

‘There is no use your waiting,’ said Dravot politely. ‘It’s about four
o’clock now. We’ll go before six o’clock if you want to sleep, and we
won’t steal any of the papers. Don’t you sit up. We’re two harmless
lunatics, and if you come to-morrow evening down to the Serai we’ll say
good-bye to you.’

‘You _are_ two fools,’ I answered. ‘You’ll be turned back at the
Frontier or cut up the minute you set foot in Afghanistan. Do you want
any money or a recommendation down-country? I can help you to the chance
of work next week.’

‘Next week we shall be hard at work ourselves, thank you,’ said Dravot.
‘It isn’t so easy being a King as it looks. When we’ve got our Kingdom
in going order we’ll let you know, and you can come up and help us to
govern it.’

‘Would two lunatics make a contrack like that?’ said Carnehan, with
subdued pride, showing me a greasy half-sheet of notepaper on which was
written the following. I copied it, then and there, as a curiosity—


_This Contract between me and you persuing witnesseth in the name of
God—Amen and so forth._

  _(One) That me and you will settle this matter together; i.e. to be
            Kings of Kafiristan._

  _(Two) That you and me will not, while this matter is being settled,
            look at any Liquor, nor any Woman black, white, or brown, so
            as to get mixed up with one or the other harmful._

  _(Three) That we conduct ourselves with Dignity and Discretion, and if
            one of us gets into trouble the other will stay by him._

  _Signed by you and me this day._

                           _Peachey Taliaferro Carnehan._
                           _Daniel Dravot._
                           _Both Gentlemen at Large._


‘There was no need for the last article,’ said Carnehan, blushing
modestly; ‘but it looks regular. Now you know the sort of men that
loafers are—we _are_ loafers, Dan, until we get out of India—and _do_
you think that we would sign a Contrack like that unless we was in
earnest? We have kept away from the two things that make life worth
having.’

‘You won’t enjoy your lives much longer if you are going to try this
idiotic adventure. Don’t set the office on fire,’ I said, ‘and go away
before nine o’clock.’

I left them still poring over the maps and making notes on the back of
the ‘Contrack.’ ‘Be sure to come down to the Serai to-morrow,’ were
their parting words.

The Kumharsen Serai is the great four-square sink of humanity where the
strings of camels and horses from the North load and unload. All the
nationalities of Central Asia may be found there, and most of the folk
of India proper. Balkh and Bokhara there meet Bengal and Bombay, and try
to draw eye-teeth. You can buy ponies, turquoises, Persian pussy-cats,
saddle-bags, fat-tailed sheep and musk in the Kumharsen Serai, and get
many strange things for nothing. In the afternoon I went down to see
whether my friends intended to keep their word or were lying there
drunk.

A priest attired in fragments of ribbons and rags stalked up to me,
gravely twisting a child’s paper whirligig. Behind him was his servant
bending under the load of a crate of mud toys. The two were loading up
two camels, and the inhabitants of the Serai watched them with shrieks
of laughter.

‘The priest is mad,’ said a horse-dealer to me. ‘He is going up to Kabul
to sell toys to the Amir. He will either be raised to honour or have his
head cut off. He came in here this morning and has been behaving madly
ever since.’

‘The witless are under the protection of God,’ stammered a flat-cheeked
Usbeg in broken Hindi. ‘They foretell future events.’

‘Would they could have foretold that my caravan would have been cut up
by the Shinwaris almost within shadow of the Pass!’ grunted the Eusufzai
agent of a Rajputana trading-house whose goods had been diverted into
the hands of other robbers just across the Border, and whose misfortunes
were the laughing-stock of the bazar. ‘Ohé, priest, whence come you and
whither do you go?’

‘From Roum have I come,’ shouted the priest, waving his whirligig; ‘from
Roum, blown by the breath of a hundred devils across the sea! O thieves,
robbers, liars, the blessing of Pir Khan on pigs, dogs, and perjurers!
Who will take the Protected of God to the North to sell charms that are
never still to the Amir? The camels shall not gall, the sons shall not
fall sick, and the wives shall remain faithful while they are away, of
the men who give me place in their caravan. Who will assist me to
slipper the King of the Roos with a golden slipper with a silver heel?
The protection of Pir Khan be upon his labours!’ He spread out the
skirts of his gaberdine and pirouetted between the lines of tethered
horses.

‘There starts a caravan from Peshawar to Kabul in twenty days,
_Huzrut_,’ said the Eusufzai trader. ‘My camels go therewith. Do thou
also go and bring us good luck,’

‘I will go even now!’ shouted the priest. ‘I will depart upon my winged
camels, and be at Peshawar in a day! Ho! Hazar Mir Khan,’ he yelled to
his servant, ‘drive out the camels, but let me first mount my own.’

He leaped on the back of his beast as it knelt, and, turning round to
me, cried: ‘Come thou also, Sahib, a little along the road, and I will
sell thee a charm—an amulet that shall make thee King of Kafiristan.’

Then the light broke upon me, and I followed the two camels out of the
Serai till we reached open road and the priest halted.

‘What d’you think o’ that?’ said he in English. ‘Carnehan can’t talk
their patter, so I’ve made him my servant. He makes a handsome servant.
’Tisn’t for nothing that I’ve been knocking about the country for
fourteen years. Didn’t I do that talk neat? We’ll hitch on to a caravan
at Peshawar till we get to Jagdallak, and then we’ll see if we can get
donkeys for our camels, and strike into Kafiristan. Whirligigs for the
Amir, O Lor! Put your hand under the camel-bags and tell me what you
feel.’

I felt the butt of a Martini, and another and another.

‘Twenty of ’em,’ said Dravot placidly. ‘Twenty of ’em and ammunition to
correspond, under the whirligigs and the mud dolls.’

‘Heaven help you if you are caught with those things!’ I said. ‘A
Martini is worth her weight in silver among the Pathans.’

‘Fifteen hundred rupees of capital—every rupee we could beg, borrow, or
steal—are invested on these two camels,’ said Dravot ‘We won’t get
caught. We’re going through the Khaiber with a regular caravan. Who’d
touch a poor mad priest?’

‘Have you got everything you want?’ I asked, overcome with astonishment.

‘Not yet, but we shall soon. Give us a memento of your kindness,
_Brother_. You did me a service, yesterday, and that time in Marwar.
Half my Kingdom shall you have, as the saying is.’ I slipped a small
charm compass from my watch-chain and handed it up to the priest.

‘Good-bye,’ said Dravot, giving me hand cautiously. ‘It’s the last time
we’ll shake hands with an Englishman these many days. Shake hands with
him, Carnehan,’ he cried, as the second camel passed me.

Carnehan leaned down and shook hands. Then the camels passed away along
the dusty road, and I was left alone to wonder. My eye could detect no
failure in the disguises. The scene in the Serai proved that they were
complete to the native mind. There was just the chance, therefore, that
Carnehan and Dravot would be able to wander through Afghanistan without
detection. But, beyond, they would find death—certain and awful death.

Ten days later a native correspondent giving me the news of the day from
Peshawar, wound up his letter with: ‘There has been much laughter here
on account of a certain mad priest who is going in his estimation to
sell petty gauds and insignificant trinkets which he ascribes as great
charms to H.H. the Amir of Bokhara. He passed through Peshawar and
associated himself to the Second Summer caravan that goes to Kabul. The
merchants are pleased because through superstition they imagine that
such mad fellows bring good fortune.’

The two, then, were beyond the Border. I would have prayed for them,
but, that night, a real King died in Europe, and demanded an obituary
notice.

                  *       *       *       *       *

The wheel of the world swings through the same phases again and again.
Summer passed and winter thereafter, and came and passed again. The
daily paper continued and I with it, and upon the third summer there
fell a hot night, a night-issue, and a strained waiting for something to
be telegraphed from the other side of the world, exactly as had happened
before. A few great men had died in the past two years, the machines
worked with more clatter, and some of the trees in the office garden
were a few feet taller. But that was all the difference.

I passed over to the press-room, and went through just such a scene as I
have already described. The nervous tension was stronger than it had
been two years before, and I felt the heat more acutely. At three
o’clock I cried, ‘Print off,’ and turned to go, when there crept to my
chair what was left of a man. He was bent into a circle, his head was
sunk between his shoulders, and he moved his feet one over the other
like a bear. I could hardly see whether he walked or crawled—this
rag-wrapped, whining cripple who addressed me by name, crying that he
was come back. ‘Can you give me a drink?’ he whimpered. ‘For the Lord’s
sake give me a drink!’

I went back to the office, the man following with groans of pain, and I
turned up the lamp.

‘Don’t you know me?’ he gasped, dropping into a chair, and he turned his
drawn face, surmounted by a shock of gray hair, to the light.

I looked at him intently. Once before had I seen eyebrows that met over
the nose in an inch-broad black band, but for the life of me I could not
tell where.

‘I don’t know you,’ I said, handing him the whisky. ‘What can I do for
you?’

He took a gulp of the spirit raw, and shivered in spite of the
suffocating heat.

‘I’ve come back,’ he repeated; ‘and I was the King of Kafiristan—me and
Dravot—crowned Kings we was! In this office we settled it—you setting
there and giving us the books. I am Peachey—Peachey Taliaferro Carnehan,
and you’ve been setting here ever since—O Lord!’

I was more than a little astonished, and expressed my feelings
accordingly.

‘It’s true,’ said Carnehan, with a dry cackle, nursing his feet, which
were wrapped in rags. ‘True as gospel. Kings we were, with crowns upon
our heads—me and Dravot—poor Dan—oh, poor, poor Dan, that would never
take advice, not though I begged of him!’

‘Take the whisky,’ I said, ‘and take your own time. Tell me all you can
recollect of everything from beginning to end. You got across the Border
on your camels, Dravot dressed as a mad priest and you his servant. Do
you remember that?’

‘I ain’t mad—yet, but I shall be that way soon. Of course I remember.
Keep looking at me, or maybe my words will go all to pieces. Keep
looking at me in my eyes and don’t say anything.’

I leaned forward and looked into his face as steadily as I could. He
dropped one hand upon the table and I grasped it by the wrist. It was
twisted like a bird’s claw, and upon the back was a ragged red
diamond-shaped scar.

‘No, don’t look there. Look at _me_,’ said Carnehan. ‘That comes
afterwards, but for the Lord’s sake don’t distrack me. We left with that
caravan, me and Dravot playing all sorts of antics to amuse the people
we were with. Dravot used to make us laugh in the evenings when all the
people was cooking their dinners—cooking their dinners, and ... what did
they do then? They lit little fires with sparks that went into Dravot’s
beard, and we all laughed—fit to die. Little red fires they was, going
into Dravot’s big red beard—so funny.’ His eyes left mine and he smiled
foolishly.

‘You went as far as Jagdallak with that caravan,’ I said at a venture,
‘after you had lit those fires. To Jagdallak, where you turned off to
try to get into Kafiristan.’

‘No, we didn’t neither. What are you talking about? We turned off before
Jagdallak, because we heard the roads was good. But they wasn’t good
enough for our two camels—mine and Dravot’s. When we left the caravan,
Dravot took off all his clothes and mine too, and said we would be
heathen, because the Kafirs didn’t allow Mohammedans to talk to them. So
we dressed betwixt and between, and such a sight as Daniel Dravot I
never saw yet nor expect to see again. He burned half his beard, and
slung a sheepskin over his shoulder, and shaved his head into patterns.
He shaved mine, too, and made me wear outrageous things to look like a
heathen. That was in a most mountaineous country, and our camels
couldn’t go along any more because of the mountains. They were tall and
black, and coming home I saw them fight like wild goats—there are lots
of goats in Kafiristan. And these mountains, they never keep still, no
more than the goats. Always fighting they are, and don’t let you sleep
at night.’

‘Take some more whisky,’ I said very slowly. ‘What did you and Daniel
Dravot do when the camels could go no farther because of the rough roads
that led into Kafiristan?’

‘What did which do? There was a party called Peachey Taliaferro Carnehan
that was with Dravot. Shall I tell you about him? He died out there in
the cold. Slap from the bridge fell old Peachey, turning and twisting in
the air like a penny whirligig that you can sell to the Amir.—No; they
was two for three-ha’pence, those whirligigs, or I am much mistaken and
woful sore.... And then these camels were no use, and Peachey said to
Dravot—“For the Lord’s sake let’s get out of this before our heads are
chopped off,” and with that they killed the camels all among the
mountains, not having anything in particular to eat, but first they took
off the boxes with the guns and the ammunition, till two men came along
driving four mules. Dravot up and dances in front of them, singing—“Sell
me four mules.” Says the first man—“If you are rich enough to buy, you
are rich enough to rob”; but before ever he could put his hand to his
knife, Dravot breaks his neck over his knee, and the other party runs
away. So Carnehan loaded the mules with the rifles that was taken off
the camels, and together we starts forward into those bitter cold
mountaineous parts, and never a road broader than the back of your
hand.’

He paused for a moment, while I asked him if he could remember the
nature of the country through which he had journeyed.

‘I am telling you as straight as I can, but my head isn’t as good as it
might be. They drove nails through it to make me hear better how Dravot
died. The country was mountaineous and the mules were most contrary, and
the inhabitants was dispersed and solitary. They went up and up, and
down and down, and that other party, Carnehan, was imploring of Dravot
not to sing and whistle so loud, for fear of bringing down the tremenjus
avalanches. But Dravot says that if a King couldn’t sing it wasn’t worth
being King, and whacked the mules over the rump, and never took no heed
for ten cold days. We came to a big level valley all among the
mountains, and the mules were near dead, so we killed them, not having
anything in special for them or us to eat. We sat upon the boxes, and
played odd and even with the cartridges that was jolted out.

‘Then ten men with bows and arrows ran down that valley, chasing twenty
men with bows and arrows, and the row was tremenjus. They was fair
men—fairer than you or me—with yellow hair and remarkable well built.
Says Dravot, unpacking the guns—“This is the beginning of the business.
We’ll fight for the ten men,” and with that he fires two rifles at the
twenty men, and drops one of them at two hundred yards from the rock
where he was sitting. The other men began to run, but Carnehan and
Dravot sits on the boxes picking them off at all ranges, up and down the
valley. Then we goes up to the ten men that had run across the snow too,
and they fires a footy little arrow at us. Dravot he shoots above their
heads and they all falls down flat. Then he walks over them and kicks
them, and then he lifts them up and shakes hands all round to make them
friendly like. He calls them and gives them the boxes to carry, and
waves his hand for all the world as though he was King already. They
takes the boxes and him across the valley and up the hill into a pine
wood on the top, where there was half-a-dozen big stone idols. Dravot he
goes to the biggest—a fellow they call Imbra—and lays a rifle and a
cartridge at his feet, rubbing his nose respectful with his own nose,
patting him on the head, and saluting in front of it. He turns round to
the men and nods his head, and says—“That’s all right. I’m in the know
too, and all these old jim-jams are my friends.” Then he opens his mouth
and points down it, and when the first man brings him food, he
says—“No”; and when the second man brings him food he says—“No”; but
when one of the old priests and the boss of the village brings him food,
he says—“Yes” very haughty, and eats it slow. That was how we came to
our first village, without any trouble, just as though we had tumbled
from the skies. But we tumbled from one of those damned rope-bridges,
you see, and—you couldn’t expect a man to laugh much after that?’

‘Take some more whisky and go on,’ I said. ‘That was the first village
you came into. How did you get to be King?’

‘I wasn’t King,’ said Carnehan. ‘Dravot he was the King, and a handsome
man he looked with the gold crown on his head and all. Him and the other
party stayed in that village, and every morning Dravot sat by the side
of old Imbra, and the people came and worshipped. That was Dravot’s
order. Then a lot of men came into the valley, and Carnehan and Dravot
picks them off with the rifles before they knew where they was, and runs
down into the valley and up again the other side and finds another
village, same as the first one, and the people all falls down flat on
their faces, and Dravot says—“Now what is the trouble between you two
villages?” and the people points to a woman, as fair as you or me, that
was carried off, and Dravot takes her back to the first village and
counts up the dead—eight there was. For each dead man Dravot pours a
little milk on the ground and waves his arms like a whirligig, and
“That’s all right,” says he. Then he and Carnehan takes the big boss of
each village by the arm and walks them down into the valley, and shows
them how to scratch a line with a spear right down the valley, and gives
each a sod of turf from both sides of the line. Then all the people
comes down and shouts like the devil and all, and Dravot says—“Go and
dig the land, and be fruitful and multiply,” which they did, though they
didn’t understand. Then we asks the names of things in their lingo—bread
and water and fire and idols and such, and Dravot leads the priest of
each village up to the idol, and says he must sit there and judge the
people, and if anything goes wrong he is to be shot.

‘Next week they was all turning up the land in the valley as quiet as
bees and much prettier, and the priests heard all the complaints and
told Dravot in dumb show what it was about. “That’s just the beginning,”
says Dravot “They think we’re Gods.” He and Carnehan picks out twenty
good men and shows them how to click off a rifle, and form fours, and
advance in line, and they was very pleased to do so, and clever to see
the hang of it. Then he takes out his pipe and his baccy-pouch and
leaves one at one village, and one at the other, and off we two goes to
see what was to be done in the next valley. That was all rock, and there
was a little village there, and Carnehan says—“Send ’em to the old
valley to plant,” and takes ’em there, and gives ’em some land that
wasn’t took before. They were a poor lot, and we blooded ’em with a kid
before letting ’em into the new Kingdom. That was to impress the people,
and then they settled down quiet, and Carnehan went back to Dravot who
had got into another valley, all snow and ice and most mountaineous.
There was no people there and the Army got afraid, so Dravot shoots one
of them, and goes on till he finds some people in a village, and the
Army explains that unless the people wants to be killed they had better
not shoot their little matchlocks; for they had matchlocks. We makes
friends with the priest, and I stays there alone with two of the Army,
teaching the men how to drill, and a thundering big Chief comes across
the snow with kettle-drums and horns twanging, because he heard there
was a new God kicking about. Carnehan sights for the brown of the men
half a mile across the snow and wings one of them. Then he sends a
message to the Chief that, unless he wished to be killed, he must come
and shake hands with me and leave his arms behind. The Chief comes alone
first, and Carnehan shakes hands with him and whirls his arms about,
same as Dravot used, and very much surprised that Chief was, and strokes
my eyebrows. Then Carnehan goes alone to the Chief, and asks him in dumb
show if he had an enemy he hated. “I have,” says the Chief. So Carnehan
weeds out the pick of his men, and sets the two of the Army to show them
drill, and at the end of two weeks the men can manœuvre about as well as
Volunteers. So he marches with the Chief to a great big plain on the top
of a mountain, and the Chief’s men rushes into a village and takes it;
we three Martinis firing into the brown of the enemy. So we took that
village too, and I gives the Chief a rag from my coat and says, “Occupy
till I come”; which was scriptural. By way of a reminder, when me and
the Army was eighteen hundred yards away, I drops a bullet near him
standing on the snow, and all the people falls flat on their faces. Then
I sends a letter to Dravot wherever he be by land or by sea.’

At the risk of throwing the creature out of train I interrupted—‘How
could you write a letter up yonder?’

‘The letter?—Oh!—The letter! Keep looking at me between the eyes,
please. It was a string-talk letter, that we’d learned the way of it
from a blind beggar in the Punjab.’

I remember that there had once come to the office a blind man with a
knotted twig and a piece of string which he wound round the twig
according to some cipher of his own. He could, after the lapse of days
or hours, repeat the sentence which he had reeled up. He had reduced the
alphabet to eleven primitive sounds, and tried to teach me his method,
but I could not understand.

‘I sent that letter to Dravot,’ said Carnehan; ‘and told him to come
back because this Kingdom was growing too big for me to handle, and then
I struck for the first valley, to see how the priests were working. They
called the village we took along with the Chief, Bashkai, and the first
village we took, Er-Heb. The priests at Er-Heb was doing all right, but
they had a lot of pending cases about land to show me, and some men from
another village had been firing arrows at night. I went out and looked
for that village, and fired four rounds at it from a thousand yards.
That used all the cartridges I cared to spend, and I waited for Dravot,
who had been away two or three months, and I kept my people quiet.

‘One morning I heard the devil’s own noise of drums and horns, and Dan
Dravot marches down the hill with his Army and a tail of hundreds of
men, and, which was the most amazing, a great gold crown on his head.
“My Gord, Carnehan,” says Daniel, “this is a tremenjus business, and
we’ve got the whole country as far as it’s worth having. I am the son of
Alexander by Queen Semiramis, and you’re my younger brother and a God
too! It’s the biggest thing we’ve ever seen. I’ve been marching and
fighting for six weeks with the Army, and every footy little village for
fifty miles has come in rejoiceful; and more than that, I’ve got the key
of the whole show, as you’ll see, and I’ve got a crown for you! I told
’em to make two of ’em at a place called Shu, where the gold lies in the
rock like suet in mutton. Gold I’ve seen, and turquoise I’ve kicked out
of the cliffs, and there’s garnets in the sands of the river, and here’s
a chunk of amber that a man brought me. Call up all the priests and,
here, take your crown.”

‘One of the men opens a black hair bag, and I slips the crown on. It was
too small and too heavy, but I wore it for the glory. Hammered gold it
was—five pound weight, like a hoop of a barrel.

‘“Peachey,” says Dravot, “we don’t want to fight no more. The Craft’s
the trick, so help me!” and he brings forward that same Chief that I
left at Bashkai—Billy Fish we called him afterwards, because he was so
like Billy Fish that drove the big tank-engine at Mach on the Bolan in
the old days. “Shake hands with him,” says Dravot, and I shook hands and
nearly dropped, for Billy Fish gave me the Grip. I said nothing, but
tried him with the Fellow Craft Grip. He answers all right, and I tried
the Master’s Grip, but that was a slip. “A Fellow Craft he is!” I says
to Dan. “Does he know the word?”—“He does,” says Dan, “and all the
priests know. It’s a miracle! The Chiefs and the priests can work a
Fellow Craft Lodge in a way that’s very like ours, and they’ve cut the
marks on the rocks, but they don’t know the Third Degree, and they’ve
come to find out. It’s Gord’s Truth. I’ve known these long years that
the Afghans knew up to the Fellow Craft Degree, but this is a miracle. A
God and a Grand-Master of the Craft am I, and a Lodge in the Third
Degree I will open, and we’ll raise the head priests and the Chiefs of
the villages.”

‘“It’s against all the law,” I says, “holding a Lodge without warrant
from any one; and you know we never held office in any Lodge.”

‘“It’s a master-stroke o’ policy,” says Dravot. “It means running the
country as easy as a four-wheeled bogie on a down grade. We can’t stop
to inquire now, or they’ll turn against us. I’ve forty Chiefs at my
heel, and passed and raised according to their merit they shall be.
Billet these men on the villages, and see that we run up a Lodge of some
kind. The temple of Imbra will do for the Lodge-room. The women must
make aprons as you show them. I’ll hold a levee of Chiefs to-night and
Lodge to-morrow.”

‘I was fair run off my legs, but I wasn’t such a fool as not to see what
a pull this Craft business gave us. I showed the priests’ families how
to make aprons of the degrees, but for Dravot’s apron the blue border
and marks was made of turquoise lumps on white hide, not cloth. We took
a great square stone in the temple for the Master’s chair, and little
stones for the officers’ chairs, and painted the black pavement with
white squares, and did what we could to make things regular.

‘At the levee which was held that night on the hillside with big
bonfires, Dravot gives out that him and me were Gods and sons of
Alexander, and Past Grand-Masters in the Craft, and was come to make
Kafiristan a country where every man should eat in peace and drink in
quiet, and specially obey us. Then the Chiefs come round to shake hands,
and they were so hairy and white and fair it was just shaking hands with
old friends. We gave them names according as they was like men we had
known in India—Billy Fish, Holly Dilworth, Pikky Kergan, that was
Bazar-master when I was at Mhow, and so on, and so on.

‘_The_ most amazing miracles was at Lodge next night. One of the old
priests was watching us continuous, and I felt uneasy, for I knew we’d
have to fudge the Ritual, and I didn’t know what the men knew. The old
priest was a stranger come in from beyond the village of Bashkai. The
minute Dravot puts on the Master’s apron that the girls had made for
him, the priest fetches a whoop and a howl, and tries to overturn the
stone that Dravot was sitting on. “It’s all up now,” I says. “That comes
of meddling with the Craft without warrant!” Dravot never winked an eye,
not when ten priests took and tilted over the Grand-master’s chair—which
was to say the stone of Imbra. The priest begins rubbing the bottom end
of it to clear away the black dirt, and presently he shows all the other
priests the Master’s-Mark, same as was on Dravot’s apron, cut into the
stone. Not even the priests of the temple of Imbra knew it was there.
The old chap falls flat on his face at Dravot’s feet and kisses ’em.
“Luck again,” says Dravot, across the Lodge to me; “they say it’s the
missing Mark that no one could understand the why of. We’re more than
safe now.” Then he bangs the butt of his gun for a gavel and says: “By
virtue of the authority vested in me by my own right hand and the help
of Peachey, I declare myself Grand-Master of all Freemasonry in
Kafiristan in this the Mother Lodge o’ the country, and King of
Kafiristan equally with Peachey!” At that he puts on his crown and I
puts on mine—I was doing Senior Warden—and we opens the Lodge in most
ample form. It was a amazing miracle! The priests moved in Lodge through
the first two degrees almost without telling, as if the memory was
coming back to them. After that, Peachey and Dravot raised such as was
worthy—high priests and Chiefs of far-off villages. Billy Fish was the
first, and I can tell you we scared the soul out of him. It was not in
any way according to Ritual, but it served our turn. We didn’t raise
more than ten of the biggest men, because we didn’t want to make the
Degree common. And they was clamouring to be raised.

‘“In another six months,” says Dravot, “we’ll hold another
Communication, and see how you are working.” Then he asks them about
their villages, and learns that they was fighting one against the other,
and were sick and tired of it. And when they wasn’t doing that they was
fighting with the Mohammedans. “You can fight those when they come into
our country,” says Dravot. “Tell off every tenth man of your tribes for
a Frontier guard, and send two hundred at a time to this valley to be
drilled. Nobody is going to be shot or speared any more so long as he
does well, and I know that you won’t cheat me, because you’re white
people—sons of Alexander—and not like common, black Mohammedans. You are
_my_ people, and by God,” says he, running off into English at the
end—“I’ll make a damned fine Nation of you, or I’ll die in the making!”

‘I can’t tell all we did for the next six months, because Dravot did a
lot I couldn’t see the hang of, and he learned their lingo in a way I
never could. My work was to help the people plough, and now and again go
out with some of the Army and see what the other villages were doing,
and make ’em throw rope-bridges across the ravines which cut up the
country horrid. Dravot was very kind to me, but when he walked up and
down in the pine wood pulling that bloody red beard of his with both
fists I knew he was thinking plans I could not advise about, and I just
waited for orders.

‘But Dravot never showed me disrespect before the people. They were
afraid of me and the Army, but they loved Dan. He was the best of
friends with the priests and the Chiefs; but any one could come across
the hills with a complaint, and Dravot would hear him out fair, and call
four priests together and say what was to be done. He used to call in
Billy Fish from Bashkai, and Pikky Kergan from Shu, and an old Chief we
called Kafuzelum—it was like enough to his real name—and hold councils
with ’em when there was any fighting to be done in small villages. That
was his Council of War, and the four priests of Bashkai, Shu, Khawak,
and Madora was his Privy Council. Between the lot of ’em they sent me,
with forty men and twenty rifles and sixty men carrying turquoises, into
the Ghorband country to buy those hand-made Martini rifles, that come
out of the Amir’s workshops at Kabul, from one of the Amir’s Herati
regiments that would have sold the very teeth out of their mouths for
turquoises.

‘I stayed in Ghorband a month, and gave the Governor there the pick of
my baskets for hush-money, and bribed the Colonel of the regiment some
more, and, between the two and the tribes-people, we got more than a
hundred hand-made Martinis, a hundred good Kohat Jezails that’ll throw
to six hundred yards, and forty man-loads of very bad ammunition for the
rifles. I came back with what I had, and distributed ’em among the men
that the Chiefs sent in to me to drill. Dravot was too busy to attend to
those things, but the old Army that we first made helped me, and we
turned out five hundred men that could drill, and two hundred that knew
how to hold arms pretty straight Even those cork-screwed, hand-made guns
was a miracle to them. Dravot talked big about powder-shops and
factories, walking up and down in the pine wood when the winter was
coming on.

‘“I won’t make a Nation,” says he. “I’ll make an Empire! These men
aren’t niggers; they’re English! Look at their eyes—look at their
mouths. Look at the way they stand up. They sit on chairs in their own
houses. They’re the Lost Tribes, or something like it, and they’ve grown
to be English. I’ll take a census in the spring if the priests don’t get
frightened. There must be a fair two million of ’em in these hills. The
villages are full o’ little children. Two million people—two hundred and
fifty thousand fighting men—and all English! They only want the rifles
and a little drilling. Two hundred and fifty thousand men, ready to cut
in on Russia’s right flank when she tries for India! Peachey, man,” he
says, chewing his beard in great hunks, “we shall be Emperors—Emperors
of the Earth! Rajah Brooke will be a suckling to us. I’ll treat with the
Viceroy on equal terms. I’ll ask him to send me twelve picked
English—twelve that I know of—to help us govern a bit. There’s Mackray,
Sergeant-pensioner at Segowli—many’s the good dinner he’s given me, and
his wife a pair of trousers. There’s Donkin, the Warder of Tounghoo
Jail; there’s hundreds that I could lay my hand on if I was in India.
The Viceroy shall do it for me. I’ll send a man through in the spring
for those men, and I’ll write for a dispensation from the Grand Lodge
for what I’ve done as Grand-Master. That—and all the Sniders that’ll be
thrown out when the native troops in India take up the Martini. They’ll
be worn smooth, but they’ll do for fighting in these hills. Twelve
English, a hundred thousand Sniders run through the Amir’s country in
driblets—I’d be content with twenty thousand in one year—and we’d be an
Empire. When everything was shipshape, I’d hand over the crown—this
crown I’m wearing now—to Queen Victoria on my knees, and she’d say:
‘Rise up, Sir Daniel Dravot.’ Oh, it’s big! It’s big, I tell you! But
there’s so much to be done in every place—Bashkai, Khawak Shu, and
everywhere else.”

‘“What is it?” I says. “There are no more men coming in to be drilled
this autumn. Look at those fat, black clouds. They’re bringing the
snow.”

‘“It isn’t that,” said Daniel, putting his hand very hard on my
shoulder; “and I don’t wish to say anything that’s against you, for no
other living man would have followed me and made me what I am as you
have done. You’re a first-class Commander-in-Chief, and the people know
you; but—it’s a big country, and somehow you can’t help me, Peachey, in
the way I want to be helped.”

‘“Go to your blasted priests, then!” I said, and I was sorry when I made
that remark, but it did hurt me sore to find Daniel talking so superior
when I’d drilled all the men, and done all he told me.

‘“Don’t let’s quarrel, Peachey,” says Daniel without cursing. “You’re a
King too, and the half of this Kingdom is yours; but can’t you see,
Peachey, we want cleverer men than us now—three or four of ’em, that we
can scatter about for our Deputies. It’s a hugeous great State, and I
can’t always tell the right thing to do, and I haven’t time for all I
want to do, and here’s the winter coming on and all.” He put half his
beard into his mouth, all red like the gold of his crown.

‘“I’m sorry, Daniel,” says I. “I’ve done all I could. I’ve drilled the
men and shown the people how to stack their oats better; and I’ve
brought in those tinware rifles from Ghorband—but I know what you’re
driving at. I take it Kings always feel oppressed that way.”

‘“There’s another thing too,” says Dravot, walking up and down. “The
winter’s coming and these people won’t be giving much trouble, and if
they do we can’t move about. I want a wife.”

‘“For Gord’s sake leave the women alone!” I says. “We’ve both got all
the work we can, though I _am_ a fool. Remember the Contrack, and keep
clear o’ women.”

‘“The Contrack only lasted till such time as we was Kings; and Kings we
have been these months past,” says Dravot, weighing his crown in his
hand. “You go get a wife too, Peachey—a nice, strappin’, plump girl
that’ll keep you warm in the winter. They’re prettier than English
girls, and we can take the pick of ’em. Boil ’em once or twice in hot
water and they’ll come out like chicken and ham.”

‘“Don’t tempt me!” I says. “I will not have any dealings with a woman
not till we are a dam’ side more settled than we are now. I’ve been
doing the work o’ two men, and you’ve been doing the work o’ three.
Let’s lie off a bit, and see if we can get some better tobacco from
Afghan country and run in some good liquor; but no women.”

‘“Who’s talking o’ _women_?” says Dravot. “I said _wife_—a Queen to
breed a King’s son for the King. A Queen out of the strongest tribe,
that’ll make them your blood-brothers, and that’ll lie by your side and
tell you all the people thinks about you and their own affairs. That’s
what I want.”

‘“Do you remember that Bengali woman I kept at Mogul Serai when I was a
plate-layer?” says I. “A fat lot o’ good she was to me. She taught me
the lingo and one or two other things; but what happened? She ran away
with the Station-master’s servant and half my month’s pay. Then she
turned up at Dadur Junction in tow of a half-caste, and had the
impidence to say I was her husband—all among the drivers in the
running-shed too!”

‘“We’ve done with that,” says Dravot; “these women are whiter than you
or me, and a Queen I will have for the winter months.”

‘“For the last time o’ asking, Dan, do _not_,” I says. “It’ll only bring
us harm. The Bible says that Kings ain’t to waste their strength on
women, ’specially when they’ve got a new raw Kingdom to work over.”

‘“For the last time of answering I will,” said Dravot, and he went away
through the pine-trees looking like a big red devil, the sun being on
his crown and beard and all.

‘But getting a wife was not as easy as Dan thought. He put it before the
Council, and there was no answer till Billy Fish said that he’d better
ask the girls. Dravot damned them all round. “What’s wrong with me?” he
shouts, standing by the idol Imbra. “Am I a dog or am I not enough of a
man for your wenches? Haven’t I put the shadow of my hand over this
country? Who stopped the last Afghan raid?” It was me really, but Dravot
was too angry to remember. “Who bought your guns? Who repaired the
bridges? Who’s the Grand-Master of the sign cut in the stone?” says he,
and he thumped his hand on the block that he used to sit on in Lodge,
and at Council, which opened like Lodge always. Billy Fish said nothing
and no more did the others. “Keep your hair on, Dan,” said I; “and ask
the girls. That’s how it’s done at Home, and these people are quite
English.”

‘“The marriage of the King is a matter of State,” says Dan, in a
white-hot rage, for he could feel, I hope, that he was going against his
better mind. He walked out of the Council-room, and the others sat
still, looking at the ground.

‘“Billy Fish,” says I to the Chief of Bashkai, “what’s the difficulty
here? A straight answer to a true friend.”

‘“You know,” says Billy Fish. “How should a man tell you who knows
everything? How can daughters of men marry Gods or Devils? It’s not
proper.”

‘I remembered something like that in the Bible; but if, after seeing us
as long as they had, they still believed we were Gods, it wasn’t for me
to undeceive them.

‘“A God can do anything,” says I. “If the King is fond of a girl he’ll
not let her die.”—“She’ll have to,” said Billy Fish. “There are all
sorts of Gods and Devils in these mountains, and now and again a girl
marries one of them and isn’t seen any more. Besides, you two know the
Mark cut in the stone. Only the Gods know that. We thought you were men
till you showed the sign of the Master.”

‘I wished then that we had explained about the loss of the genuine
secrets of a Master-Mason at the first go-off; but I said nothing. All
that night there was a blowing of horns in a little dark temple half-way
down the hill, and I heard a girl crying fit to die. One of the priests
told us that she was being prepared to marry the King.

‘“I’ll have no nonsense of that kind,” says Dan. “I don’t want to
interfere with your customs, but I’ll take my own wife.”—“The girl’s a
little bit afraid,” says the priest. “She thinks she’s going to die, and
they are a-heartening of her up down in the temple.”

‘“Hearten her very tender, then,” says Dravot, “or I’ll hearten you with
the butt of a gun so you’ll never want to be heartened again.” He licked
his lips, did Dan, and stayed up walking about more than half the night,
thinking of the wife that he was going to get in the morning. I wasn’t
any means comfortable, for I knew that dealings with a woman in foreign
parts, though you was a crowned King twenty times over, could not but be
risky. I got up very early in the morning while Dravot was asleep, and I
saw the priests talking together in whispers, and the Chiefs talking
together too, and they looked at me out of the corners of their eyes.

‘“What is up, Fish?” I say to the Bashkai man, who was wrapped up in his
furs and looking splendid to behold.

‘“I can’t rightly say,” says he; “but if you can make the King drop all
this nonsense about marriage, you’ll be doing him and me and yourself a
great service.”

‘“That I do believe,” says I. “But sure, you know, Billy, as well as me,
having fought against and for us, that the King and me are nothing more
than two of the finest men that God Almighty ever made. Nothing more, I
do assure you.”

‘“That may be,” says Billy Fish, “and yet I should be sorry if it was.”
He sinks his head upon his great fur cloak for a minute and thinks.
“King,” says he, “be you man or God or Devil, I’ll stick by you to-day.
I have twenty of my men with me, and they will follow me. We’ll go to
Bashkai until the storm blows over.”

‘A little snow had fallen in the night, and everything was white except
the greasy fat clouds that blew down and down from the north. Dravot
came out with his crown on his head, swinging his arms and stamping his
feet, and looking more pleased than Punch.

‘“For the last time, drop it, Dan,” says I in a whisper, “Billy Fish
here says that there will be a row.”

‘“A row among my people!” says Dravot. “Not much. Peachey, you’re a fool
not to get a wife too. Where’s the girl?” says he with a voice as loud
as the braying of a jackass. “Call up all the Chiefs and priests, and
let the Emperor see if his wife suits him.”

‘There was no need to call any one. They were all there leaning on their
guns and spears round the clearing in the centre of the pine wood. A lot
of priests went down to the little temple to bring up the girl, and the
horns blew fit to wake the dead. Billy Fish saunters round and gets as
close to Daniel as he could, and behind him stood his twenty men with
matchlocks. Not a man of them under six feet. I was next to Dravot, and
behind me was twenty men of the regular Army. Up comes the girl, and a
strapping wench she was, covered with silver and turquoises, but white
as death, and looking back every minute at the priests.

‘“She’ll do,” said Dan, looking her over. “What’s to be afraid of, lass?
Come and kiss me.” He puts his arm round her. She shuts her eyes, gives
a bit of a squeak, and down goes her face in the side of Dan’s flaming
red beard.

‘“The slut’s bitten me!” says he, clapping his hand to his neck, and,
sure enough, his hand was red with blood. Billy Fish and two of his
matchlock-men catches hold of Dan by the shoulders and drags him into
the Bashkai lot, while the priests howl in their lingo—“Neither God nor
Devil but a man!” I was all taken aback, for a priest cut at me in
front, and the Army behind began firing into the Bashkai men.

‘“God A’mighty!” says Dan. “What is the meaning o’ this?”

‘“Come back! Come away!” says Billy Fish. “Ruin and Mutiny is the
matter. We’ll break for Bashkai if we can.”

‘I tried to give some sort of orders to my men—the men o’ the regular
Army—but it was no use, so I fired into the brown of ’em with an English
Martini and drilled three beggars in a line. The valley was full of
shouting, howling creatures, and every soul was shrieking, “Not a God
nor a Devil but only a man!” The Bashkai troops stuck to Billy Fish all
they were worth, but their matchlocks wasn’t half as good as the Kabul
breechloaders, and four of them dropped. Dan was bellowing like a bull,
for he was very wrathy; and Billy Fish had a hard job to prevent him
running out at the crowd.

‘“We can’t stand,” says Billy Fish. “Make a run for it down the valley!
The whole place is against us.” The matchlock-men ran, and we went down
the valley in spite of Dravot. He was swearing horrible and crying out
he was a King. The priests rolled great stones on us, and the regular
Army fired hard, and there wasn’t more than six men, not counting Dan,
Billy Fish, and Me, that came down to the bottom of the valley alive.

‘Then they stopped firing and the horns in the temple blew again. “Come
away—for God’s sake come away!” says Billy Fish. “They’ll send runners
out to all the villages before ever we get to Bashkai. I can protect you
there, but I can’t do anything now.”

‘My own notion is that Dan began to go mad in his head from that hour.
He stared up and down like a stuck pig. Then he was all for walking back
alone and killing the priests with his bare hands; which he could have
done. “An Emperor am I,” says Daniel, “and next year I shall be a Knight
of the Queen.”

‘“All right, Dan,” says I; “but come along now while there’s time.”

‘“It’s your fault,” says he, “for not looking after your Army better.
There was mutiny in the midst, and you didn’t know—you damned
engine-driving, plate-laying, missionary’s-pass-hunting hound!” He sat
upon a rock and called me every foul name he could lay tongue to. I was
too heart-sick to care, though it was all his foolishness that brought
the smash.

‘“I’m sorry, Dan,” says I, “but there’s no accounting for natives. This
business is our Fifty-Seven. Maybe we’ll make something out of it yet,
when we’ve got to Bashkai.”

‘“Let’s get to Bashkai, then,” says Dan, “and, by God, when I come back
here again I’ll sweep the valley so there isn’t a bug in a blanket
left!”

‘We walked all that day, and all that night Dan was stumping up and down
on the snow, chewing his beard and muttering to himself.

‘“There’s no hope o’ getting clear,” said Billy Fish. “The priests will
have sent runners to the villages to say that you are only men. Why
didn’t you stick on as Gods till things was more settled? I’m a dead
man,” says Billy Fish, and he throws himself down on the snow and begins
to pray to his Gods.

‘Next morning we was in a cruel bad country—all up and down, no level
ground at all, and no food either. The six Bashkai men looked at Billy
Fish hungry-way as if they wanted to ask something, but they said never
a word. At noon we came to the top of a flat mountain all covered with
snow, and when we climbed up into it, behold, there was an Army in
position waiting in the middle!

‘“The runners have been very quick,” says Billy Fish, with a little bit
of a laugh. “They are waiting for us.”

‘Three or four men began to fire from the enemy’s side, and a chance
shot took Daniel in the calf of the leg. That brought him to his senses.
He looks across the snow at the Army, and sees the rifles that we had
brought into the country.

‘“We’re done for,” says he. “They are Englishmen, these people,—and it’s
my blasted nonsense that has brought you to this. Get back, Billy Fish,
and take your men away; you’ve done what you could, and now cut for it.
Carnehan,” says he, “shake hands with me and go along with Billy. Maybe
they won’t kill you. I’ll go and meet ’em alone. It’s me that did it.
Me, the King!”

‘“Go!” says I. “Go to Hell, Dan! I’m with you here. Billy Fish, you
clear out, and we two will meet those folk.”

‘“I’m a Chief,” says Billy Fish, quite quiet. “I stay with you. My men
can go.”

‘The Bashkai fellows didn’t wait for a second word, but ran off, and Dan
and Me and Billy Fish walked across to where the drums were drumming and
the horns were horning. It was cold—awful cold. I’ve got that cold in
the back of my head now. There’s a lump of it there.’

The punkah-coolies had gone to sleep. Two kerosene lamps were blazing in
the office, and the perspiration poured down my face and splashed on the
blotter as I leaned forward. Carnehan was shivering, and I feared that
his mind might go. I wiped my face, took a fresh grip of the piteously
mangled hands, and said: ‘What happened after that?’

The momentary shift of my eyes had broken the clear current.

‘What was you pleased to say?’ whined Carnehan. ‘They took them without
any sound. Not a little whisper all along the snow, not though the King
knocked down the first man that set hand on him—not though old Peachey
fired his last cartridge into the brown of ’em. Not a single solitary
sound did those swines make. They just closed up tight, and I tell you
their furs stunk. There was a man called Billy Fish, a good friend of us
all, and they cut his throat, Sir, then and there, like a pig; and the
King kicks up the bloody snow and says: “We’ve had a dashed fine run for
our money. What’s coming next?” But Peachey, Peachey Taliaferro, I tell
you, Sir, in confidence as betwixt two friends, he lost his head, Sir.
No, he didn’t neither. The King lost his head, so he did, all along o’
one of those cunning rope-bridges. Kindly let me have the paper-cutter,
Sir. It tilted this way. They marched him a mile across that snow to a
rope-bridge over a ravine with a river at the bottom. You may have seen
such. They prodded him behind like an ox. “Damn your eyes!” says the
King. “D’you suppose I can’t die like a gentleman?” He turns to
Peachey—Peachey that was crying like a child. “I’ve brought you to this,
Peachey,” says he. “Brought you out of your happy life to be killed in
Kafiristan, where you was late Commander-in-Chief of the Emperor’s
forces. Say you forgive me, Peachey.”—“I do,” says Peachey. “Fully and
freely do I forgive you, Dan.”—“Shake hands, Peachey,” says he. “I’m
going now.” Out he goes, looking neither right nor left, and when he was
plumb in the middle of those dizzy dancing ropes—“Cut, you beggars,” he
shouts; and they cut, and old Dan fell, turning round and round and
round, twenty thousand miles, for he took half an hour to fall till he
struck the water, and I could see his body caught on a rock with the
gold crown close beside.

‘But do you know what they did to Peachey between two pine-trees? They
crucified him, Sir, as Peachey’s hand will show. They used wooden pegs
for his hands and his feet; and he didn’t die. He hung there and
screamed, and they took him down next day, and said it was a miracle
that he wasn’t dead. They took him down—poor old Peachey that hadn’t
done them any harm—that hadn’t done them any——’

He rocked to and fro and wept bitterly, wiping his eyes with the back of
his scarred hands and moaning like a child for some ten minutes.

‘They was cruel enough to feed him up in the temple, because they said
he was more of a God than old Daniel that was a man. Then they turned
him out on the snow, and told him to go home, and Peachey came home in
about a year, begging along the roads quite safe; for Daniel Dravot he
walked before and said: “Come along, Peachey. It’s a big thing we’re
doing.” The mountains they danced at night, and the mountains they tried
to fall on Peachey’s head, but Dan he held up his hand, and Peachey came
along bent double. He never let go of Dan’s hand, and he never let go of
Dan’s head. They gave it to him as a present in the temple, to remind
him not to come again, and though the crown was pure gold, and Peachey
was starving, never would Peachey sell the same. You knew Dravot, Sir!
You knew Right Worshipful Brother Dravot! Look at him now!’

He fumbled in the mass of rags round his bent waist; brought out a black
horsehair bag embroidered with silver thread, and shook therefrom on to
my table—the dried, withered head of Daniel Dravot! The morning sun that
had long been paling the lamps struck the red beard and blind sunken
eyes; struck, too, a heavy circlet of gold studded with raw turquoises,
that Carnehan placed tenderly on the battered temples.

‘You be’old now,’ said Carnehan, ‘the Emperor in his ’abit as he
lived—the King of Kafiristan with his crown upon his head. Poor old
Daniel that was a monarch once!’

I shuddered, for, in spite of defacements manifold, I recognised the
head of the man of Marwar Junction. Carnehan rose to go. I attempted to
stop him. He was not fit to walk abroad. ‘Let me take away the whisky,
and give me a little money,’ he gasped. ‘I was a King once. I’ll go to
the Deputy Commissioner and ask to set in the Poorhouse till I get my
health. No, thank you, I can’t wait till you get a carriage for me. I’ve
urgent private affairs—in the south—at Marwar.’

He shambled out of the office and departed in the direction of the
Deputy Commissioner’s house. That day at noon I had occasion to go down
the blinding hot Mall, and I saw a crooked man crawling along the white
dust of the roadside, his hat in his hand, quavering dolorously after
the fashion of street-singers at Home. There was not a soul in sight,
and he was out of all possible earshot of the houses. And he sang
through his nose, turning his head from right to left:—

                   ‘The Son of Man goes forth to war,
                     A golden crown to gain;
                   His bloodied banner streams afar—
                     Who follows in his train?’

I waited to hear no more, but put the poor wretch into my carriage and
drove him off to the nearest missionary for eventual transfer to the
Asylum. He repeated the hymn twice while he was with me whom he did not
in the least recognise, and I left him singing it to the missionary.

Two days later I inquired after his welfare of the Superintendent of the
Asylum.

‘He was admitted suffering from sunstroke. He died early yesterday
morning,’ said the Superintendent. ‘Is it true that he was half an hour
bareheaded in the sun at mid-day?’

‘Yes,’ said I, ‘but do you happen to know if he had anything upon him by
any chance when he died?’

‘Not to my knowledge,’ said the Superintendent.

And there the matter rests.



                           WEE WILLIE WINKIE
                           AND OTHER STORIES


                           WEE WILLIE WINKIE

                       An officer and a gentleman

His full name was Percival William Williams, but he picked up the other
name in a nursery-book, and that was the end of the christened titles.
His mother’s _ayah_ called him Willie-_Baba_, but as he never paid the
faintest attention to anything that the _ayah_ said, her wisdom did not
help matters.

His father was the Colonel of the 195th, and as soon as Wee Willie
Winkie was old enough to understand what Military Discipline meant,
Colonel Williams put him under it. There was no other way of managing
the child. When he was good for a week, he drew good-conduct pay; and
when he was bad, he was deprived of his good-conduct stripe. Generally
he was bad, for India offers many chances of going wrong to little
six-year-olds.

Children resent familiarity from strangers, and Wee Willie Winkie was a
very particular child. Once he accepted an acquaintance, he was
graciously pleased to thaw. He accepted Brandis, a subaltern of the
195th, on sight. Brandis was having tea at the Colonel’s, and Wee Willie
Winkie entered strong in the possession of a good-conduct badge won for
not chasing the hens round the compound. He regarded Brandis with
gravity for at least ten minutes, and then delivered himself of his
opinion.

‘I like you,’ said he slowly, getting off his chair and coming over to
Brandis, ‘I like you. I shall call you Coppy, because of your hair. Do
you _mind_ being called Coppy? It is because of ve hair, you know.’

Here was one of the most embarrassing of Wee Willie Winkie’s
peculiarities. He would look at a stranger for some time, and then,
without warning or explanation, would give him a name. And the name
stuck. No regimental penalties could break Wee Willie Winkie of this
habit. He lost his good-conduct badge for christening the Commissioner’s
wife ‘Pobs’; but nothing that the Colonel could do made the Station
forego the nickname, and Mrs. Collen remained ‘Pobs’ till the end of her
stay. So Brandis was christened ‘Coppy,’ and rose, therefore, in the
estimation of the regiment.

If Wee Willie Winkie took an interest in any one, the fortunate man was
envied alike by the mess and the rank and file. And in their envy lay no
suspicion of self-interest. ‘The Colonel’s son’ was idolised on his own
merits entirely. Yet Wee Willie Winkie was not lovely. His face was
permanently freckled, as his legs were permanently scratched, and in
spite of his mother’s almost tearful remonstrances he had insisted upon
having his long yellow locks cut short in the military fashion. ‘I want
my hair like Sergeant Tummil’s,’ said Wee Willie Winkie, and, his father
abetting, the sacrifice was accomplished.

Three weeks after the bestowal of his youthful affections on Lieutenant
Brandis—henceforward to be called ‘Coppy’ for the sake of brevity—Wee
Willie Winkie was destined to behold strange things and far beyond his
comprehension.

Coppy returned his liking with interest. Coppy had let him wear for five
rapturous minutes his own big sword—just as tall as Wee Willie Winkie.
Coppy had promised him a terrier puppy; and Coppy had permitted him to
witness the miraculous operation of shaving. Nay, more—Coppy had said
that even he, Wee Willie Winkie, would rise in time to the ownership of
a box of shiny knives, a silver soap-box, and a silver-handled
‘sputter-brush,’ as Wee Willie Winkie called it. Decidedly, there was no
one except his father, who could give or take away good-conduct badges
at pleasure, half so wise, strong, and valiant as Coppy with the Afghan
and Egyptian medals on his breast. Why, then, should Coppy be guilty of
the unmanly weakness of kissing—vehemently kissing—a ‘big girl,’ Miss
Allardyce to wit? In the course of a morning ride Wee Willie Winkie had
seen Coppy so doing, and, like the gentleman he was, had promptly
wheeled round and cantered back to his groom, lest the groom should also
see.

Under ordinary circumstances he would have spoken to his father, but he
felt instinctively that this was a matter on which Coppy ought first to
be consulted.

‘Coppy,’ shouted Wee Willie Winkie, reining up outside that subaltern’s
bungalow early one morning—‘I want to see you, Coppy!’

‘Come in, young ’un,’ returned Coppy, who was at early breakfast in the
midst of his dogs. ‘What mischief have you been getting into now?’

Wee Willie Winkie had done nothing notoriously bad for three days, and
so stood on a pinnacle of virtue.

‘_I’ve_ been doing nothing bad,’ said he, curling himself into a long
chair with a studious affectation of the Colonel’s languor after a hot
parade. He buried his freckled nose in a tea-cup and, with eyes staring
roundly over the rim, asked: ‘I say, Coppy, is it pwoper to kiss big
girls?’

‘By Jove! You’re beginning early. Who do you want to kiss?’

‘No one. My muvver’s always kissing me if I don’t stop her. If it isn’t
pwoper, how was you kissing Major Allardyce’s big girl last morning, by
ve canal?’

Coppy’s brow wrinkled. He and Miss Allardyce had with great craft
managed to keep their engagement secret for a fortnight. There were
urgent and imperative reasons why Major Allardyce should not know how
matters stood for at least another month, and this small marplot had
discovered a great deal too much.

‘I saw you,’ said Wee Willie Winkie calmly. ‘But ve _sais_ didn’t see. I
said, “_Hut jao!_”’

‘Oh, you had that much sense, you young Rip,’ groaned poor Coppy, half
amused and half angry. ‘And how many people may you have told about it?’

‘Only me myself. You didn’t tell when I twied to wide ve buffalo ven my
pony was lame; and I fought you wouldn’t like.’

‘Winkie,’ said Coppy enthusiastically, shaking the small hand, ‘you’re
the best of good fellows. Look here, you can’t understand all these
things. One of these days—hang it, how can I make you see it!—I’m going
to marry Miss Allardyce, and then she’ll be Mrs. Coppy, as you say. If
your young mind is so scandalised at the idea of kissing big girls, go
and tell your father.’

‘What will happen?’ said Wee Willie Winkie, who firmly believed that his
father was omnipotent.

‘I shall get into trouble,’ said Coppy, playing his trump card with an
appealing look at the holder of the ace.

‘Ven I won’t,’ said Wee Willie Winkie briefly. ‘But my faver says it’s
un-man-ly to be always kissing, and I didn’t fink _you’d_ do vat,
Coppy.’

‘I’m not always kissing, old chap. It’s only now and then, and when
you’re bigger you’ll do it too. Your father meant it’s not good for
little boys.’

‘Ah!’ said Wee Willie Winkie, now fully enlightened. ‘It’s like ve
sputter-brush?’

‘Exactly,’ said Coppy gravely.

‘But I don’t fink I’ll ever want to kiss big girls, nor no one, ’cept my
muvver. And I _must_ vat, you know.’

There was a long pause, broken by Wee Willie Winkie.

‘Are you fond of vis big girl, Coppy?’

‘Awfully!’ said Coppy.

‘Fonder van you are of Bell or ve Butcha—or me?’

‘It’s in a different way,’ said Coppy. ‘You see, one of these days Miss
Allardyce will belong to me, but you’ll grow up and command the Regiment
and—all sorts of things. It’s quite different, you see.’

‘Very well,’ said Wee Willie Winkie, rising. ‘If you’re fond of ve big
girl I won’t tell any one. I must go now.’

Coppy rose and escorted his small guest to the door, adding—‘You’re the
best of little fellows, Winkie. I tell you what. In thirty days from now
you can tell if you like—tell any one you like.’

Thus the secret of the Brandis-Allardyce engagement was dependent on a
little child’s word. Coppy, who knew Wee Willie Winkie’s idea of truth,
was at ease, for he felt that he would not break promises. Wee Willie
Winkie betrayed a special and unusual interest in Miss Allardyce, and,
slowly revolving round that embarrassed young lady, was used to regard
her gravely with unwinking eye. He was trying to discover why Coppy
should have kissed her. She was not half so nice as his own mother. On
the other hand, she was Coppy’s property, and would in time belong to
him. Therefore it behoved him to treat her with as much respect as
Coppy’s big sword or shiny pistol.

The idea that he shared a great secret in common with Coppy kept Wee
Willie Winkie unusually virtuous for three weeks. Then the Old Adam
broke out, and he made what he called a ‘campfire’ at the bottom of the
garden. How could he have foreseen that the flying sparks would have
lighted the Colonel’s little hay-rick and consumed a week’s store for
the horses? Sudden and swift was the punishment—deprivation of the
good-conduct badge and, most sorrowful of all, two days’ confinement to
barracks—the house and veranda—coupled with the withdrawal of the light
of his father’s countenance.

He took the sentence like the man he strove to be, drew himself up with
a quivering under-lip, saluted, and, once clear of the room, ran to weep
bitterly in his nursery—called by him ‘my quarters.’ Coppy came in the
afternoon and attempted to console the culprit.

‘I’m under awwest,’ said Wee Willie Winkie mournfully, ‘and I didn’t
ought to speak to you.’

Very early the next morning he climbed on to the roof of the house—that
was not forbidden—and beheld Miss Allardyce going for a ride.

‘Where are you going?’ cried Wee Willie Winkie.

‘Across the river,’ she answered, and trotted forward.

Now the cantonment in which the 195th lay was bounded on the north by a
river—dry in the winter. From his earliest years, Wee Willie Winkie had
been forbidden to go across the river, and had noted that even Coppy—the
almost almighty Coppy—had never set foot beyond it. Wee Willie Winkie
had once been read to, out of a big blue book, the history of the
Princess and the Goblins—a most wonderful tale of a land where the
Goblins were always warring with the children of men until they were
defeated by one Curdie. Ever since that date it seemed to him that the
bare black and purple hills across the river were inhabited by Goblins,
and, in truth, every one had said that there lived the Bad Men. Even in
his own house the lower halves of the windows were covered with green
paper on account of the Bad Men who might, if allowed clear view, fire
into peaceful drawing-rooms and comfortable bedrooms. Certainly, beyond
the river, which was the end of all the Earth, lived the Bad Men. And
here was Major Allardyce’s big girl, Coppy’s property, preparing to
venture into their borders! What would Coppy say if anything happened to
her? If the Goblins ran off with her as they did with Curdie’s Princess?
She must at all hazards be turned back.

The house was still. Wee Willie Winkie reflected for a moment on the
very terrible wrath of his father; and then—broke his arrest! It was a
crime unspeakable. The low sun threw his shadow, very large and very
black, on the trim garden-paths, as he went down to the stables and
ordered his pony. It seemed to him in the hush of the dawn that all the
big world had been bidden to stand still and look at Wee Willie Winkie
guilty of mutiny. The drowsy _sais_ gave him his mount, and, since the
one great sin made all others insignificant, Wee Willie Winkie said that
he was going to ride over to Coppy Sahib, and went out at a foot-pace,
stepping on the soft mould of the flower-borders.

The devastating track of the pony’s feet was the last misdeed that cut
him off from all sympathy of Humanity. He turned into the road, leaned
forward, and rode as fast as the pony could put foot to the ground in
the direction of the river.

But the liveliest of twelve-two ponies can do little against the long
canter of a Waler. Miss Allardyce was far ahead, had passed through the
crops, beyond the Police-posts, when all the guards were asleep, and her
mount was scattering the pebbles of the river-bed as Wee Willie Winkie
left the cantonment and British India behind him. Bowed forward and
still flogging, Wee Willie Winkie shot into Afghan territory, and could
just see Miss Allardyce, a black speck, flickering across the stony
plain. The reason of her wandering was simple enough. Coppy, in a tone
of too-hastily-assumed authority, had told her overnight that she must
not ride out by the river. And she had gone to prove her own spirit and
teach Coppy a lesson.

Almost at the foot of the inhospitable hills, Wee Willie Winkie saw the
Waler blunder and come down heavily. Miss Allardyce struggled clear, but
her ankle had been severely twisted, and she could not stand. Having
fully shown her spirit, she wept, and was surprised by the apparition of
a white, wide-eyed child in khaki, on a nearly spent pony.

‘Are you badly, badly hurted?’ shouted Wee Willie Winkie, as soon as he
was within range. ‘You didn’t ought to be here,’

‘I don’t know,’ said Miss Allardyce ruefully, ignoring the reproof.
‘Good gracious, child, what are _you_ doing here?’

‘You said you was going acwoss ve wiver,’ panted Wee Willie Winkie,
throwing himself off his pony. ‘And nobody—not even Coppy—must go acwoss
ve wiver, and I came after you ever so hard, but you wouldn’t stop, and
now you’ve hurted yourself, and Coppy will be angwy wiv me, and—I’ve
bwoken my awwest! I’ve bwoken my awwest!’

The future Colonel of the 195th sat down and sobbed. In spite of the
pain in her ankle the girl was moved.

‘Have you ridden all the way from cantonments, little man? What for?’

‘You belonged to Coppy. Coppy told me so!’ wailed Wee Willie Winkie
disconsolately. ‘I saw him kissing you, and he said he was fonder of you
van Bell or ve Butcha or me. And so I came. You must get up and come
back. You didn’t ought to be here. Vis is a bad place, and I’ve bwoken
my awwest.’

‘I can’t move, Winkie,’ said Miss Allardyce, with a groan. ‘I’ve hurt my
foot. What shall I do?’

She showed a readiness to weep anew, which steadied Wee Willie Winkie,
who had been brought up to believe that tears were the depth of
unmanliness. Still, when one is as great a sinner as Wee Willie Winkie,
even a man may be permitted to break down.

‘Winkie,’ said Miss Allardyce, ‘when you’ve rested a little, ride back
and tell them to send out something to carry me back in. It hurts
fearfully.’

The child sat still for a little time and Miss Allardyce closed her
eyes; the pain was nearly making her faint. She was roused by Wee Willie
Winkie tying up the reins on his pony’s neck and setting it free with a
vicious cut of his whip that made it whicker. The little animal headed
towards the cantonments.

‘Oh, Winkie, what are you doing?’

‘Hush!’ said Wee Willie Winkie. ‘Vere’s a man coming—one of ve Bad Men.
I must stay wiv you. My faver says a man must _always_ look after a
girl. Jack will go home, and ven vey’ll come and look for us. Vat’s why
I let him go.’

Not one man but two or three had appeared from behind the rocks of the
hills, and the heart of Wee Willie Winkie sank within him, for just in
this manner were the Goblins wont to steal out and vex Curdie’s soul.
Thus had they played in Curdie’s garden—he had seen the picture—and thus
had they frightened the Princess’s nurse. He heard them talking to each
other, and recognised with joy the bastard Pushto that he had picked up
from one of his father’s grooms lately dismissed. People who spoke that
tongue could not be the Bad Men. They were only natives after all.

They came up to the boulders on which Miss Allardyce’s horse had
blundered.

Then rose from the rock Wee Willie Winkie, child of the Dominant Race,
aged six and three-quarters, and said briefly and emphatically ‘_Jao!_’
The pony had crossed the river-bed.

The men laughed, and laughter from natives was the one thing Wee Willie
Winkie could not tolerate. He asked them what they wanted and why they
did not depart. Other men with most evil faces and crooked-stocked guns
crept out of the shadows of the hills, till, soon, Wee Willie Winkie was
face to face with an audience some twenty strong. Miss Allardyce
screamed.

‘Who are you?’ said one of the men.

‘I am the Colonel Sahib’s son, and my order is that you go at once. You
black men are frightening the Miss Sahib. One of you must run into
cantonments and take the news that the Miss Sahib has hurt herself, and
that the Colonel’s son is here with her.’

‘Put our feet into the trap?’ was the laughing reply. ‘Hear this boy’s
speech!’

‘Say that I sent you—I, the Colonel’s son. They will give you money.’

‘What is the use of this talk? Take up the child and the girl, and we
can at least ask for the ransom. Ours are the villages on the heights,’
said a voice in the background.

These _were_ the Bad Men—worse than Goblins—and it needed all Wee Willie
Winkie’s training to prevent him from bursting into tears. But he felt
that to cry before a native, excepting only his mother’s _ayah_, would
be an infamy greater than any mutiny. Moreover, he, as future Colonel of
the 195th, had that grim regiment at his back.

‘Are you going to carry us away?’ said Wee Willie Winkie, very blanched
and uncomfortable.

‘Yes, my little _Sahib Bahadur_,’ said the tallest of the men, ‘and eat
you afterwards.’

‘That is child’s talk,’ said Wee Willie Winkie. ‘Men do not eat men.’

A yell of laughter interrupted him, but he went on firmly—‘And if you do
carry us away, I tell you that all my regiment will come up in a day and
kill you all without leaving one. Who will take my message to the
Colonel Sahib?’

Speech in any vernacular—and Wee Willie Winkie had a colloquial
acquaintance with three—was easy to the boy who could not yet manage his
‘r’s’ and ‘th’s’ aright.

Another man joined the conference, crying: ‘O foolish men! What this
babe says is true. He is the heart’s heart of those white troops. For
the sake of peace let them go both, for if he be taken, the regiment
will break loose and gut the valley. _Our_ villages are in the valley,
and we shall not escape. That regiment are devils. They broke Khoda
Yar’s breastbone with kicks when he tried to take the rifles; and if we
touch this child they will fire and rape and plunder for a month, till
nothing remains. Better to send a man back to take the message and get a
reward. I say that this child is their God, and that they will spare
none of us, nor our women, if we harm him.’

It was Din Mahommed, the dismissed groom of the Colonel, who made the
diversion, and an angry and heated discussion followed. Wee Willie
Winkie, standing over Miss Allardyce, waited the upshot. Surely his
‘wegiment,’ his own ‘wegiment,’ would not desert him if they knew of his
extremity.

                  *       *       *       *       *

The riderless pony brought the news to the 195th, though there had been
consternation in the Colonel’s household for an hour before. The little
beast came in through the parade-ground in front of the main barracks,
where the men were settling down to play Spoil-five till the afternoon.
Devlin, the Colour-Sergeant of E Company, glanced at the empty saddle
and tumbled through the barrack-rooms, kicking up each Room Corporal as
he passed. ‘Up, ye beggars! There’s something happened to the Colonel’s
son,’ he shouted.

‘He couldn’t fall off! S’elp me, ’e _couldn’t_ fall off,’ blubbered a
drummer-boy. ‘Go an’ hunt acrost the river. He’s over there if he’s
anywhere, an’ maybe those Pathans have got ’im. For the love o’ Gawd
don’t look for ’im in the nullahs! Let’s go over the river.’

‘There’s sense in Mott yet,’ said Devlin. ‘E Company, double out to the
river—sharp!’

So E Company, in its shirt-sleeves mainly, doubled for the dear life,
and in the rear toiled the perspiring Sergeant, adjuring it to double
yet faster. The cantonment was alive with the men of the 195th hunting
for Wee Willie Winkie, and the Colonel finally overtook E Company, far
too exhausted to swear, struggling in the pebbles of the river-bed.

Up the hill under which Wee Willie Winkie’s Bad Men were discussing the
wisdom of carrying off the child and the girl, a look-out fired two
shots.

‘What have I said?’ shouted Din Mahommed. ‘There is the warning! The
_pulton_ are out already and are coming across the plain! Get away! Let
us not be seen with the boy.’

The men waited for an instant, and then, as another shot was fired,
withdrew into the hills, silently as they had appeared.

‘The wegiment is coming,’ said Wee Willie Winkie confidently to Miss
Allardyce, ‘and it’s all wight. Don’t cwy!’

He needed the advice himself, for ten minutes later, when his father
came up, he was weeping bitterly with his head in Miss Allardyce’s lap.

And the men of the 195th carried him home with shouts and rejoicings;
and Coppy, who had ridden a horse into a lather, met him, and, to his
intense disgust, kissed him openly in the presence of the men.

But there was balm for his dignity. His father assured him that not only
would the breaking of arrest be condoned, but that the good-conduct
badge would be restored as soon as his mother could sew it on his
blouse-sleeve. Miss Allardyce had told the Colonel a story that made him
proud of his son.

‘She belonged to you, Coppy,’ said Wee Willie Winkie, indicating Miss
Allardyce with a grimy forefinger. ‘I _knew_ she didn’t ought to go
acwoss ve wiver, and I knew ve wegiment would come to me if I sent Jack
home.’

‘You’re a hero, Winkie,’ said Coppy—‘a _pukka_ hero!’

‘I don’t know what vat means,’ said Wee Willie Winkie, ‘but you mustn’t
call me Winkie any no more. I’m Percival Will’am Will’ams.’

And in this manner did Wee Willie Winkie enter into his manhood.


                          BAA BAA, BLACK SHEEP

          Baa Baa, Black Sheep,
          Have you any wool?
          Yes, Sir, yes, Sir, three bags full.
          One for the Master, one for the Dame—
          None for the Little Boy that cries down the lane.
                                              _Nursery Rhyme._


                             THE FIRST BAG

       When I was in my father’s house, I was in a better place.

They were putting Punch to bed—the _ayah_ and the _hamal_ and Meeta, the
big _Surti_ boy, with the red and gold turban. Judy, already tucked
inside her mosquito-curtains, was nearly asleep. Punch had been allowed
to stay up for dinner. Many privileges had been accorded to Punch within
the last ten days, and a greater kindness from the people of his world
had encompassed his ways and works, which were mostly obstreperous. He
sat on the edge of his bed and swung his bare legs defiantly.

‘Punch-_baba_ going to bye-lo?’ said the _ayah_ suggestively.

‘No,’ said Punch. ‘Punch-_baba_ wants the story about the Ranee that was
turned into a tiger. Meeta must tell it, and the _hamal_ shall hide
behind the door and make tiger-noises at the proper time,’

‘But Judy-_baba_ will wake up,’ said the _ayah_.

‘Judy-_baba_ is waked,’ piped a small voice from the mosquito-curtains.
‘There was a Ranee that lived at Delhi. Go on, Meeta,’ and she fell fast
asleep again while Meeta began the story.

Never had Punch secured the telling of that tale with so little
opposition. He reflected for a long time. The _hamal_ made the
tiger-noises in twenty different keys.

‘’Top!’ said Punch authoritatively. ‘Why doesn’t Papa come in and say he
is going to give me _put-put_?’

‘Punch-_baba_ is going away,’ said the _ayah_. ‘In another week there
will be no Punch-_baba_ to pull my hair any more.’ She sighed softly,
for the boy of the household was very dear to her heart.

‘Up the Ghauts in a train?’ said Punch, standing on his bed. ‘All the
way to Nassick where the Ranee-Tiger lives?’

‘Not to Nassick this year, little Sahib,’ said Meeta, lifting him on his
shoulder. ‘Down to the sea where the cocoa-nuts are thrown, and across
the sea in a big ship. Will you take Meeta with you to _Belait_?’

‘You shall all come,’ said Punch, from the height of Meeta’s strong
arms. ‘Meeta and the _ayah_ and the _hamal_ and Bhini-in-the-Garden, and
the salaam-Captain-Sahib-snake-man.’

There was no mockery in Meeta’s voice when he replied—‘Great is the
Sahib’s favour,’ and laid the little man down in the bed, while the
_ayah_, sitting in the moonlight at the doorway, lulled him to sleep
with an interminable canticle such as they sing in the Roman Catholic
Church at Parel. Punch curled himself into a ball and slept.

Next morning Judy shouted that there was a rat in the nursery, and thus
he forgot to tell her the wonderful news. It did not much matter, for
Judy was only three and she would not have understood. But Punch was
five; and he knew that going to England would be much nicer than a trip
to Nassick.

                  *       *       *       *       *

Papa and Mamma sold the brougham and the piano, and stripped the house,
and curtailed the allowance of crockery for the daily meals, and took
long counsel together over a bundle of letters bearing the Rocklington
postmark.

‘The worst of it is that one can’t be certain of anything,’ said Papa,
pulling his moustache. ‘The letters in themselves are excellent, and the
terms are moderate enough.’

‘The worst of it is that the children will grow up away from me,’
thought Mamma; but she did not say it aloud.

‘We are only one case among hundreds,’ said Papa bitterly. ‘You shall go
Home again in five years, dear.’

‘Punch will be ten then—and Judy eight. Oh, how long and long and long
the time will be! And we have to leave them among strangers.’

‘Punch is a cheery little chap. He’s sure to make friends wherever he
goes.’

‘And who could help loving my Ju?’

They were standing over the cots in the nursery late at night, and I
think that Mamma was crying softly. After Papa had gone away, she knelt
down by the side of Judy’s cot. The _ayah_ saw her and put up a prayer
that the _memsahib_ might never find the love of her children taken away
from her and given to a stranger.

Mamma’s own prayer was a slightly illogical one. Summarised it ran: ‘Let
strangers love my children and be as good to them as I should be, but
let _me_ preserve their love and their confidence for ever and ever.
Amen.’ Punch scratched himself in his sleep, and Judy moaned a little.

Next day they all went down to the sea, and there was a scene at the
Apollo Bunder when Punch discovered that Meeta could not come too, and
Judy learned that the _ayah_ must be left behind. But Punch found a
thousand fascinating things in the rope, block, and steam-pipe line on
the big P. and O. Steamer long before Meeta and the _ayah_ had dried
their tears.

‘Come back, Punch-_baba_’ said the _ayah_.

‘Come back,’ said Meeta, ‘and be a _Burra Sahib_’ (a big man).

‘Yes,’ said Punch, lifted up in his father’s arms to wave good-bye.
‘Yes, I will come back, and I will be a _Burra Sahib Bahadur_!’ (a very
big man indeed).

At the end of the first day Punch demanded to be set down in England,
which he was certain must be close at hand. Next day there was a merry
breeze, and Punch was very sick. ‘When I come back to Bombay,’ said
Punch on his recovery, ‘I will come by the road—in a broom-_gharri_.
This is a very naughty ship.’

The Swedish boatswain consoled him, and he modified his opinions as the
voyage went on. There was so much to see and to handle and ask questions
about that Punch nearly forgot the _ayah_ and Meeta and the _hamal_, and
with difficulty remembered a few words of the Hindustani once his
second-speech.

But Judy was much worse. The day before the steamer reached Southampton,
Mamma asked her if she would not like to see the _ayah_ again. Judy’s
blue eyes turned to the stretch of sea that had swallowed all her tiny
past, and she said: ‘_Ayah!_ What _ayah_?’

Mamma cried over her and Punch marvelled. It was then that he heard for
the first time Mamma’s passionate appeal to him never to let Judy forget
Mamma. Seeing that Judy was young, ridiculously young, and that Mamma,
every evening for four weeks past, had come into the cabin to sing her
and Punch to sleep with a mysterious rune that he called ‘Sonny, my
soul,’ Punch could not understand what Mamma meant. But he strove to do
his duty; for, the moment Mamma left the cabin, he said to Judy: ‘Ju,
you bemember Mamma?’

‘’Torse I do,’ said Judy.

‘Then _always_ bemember Mamma, ’r else I won’t give you the paper ducks
that the red-haired Captain Sahib cut out for me.’

So Judy promised always to ‘bemember Mamma.’

Many and many a time was Mamma’s command laid upon Punch, and Papa would
say the same thing with an insistence that awed the child.

‘You must make haste and learn to write, Punch,’ said Papa, ‘and then
you’ll be able to write letters to us in Bombay.’

‘I’ll come into your room,’ said Punch, and Papa choked.

Papa and Mamma were always choking in those days. If Punch took Judy to
task for not ‘bemembering,’ they choked. If Punch sprawled on the sofa
in the Southampton lodging-house and sketched his future in purple and
gold, they choked; and so they did if Judy put up her mouth for a kiss.

Through many days all four were vagabonds on the face of the earth—Punch
with no one to give orders to, Judy too young for anything, and Papa and
Mamma grave, distracted, and choking.

‘Where,’ demanded Punch, wearied of a loathsome contrivance on four
wheels with a mound of luggage atop—‘_where_ is our broom-_gharri_? This
thing talks so much that I can’t talk. Where is our _own_
broom-_gharri_? When I was at Bandstand before we comed away, I asked
Inverarity Sahib why he was sitting in it, and he said it was his own.
And I said, “I will _give_ it you”—I like Inverarity Sahib—and I said,
“Can you put your legs through the pully-wag loops by the windows?” And
Inverarity Sahib said No, and laughed, _I_ can put my legs through the
pully-wag loops. I can put my legs through _these_ pully-wag loops.
Look! Oh, Mamma’s crying again! I didn’t know I wasn’t not to do _so_.’

Punch drew his legs out of the loops of the four-wheeler: the door
opened and he slid to the earth, in a cascade of parcels, at the door of
an austere little villa whose gates bore the legend ‘Downe Lodge.’ Punch
gathered himself together and eyed the house with disfavour. It stood on
a sandy road, and a cold wind tickled his knickerbockered legs.

‘Let us go away,’ said Punch. ‘This is not a pretty place.’

But Mamma and Papa and Judy had left the cab, and all the luggage was
being taken into the house. At the doorstep stood a woman in black, and
she smiled largely, with dry chapped lips. Behind her was a man, big,
bony, gray, and lame as to one leg—behind him a boy of twelve,
black-haired and oily in appearance. Punch surveyed the trio, and
advanced without fear, as he had been accustomed to do in Bombay when
callers came and he happened to be playing in the veranda.

‘How do you do?’ said he. ‘I am Punch.’ But they were all looking at the
luggage—all except the gray man, who shook hands with Punch, and said he
was ‘a smart little fellow.’ There was much running about and banging of
boxes, and Punch curled himself up on the sofa in the dining-room and
considered things.

‘I don’t like these people,’ said Punch. ‘But never mind. We’ll go away
soon. We have always went away soon from everywhere. I wish we was gone
back to Bombay _soon_.’

The wish bore no fruit. For six days Mamma wept at intervals, and showed
the woman in black all Punch’s clothes—a liberty which Punch resented.
‘But p’raps she’s a new white _ayah_,’ he thought. ‘I’m to call her
Antirosa, but she doesn’t call _me_ Sahib. She says just Punch,’ he
confided to Judy. ‘What is Antirosa?’

Judy didn’t know. Neither she nor Punch had heard anything of an animal
called an aunt. Their world had been Papa and Mamma, who knew
everything, permitted everything, and loved everybody—even Punch when he
used to go into the garden at Bombay and fill his nails with mould after
the weekly nail-cutting, because, as he explained between two strokes of
the slipper to his sorely-tried Father, his fingers ‘felt so new at the
ends.’

In an undefined way Punch judged it advisable to keep both parents
between himself and the woman in black and the boy in black hair. He did
not approve of them. He liked the gray man, who had expressed a wish to
be called ‘Uncleharri.’ They nodded at each other when they met, and the
gray man showed him a little ship with rigging that took up and down.

‘She is a model of the _Brisk_—the little _Brisk_ that was sore exposed
that day at Navarino.’ The gray man hummed the last words and fell into
a reverie. ‘I’ll tell you about Navarino, Punch, when we go for walks
together; and you mustn’t touch the ship, because she’s the _Brisk_.’

Long before that walk, the first of many, was taken, they roused Punch
and Judy in the chill dawn of a February morning to say Good-bye; and of
all people in the wide earth to Papa and Mamma—both crying this time.
Punch was very sleepy and Judy was cross.

‘Don’t forget us,’ pleaded Mamma. ‘Oh, my little son, don’t forget us,
and see that Judy remembers too.’

‘I’ve told Judy to bemember,’ said Punch, wriggling, for his father’s
beard tickled his neck, ‘I’ve told Judy—ten—forty—’leven thousand times.
But Ju’s so young—quite a baby—isn’t she?’

‘Yes,’ said Papa, ‘quite a baby, and you must be good to Judy, and make
haste to learn to write and—and—and——’

Punch was back in his bed again. Judy was fast asleep, and there was the
rattle of a cab below. Papa and Mamma had gone away. Not to Nassick;
that was across the sea. To some place much nearer, of course, and
equally of course they would return. They came back after
dinner-parties, and Papa had come back after he had been to a place
called ‘The Snows,’ and Mamma with him, to Punch and Judy at Mrs.
Inverarity’s house in Marine Lines. Assuredly they would come back
again. So Punch fell asleep till the true morning, when the black-haired
boy met him with the information that Papa and Mamma had gone to Bombay,
and that he and Judy were to stay at Downe Lodge ‘for ever.’ Antirosa,
tearfully appealed to for a contradiction, said that Harry had spoken
the truth, and that it behoved Punch to fold up his clothes neatly on
going to bed. Punch went out and wept bitterly with Judy, into whose
fair head he had driven some ideas of the meaning of separation.

When a matured man discovers that he has been deserted by Providence,
deprived of his God, and cast without help, comfort, or sympathy, upon a
world which is new and strange to him, his despair, which may find
expression in evil-living, the writing of his experiences, or the more
satisfactory diversion of suicide, is generally supposed to be
impressive. A child, under exactly similar circumstances as far as its
knowledge goes, cannot very well curse God and die. It howls till its
nose is red, its eyes are sore, and its head aches. Punch and Judy,
through no fault of their own, had lost all their world. They sat in the
hall and cried; the black-haired boy looking on from afar.

The model of the ship availed nothing, though the gray man assured Punch
that he might pull the rigging up and down as much as he pleased; and
Judy was promised free entry into the kitchen. They wanted Papa and
Mamma gone to Bombay beyond the seas, and their grief while it lasted
was without remedy.

When the tears ceased the house was very still. Antirosa had decided
that it was better to let the children ‘have their cry out,’ and the boy
had gone to school. Punch raised his head from the floor and sniffed
mournfully. Judy was nearly asleep. Three short years had not taught her
how to bear sorrow with full knowledge. There was a distant, dull boom
in the air—a repeated heavy thud. Punch knew that sound in Bombay in the
Monsoon. It was the sea—the sea that must be traversed before any one
could get to Bombay.

‘Quick, Ju!’ he cried, ‘we’re close to the sea. I can hear it! Listen!
That’s where they’ve went. P’raps we can catch them if we was in time.
They didn’t mean to go without us. They’ve only forgot.’

‘Iss,’ said Judy. ‘They’ve only forgotted. Less go to the sea.’

The hall-door was open and so was the garden-gate.

‘It’s very, very big, this place,’ he said, looking cautiously down the
road, ‘and we will get lost; but _I_ will find a man and order him to
take me back to my house—like I did in Bombay.’

He took Judy by the hand, and the two ran hatless in the direction of
the sound of the sea. Downe Villa was almost the last of a range of
newly-built houses running out, through a field of brick-mounds, to a
heath where gypsies occasionally camped and where the Garrison Artillery
of Rocklington practised. There were few people to be seen, and the
children might have been taken for those of the soldiery who ranged far.
Half an hour the wearied little legs tramped across heath, potato-patch,
and sand-dune.

‘I’se so tired,’ said Judy, ‘and Mamma will be angry.’

‘Mamma’s _never_ angry. I suppose she is waiting at the sea now while
Papa gets tickets. We’ll find them and go along with them. Ju, you
mustn’t sit down. Only a little more and we’ll come to the sea. Ju, if
you sit down I’ll _thmack_ you!’ said Punch.

They climbed another dune, and came upon the great gray sea at low tide.
Hundreds of crabs were scuttling about the beach, but there was no trace
of Papa and Mamma, not even of a ship upon the waters—nothing but sand
and mud for miles and miles.

And ‘Uncleharri’ found them by chance—very muddy and very forlorn—Punch
dissolved in tears, but trying to divert Judy with an ‘ickle trab,’ and
Judy wailing to the pitiless horizon for ‘Mamma, Mamma!’—and again
‘Mamma!’


                             THE SECOND BAG

         Ah, well-a-day, for we are souls bereaved!
         Of all the creatures under Heaven’s wide scope
         We are most hopeless, who had once most hope,
         And most beliefless, who had most believed.
                                 _The City of Dreadful Night._

All this time not a word about Black Sheep. He came later, and Harry the
black-haired boy was mainly responsible for his coming.

Judy—who could help loving little Judy?—passed, by special permit, into
the kitchen and thence straight to Aunty Rosa’s heart. Harry was Aunty
Rosa’s one child, and Punch was the extra boy about the house. There was
no special place for him or his little affairs, and he was forbidden to
sprawl on sofas and explain his ideas about the manufacture of this
world and his hopes for his future. Sprawling was lazy and wore out
sofas, and little boys were not expected to talk. They were talked to,
and the talking to was intended for the benefit of their morals. As the
unquestioned despot of the house at Bombay, Punch could not quite
understand how he came to be of no account in this his new life.

Harry might reach across the table and take what he wanted; Judy might
point and get what she wanted. Punch was forbidden to do either. The
gray man was his great hope and stand-by for many months after Mamma and
Papa left, and he had forgotten to tell Judy to ‘bemember Mamma.’

This lapse was excusable, because in the interval he had been introduced
by Aunty Rosa to two very impressive things—an abstraction called God,
the intimate friend and ally of Aunty Rosa, generally believed to live
behind the kitchen-range because it was hot there—and a dirty brown book
filled with unintelligible dots and marks. Punch was always anxious to
oblige everybody. He therefore welded the story of the Creation on to
what he could recollect of his Indian fairy tales, and scandalised Aunty
Rosa by repeating the result to Judy. It was a sin, a grievous sin, and
Punch was talked to for a quarter of an hour. He could not understand
where the iniquity came in, but was careful not to repeat the offence,
because Aunty Rosa told him that God had heard every word he had said
and was very angry. If this were true why didn’t God come and say so,
thought Punch, and dismissed the matter from his mind. Afterwards he
learned to know the Lord as the only thing in the world more awful than
Aunty Rosa—as a Creature that stood in the background and counted the
strokes of the cane.

But the reading was, just then, a much more serious matter than any
creed. Aunty Rosa sat him upon a table and told him that A B meant ab.

‘Why?’ said Punch. ‘A is a and B is bee. _Why_ does A B mean ab?’

‘Because I tell you it does,’ said Aunty Rosa, ‘and you’ve got to say
it.’

Punch said it accordingly, and for a month, hugely against his will,
stumbled through the brown book, not in the least comprehending what it
meant. But Uncle Harry, who walked much and generally alone, was wont to
come into the nursery and suggest to Aunty Rosa that Punch should walk
with him. He seldom spoke, but he showed Punch all Rocklington, from the
mudbanks and the sand of the back-bay to the great harbours where ships
lay at anchor, and the dockyards where the hammers were never still, and
the marine-store shops, and the shiny brass counters in the Offices
where Uncle Harry went once every three months with a slip of blue paper
and received sovereigns in exchange; for he held a wound-pension. Punch
heard, too, from his lips the story of the battle of Navarino, where the
sailors of the Fleet, for three days afterwards, were deaf as posts and
could only sign to each other. ‘That was because of the noise of the
guns,’ said Uncle Harry, ‘and I have got the wadding of a bullet
somewhere inside me now.’

Punch regarded him with curiosity. He had not the least idea what
wadding was, and his notion of a bullet was a dockyard cannon-ball
bigger than his own head. How could Uncle Harry keep a cannon-ball
inside him? He was ashamed to ask, for fear Uncle Harry might be angry.

Punch had never known what anger—real anger—meant until one terrible day
when Harry had taken his paint-box to paint a boat with, and Punch had
protested. Then Uncle Harry had appeared on the scene and, muttering
something about ‘strangers’ children,’ had with a stick smitten the
black-haired boy across the shoulders till he wept and yelled, and Aunty
Rosa came in and abused Uncle Harry for cruelty to his own flesh and
blood, and Punch shuddered to the tips of his shoes. ‘It wasn’t my
fault,’ he explained to the boy, but both Harry and Aunty Rosa said that
it was, and that Punch had told tales, and for a week there were no more
walks with Uncle Harry.

But that week brought a great joy to Punch.

He had repeated till he was thrice weary the statement that ‘the Cat lay
on the Mat and the Rat came in.’

‘Now I can truly read,’ said Punch, ‘and now I will never read anything
in the world.’

He put the brown book in the cupboard where his school-books lived and
accidentally tumbled out a venerable volume, without covers, labelled
_Sharpe’s Magazine_. There was the most portentous picture of a griffin
on the first page, with verses below. The griffin carried off one sheep
a day from a German village, till a man came with a ‘falchion’ and split
the griffin open. Goodness only knew what a falchion was, but there was
the Griffin, and his history was an improvement upon the eternal Cat.

‘This,’ said Punch, ‘means things, and now I will know all about
everything in all the world.’ He read till the light failed, not
understanding a tithe of the meaning, but tantalised by glimpses of new
worlds hereafter to be revealed.

‘What is a “falchion”? What is a “e-wee lamb”? What is a “base
_us_surper”? What is a “verdant me-ad”?’ he demanded with flushed
cheeks, at bedtime, of the astonished Aunty Rosa.

‘Say your prayers and go to sleep,’ she replied, and that was all the
help Punch then or afterwards found at her hands in the new and
delightful exercise of reading.

‘Aunty Rosa only knows about God and things like that,’ argued Punch.
‘Uncle Harry will tell me.’

The next walk proved that Uncle Harry could not help either; but he
allowed Punch to talk, and even sat down on a bench to hear about the
Griffin. Other walks brought other stories as Punch ranged farther
afield, for the house held large store of old books that no one ever
opened—from _Frank Fairlegh_ in serial numbers, and the earlier poems of
Tennyson, contributed anonymously to _Sharpe’s Magazine_, to ‘62
Exhibition Catalogues, gay with colours and delightfully
incomprehensible, and odd leaves of _Gulliver’s Travels_.

As soon as Punch could string a few pot-hooks together he wrote to
Bombay, demanding by return of post ‘all the books in all the world.’
Papa could not comply with this modest indent, but sent _Grimm’s Fairy
Tales_ and a Hans Andersen. That was enough. If he were only left alone
Punch could pass, at any hour he chose, into a land of his own, beyond
reach of Aunty Rosa and her God, Harry and his teasements, and Judy’s
claims to be played with.

‘Don’t disturve me, I’m reading. Go and play in the kitchen,’ grunted
Punch. ‘Aunty Rosa lets _you_ go there.’ Judy was cutting her second
teeth and was fretful. She appealed to Aunty Rosa, who descended on
Punch.

‘I was reading,’ he explained, ‘reading a book I _want_ to read.’

‘You’re only doing that to show off,’ said Aunty Rosa. ‘But we’ll see.
Play with Judy now, and don’t open a book for a week.’

Judy did not pass a very enjoyable playtime with Punch, who was consumed
with indignation. There was a pettiness at the bottom of the prohibition
which puzzled him.

‘It’s what I like to do,’ he said, ‘and she’s found out that and stopped
me. Don’t cry, Ju—it wasn’t your fault—_please_ don’t cry, or she’ll say
I made you.’

Ju loyally mopped up her tears, and the two played in their nursery, a
room in the basement and half underground, to which they were regularly
sent after the mid-day dinner while Aunty Rosa slept. She drank
wine—that is to say, something from a bottle in the cellaret—for her
stomach’s sake, but if she did not fall asleep she would sometimes come
into the nursery to see that the children were really playing. Now
bricks, wooden hoops, ninepins, and chinaware cannot amuse for ever,
especially when all Fairyland is to be won by the mere opening of a
book, and, as often as not, Punch would be discovered reading to Judy or
telling her interminable tales. That was an offence in the eyes of the
law, and Judy would be whisked off by Aunty Rosa, while Punch was left
to play alone, ‘and be sure that I hear you doing it.’

It was not a cheering employ, for he had to make a playful noise. At
last, with infinite craft, he devised an arrangement whereby the table
could be supported as to three legs on toy bricks, leaving the fourth
clear to bring down on the floor. He could work the table with one hand
and hold a book with the other. This he did till an evil day when Aunty
Rosa pounced upon him unawares and told him that he was ‘acting a lie.’

‘If you’re old enough to do that,’ she said—her temper was always worst
after dinner—‘you’re old enough to be beaten.’

‘But—I’m—I’m not an animal!’ said Punch aghast. He remembered Uncle
Harry and the stick, and turned white. Aunty Rosa had hidden a light
cane behind her, and Punch was beaten then and there over the shoulders.
It was a revelation to him. The room-door was shut, and he was left to
weep himself into repentance and work out his own gospel of life.

Aunty Rosa, he argued, had the power to beat him with many stripes. It
was unjust and cruel, and Mamma and Papa would never have allowed it.
Unless perhaps, as Aunty Rosa seemed to imply, they had sent secret
orders. In which case he was abandoned indeed. It would be discreet in
the future to propitiate Aunty Rosa, but, then, again, even in matters
in which he was innocent, he had been accused of wishing to ‘show off.’
He had ‘shown off’ before visitors when he had attacked a strange
gentleman—Harry’s uncle, not his own—with requests for information about
the Griffin and the falchion, and the precise nature of the Tilbury in
which Frank Fairlegh rode—all points of paramount interest which he was
bursting to understand. Clearly it would not do to pretend to care for
Aunty Rosa.

At this point Harry entered and stood afar off, eyeing Punch, a
dishevelled heap in the corner of the room, with disgust.

‘You’re a liar—a young liar,’ said Harry, with great unction, ‘and
you’re to have tea down here because you’re not fit to speak to us. And
you’re not to speak to Judy again till Mother gives you leave. You’ll
corrupt her. You’re only fit to associate with the servant. Mother says
so.’

Having reduced Punch to a second agony of tears, Harry departed upstairs
with the news that Punch was still rebellious.

Uncle Harry sat uneasily in the dining-room. ‘Damn it all, Rosa,’ said
he at last, ‘can’t you leave the child alone? He’s a good enough little
chap when I meet him.’

‘He puts on his best manners with you, Henry,’ said Aunty Rosa, ‘but I’m
afraid, I’m very much afraid, that he is the Black Sheep of the family.’

Harry heard and stored up the name for future use. Judy cried till she
was bidden to stop, her brother not being worth tears; and the evening
concluded with the return of Punch to the upper regions and a private
sitting at which all the blinding horrors of Hell were revealed to Punch
with such store of imagery as Aunty Rosa’s narrow mind possessed.

Most grievous of all was Judy’s round-eyed reproach, and Punch went to
bed in the depths of the Valley of Humiliation. He shared his room with
Harry and knew the torture in store. For an hour and a half he had to
answer that young gentleman’s questions as to his motives for telling a
lie, and a grievous lie, the precise quantity of punishment inflicted by
Aunty Rosa, and had also to profess his deep gratitude for such
religious instruction as Harry thought fit to impart.

From that day began the downfall of Punch, now Black Sheep.

‘Untrustworthy in one thing, untrustworthy in all,’ said Aunty Rosa, and
Harry felt that Black Sheep was delivered into his hands. He would wake
him up in the night to ask him why he was such a liar.

‘I don’t know,’ Punch would reply.

‘Then don’t you think you ought to get up and pray to God for a new
heart?’

‘Y-yess.’

‘Get out and pray, then!’ And Punch would get out of bed with raging
hate in his heart against all the world, seen and unseen. He was always
tumbling into trouble. Harry had a knack of cross-examining him as to
his day’s doings, which seldom failed to lead him, sleepy and savage,
into half-a-dozen contradictions—all duly reported to Aunty Rosa next
morning.

‘But it _wasn’t_ a lie,’ Punch would begin, charging into a laboured
explanation that landed him more hopelessly in the mire. ‘I said that I
didn’t say my prayers _twice_ over in the day, and _that_ was on
Tuesday. _Once_ I did. I _know_ I did, but Harry said I didn’t,’ and so
forth, till the tension brought tears, and he was dismissed from the
table in disgrace.

‘You usen’t to be as bad as this,’ said Judy, awe-stricken at the
catalogue of Black Sheep’s crimes. ‘Why are you so bad now?’

‘I don’t know,’ Black Sheep would reply. ‘I’m not, if I only wasn’t
bothered upside down. I knew what I _did_, and I want to say so; but
Harry always makes it out different somehow, and Aunty Rosa doesn’t
believe a word I say. Oh, Ju! don’t _you_ say I’m bad too.’

‘Aunty Rosa says you are,’ said Judy. ‘She told the Vicar so when he
came yesterday.’

‘Why does she tell all the people outside the house about me? It isn’t
fair,’ said Black Sheep. ‘When I was in Bombay, and was bad—_doing_ bad,
not made-up bad like this—Mamma told Papa, and Papa told me he knew, and
that was all. _Outside_ people didn’t know too—even Meeta didn’t know.’

‘I don’t remember,’ said Judy wistfully. ‘I was all little then. Mamma
was just as fond of you as she was of me, wasn’t she?’

‘’Course she was. So was Papa. So was everybody.’

‘Aunty Rosa likes me more than she does you. She says that you are a
Trial and a Black Sheep, and I’m not to speak to you more than I can
help.’

‘Always? Not outside of the times when you mustn’t speak to me at all?’

Judy nodded her head mournfully. Black Sheep turned away in despair, but
Judy’s arms were round his neck.

‘Never mind, Punch,’ she whispered. ‘I _will_ speak to you just the same
as ever and ever. You’re my own own brother though you are—though Aunty
Rosa says you’re bad, and Harry says you are a little coward. He says
that if I pulled your hair hard, you’d cry.’

‘Pull, then,’ said Punch.

Judy pulled gingerly.

‘Pull harder—as hard as you can! There! I don’t mind how much you pull
it _now_. If you’ll speak to me same as ever I’ll let you pull it as
much as you like—pull it out if you like. But I know if Harry came and
stood by and made you do it I’d cry.’

So the two children sealed the compact with a kiss, and Black Sheep’s
heart was cheered within him, and by extreme caution and careful
avoidance of Harry he acquired virtue, and was allowed to read
undisturbed for a week. Uncle Harry took him for walks, and consoled him
with rough tenderness, never calling him Black Sheep. ‘It’s good for
you, I suppose, Punch,’ he used to say. ‘Let us sit down. I’m getting
tired.’ His steps led him now not to the beach, but to the Cemetery of
Rocklington, amid the potato-fields. For hours the gray man would sit on
a tombstone, while Black Sheep would read epitaphs, and then with a sigh
would stump home again.

‘I shall lie there soon,’ said he to Black Sheep, one winter evening,
when his face showed white as a worn silver coin under the light of the
lych-gate. ‘You needn’t tell Aunty Rosa.’

A month later he turned sharp round, ere half a morning walk was
completed, and stumped back to the house. ‘Put me to bed, Rosa,’ he
muttered. ‘I’ve walked my last. The wadding has found me out.’

They put him to bed, and for a fortnight the shadow of his sickness lay
upon the house, and Black Sheep went to and fro unobserved. Papa had
sent him some new books, and he was told to keep quiet. He retired into
his own world, and was perfectly happy. Even at night his felicity was
unbroken. He could lie in bed and string himself tales of travel and
adventure while Harry was downstairs.

‘Uncle Harry’s going to die,’ said Judy, who now lived almost entirely
with Aunty Rosa.

‘I’m very sorry,’ said Black Sheep soberly. ‘He told me that a long time
ago.’

Aunty Rosa heard the conversation. ‘Will nothing check your wicked
tongue?’ she said angrily. There were blue circles round her eyes.

Black Sheep retreated to the nursery and read _Cometh up as a Flower_
with deep and uncomprehending interest. He had been forbidden to open it
on account of its ‘sinfulness,’ but the bonds of the Universe were
crumbling, and Aunty Rosa was in great grief.

‘I’m glad,’ said Black Sheep. ‘She’s unhappy now. It wasn’t a lie,
though. _I_ knew. He told me not to tell.’

That night Black Sheep woke with a start. Harry was not in the room, and
there was a sound of sobbing on the next floor. Then the voice of Uncle
Harry, singing the song of the Battle of Navarino, came through the
darkness:—

                       ‘Our vanship was the Asia—
                       The Albion and Genoa!’

‘He’s getting well,’ thought Black Sheep, who knew the song through all
its seventeen verses. But the blood froze at his little heart as he
thought. The voice leapt an octave, and rang shrill as a boatswain’s
pipe:—

                 ‘And next came on the lovely Rose,
                 The Philomel, her fire-ship, closed,
                 And the little Brisk was sore exposed
                 That day at Navarino.’

‘That day at Navarino, Uncle Harry!’ shouted Black Sheep, half wild with
excitement and fear of he knew not what.

A door opened, and Aunty Rosa screamed up the staircase: ‘Hush! For
God’s sake hush, you little devil. Uncle Harry is _dead_!’


                             THE THIRD BAG

                    Journeys end in lovers’ meeting,
                    Every wise man’s son doth know.

‘I wonder what will happen to me now,’ thought Black Sheep, when
semi-pagan rites peculiar to the burial of the Dead in middle-class
houses had been accomplished, and Aunty Rosa, awful in black crape, had
returned to this life. ‘I don’t think I’ve done anything bad that she
knows of. I suppose I will soon. She will be very cross after Uncle
Harry’s dying, and Harry will be cross too. I’ll keep in the nursery.’

Unfortunately for Punch’s plans, it was decided that he should be sent
to a day-school which Harry attended. This meant a morning walk with
Harry, and perhaps an evening one; but the prospect of freedom in the
interval was refreshing. ‘Harry’ll tell everything I do, but I won’t do
anything,’ said Black Sheep. Fortified with this virtuous resolution, he
went to school only to find that Harry’s version of his character had
preceded him, and that life was a burden in consequence. He took stock
of his associates. Some of them were unclean, some of them talked in
dialect, many dropped their h’s, and there were two Jews and a negro, or
some one quite as dark, in the assembly. ‘That’s a _hubshi_,’ said Black
Sheep to himself. ‘Even Meeta used to laugh at a _hubshi_. I don’t think
this is a proper place.’ He was indignant for at least an hour, till he
reflected that any expostulation on his part would be by Aunty Rosa
construed into ‘showing off,’ and that Harry would tell the boys.

‘How do you like school?’ said Aunty Rosa at the end of the day.

‘I think it is a very nice place,’ said Punch quietly.

‘I suppose you warned the boys of Black Sheep’s character?’ said Aunty
Rosa to Harry.

‘Oh yes,’ said the censor of Black Sheep’s morals. ‘They know all about
him.’

‘If I was with my father,’ said Black Sheep, stung to the quick, ‘I
shouldn’t _speak_ to those boys. He wouldn’t let me. They live in shops.
I saw them go into shops—where their fathers live and sell things.’

‘You’re too good for that school, are you?’ said Aunty Rosa, with a
bitter smile. ‘You ought to be grateful, Black Sheep, that those boys
speak to you at all. It isn’t every school that takes little liars.’

Harry did not fail to make much capital out of Black Sheep’s
ill-considered remark; with the result that several boys, including the
_hubshi_, demonstrated to Black Sheep the eternal equality of the human
race by smacking his head, and his consolation from Aunty Rosa was that
it ‘served him right for being vain.’ He learned, however, to keep his
opinions to himself, and by propitiating Harry in carrying books and the
like to get a little peace. His existence was not too joyful. From nine
till twelve he was at school, and from two to four, except on Saturdays.
In the evenings he was sent down into the nursery to prepare his lessons
for the next day, and every night came the dreaded cross-questionings at
Harry’s hand. Of Judy he saw but little. She was deeply religious—at six
years of age Religion is easy to come by—and sorely divided between her
natural love for Black Sheep and her love for Aunty Rosa, who could do
no wrong.

The lean woman returned that love with interest, and Judy, when she
dared, took advantage of this for the remission of Black Sheep’s
penalties. Failures in lessons at school were punished at home by a week
without reading other than school-books, and Harry brought the news of
such a failure with glee. Further, Black Sheep was then bound to repeat
his lessons at bedtime to Harry, who generally succeeded in making him
break down, and consoled him by gloomiest forebodings for the morrow.
Harry was at once spy, practical joker, inquisitor, and Aunty Rosa’s
deputy executioner. He filled his many posts to admiration. From his
actions, now that Uncle Harry was dead, there was no appeal. Black Sheep
had not been permitted to keep any self-respect at school: at home he
was, of course, utterly discredited, and grateful for any pity that the
servant girls—they changed frequently at Downe Lodge because they, too,
were liars—might show. ‘You’re just fit to row in the same boat with
Black Sheep,’ was a sentiment that each new Jane or Eliza might expect
to hear, before a month was over, from Aunty Rosa’s lips; and Black
Sheep was used to ask new girls whether they had yet been compared to
him. Harry was ‘Master Harry’ in their mouths; Judy was officially ‘Miss
Judy’; but Black Sheep was never anything more than Black Sheep _tout
court_.

As time went on and the memory of Papa and Mamma became wholly overlaid
by the unpleasant task of writing them letters, under Aunty Rosa’s eye,
each Sunday, Black Sheep forgot what manner of life he had led in the
beginning of things. Even Judy’s appeals to ‘try and remember about
Bombay’ failed to quicken him.

‘I can’t remember,’ he said. ‘I know I used to give orders and Mamma
kissed me.’

‘Aunty Rosa will kiss you if you are good,’ pleaded Judy.

‘Ugh! I don’t want to be kissed by Aunty Rosa. She’d say I was doing it
to get something more to eat.’

The weeks lengthened into months, and the holidays came; but just before
the holidays Black Sheep fell into deadly sin.

Among the many boys whom Harry had incited to ‘punch Black Sheep’s head
because he daren’t hit back,’ was one more aggravating than the rest,
who, in an unlucky moment, fell upon Black Sheep when Harry was not
near. The blows stung, and Black Sheep struck back at random with all
the power at his command. The boy dropped and whimpered. Black Sheep was
astounded at his own act, but, feeling the unresisting body under him,
shook it with both his hands in blind fury and then began to throttle
his enemy; meaning honestly to slay him. There was a scuffle, and Black
Sheep was torn off the body by Harry and some colleagues, and cuffed
home tingling but exultant. Aunty Rosa was out: pending her arrival,
Harry set himself to lecture Black Sheep on the sin of murder—which he
described as the offence of Cain.

‘Why didn’t you fight him fair? What did you hit him when he was down
for, you little cur?’

Black Sheep looked up at Harry’s throat and then at a knife on the
dinner-table.

‘I don’t understand,’ he said wearily. ‘You always set him on me and
told me I was a coward when I blubbed. Will you leave me alone until
Aunty Rosa comes in? She’ll beat me if you tell her I ought to be
beaten; so it’s all right.’

‘It’s all wrong,’ said Harry magisterially. ‘You nearly killed him, and
I shouldn’t wonder if he dies.’

‘Will he die?’ said Black Sheep.

‘I daresay,’ said Harry, ‘and then you’ll be hanged, and go to Hell.’

‘All right,’ said Black Sheep, picking up the table-knife. ‘Then I’ll
kill _you_ now. You say things and do things and—and _I_ don’t know how
things happen, and you never leave me alone—and I don’t care _what_
happens!’

He ran at the boy with the knife, and Harry fled upstairs to his room,
promising Black Sheep the finest thrashing in the world when Aunty Rosa
returned. Black Sheep sat at the bottom of the stairs, the table-knife
in his hand, and wept for that he had not killed Harry. The servant-girl
came up from the kitchen, took the knife away, and consoled him. But
Black Sheep was beyond consolation. He would be badly beaten by Aunty
Rosa; then there would be another beating at Harry’s hands; then Judy
would not be allowed to speak to him; then the tale would be told at
school, and then—

There was no one to help and no one to care, and the best way out of the
business was by death. A knife would hurt, but Aunty Rosa had told him,
a year ago, that if he sucked paint he would die. He went into the
nursery, unearthed the now disused Noah’s Ark, and sucked the paint off
as many animals as remained. It tasted abominable, but he had licked
Noah’s Dove clean by the time Aunty Rosa and Judy returned. He went
upstairs and greeted them with: ‘Please, Aunty Rosa, I believe I’ve
nearly killed a boy at school, and I’ve tried to kill Harry, and when
you’ve done all about God and Hell, will you beat me and get it over?’

The tale of the assault as told by Harry could only be explained on the
ground of possession by the Devil. Wherefore Black Sheep was not only
most excellently beaten, once by Aunty Rosa and once, when thoroughly
cowed down, by Harry, but he was further prayed for at family prayers,
together with Jane who had stolen a cold rissole from the pantry, and
snuffled audibly as her sin was brought before the Throne of Grace.
Black Sheep was sore and stiff but triumphant. He would die that very
night and be rid of them all. No, he would ask for no forgiveness from
Harry, and at bedtime would stand no questioning at Harry’s hands, even
though addressed as ‘Young Cain.’

‘I’ve been beaten,’ said he, ‘and I’ve done other things. I don’t care
what I do. If you speak to me to-night, Harry, I’ll get out and try to
kill you. Now you can kill me if you like.’

Harry took his bed into the spare room, and Black Sheep lay down to die.

It may be that the makers of Noah’s Arks know that their animals are
likely to find their way into young mouths, and paint them accordingly.
Certain it is that the common, weary next morning broke through the
windows and found Black Sheep quite well and a good deal ashamed of
himself, but richer by the knowledge that he could, in extremity, secure
himself against Harry for the future.

When he descended to breakfast on the first day of the holidays, he was
greeted with the news that Harry, Aunty Rosa, and Judy were going away
to Brighton, while Black Sheep was to stay in the house with the
servant. His latest outbreak suited Aunty Rosa’s plans admirably. It
gave her good excuse for leaving the extra boy behind. Papa in Bombay,
who really seemed to know a young sinner’s wants to the hour, sent, that
week, a package of new books. And with these, and the society of Jane on
board-wages, Black Sheep was left alone for a month.

The books lasted for ten days. They were eaten too quickly in long gulps
of twelve hours at a time. Then came days of doing absolutely nothing,
of dreaming dreams and marching imaginary armies up and downstairs, of
counting the number of banisters, and of measuring the length and
breadth of every room in handspans—fifty down the side, thirty across,
and fifty back again. Jane made many friends, and, after receiving Black
Sheep’s assurance that he would not tell of her absences, went out daily
for long hours. Black Sheep would follow the rays of the sinking sun
from the kitchen to the dining-room and thence upward to his own bedroom
until all was gray dark, and he ran down to the kitchen fire and read by
its light. He was happy in that he was left alone and could read as much
as he pleased. But, later, he grew afraid of the shadows of
window-curtains and the flapping of doors and the creaking of shutters.
He went out into the garden, and the rustling of the laurel-bushes
frightened him.

He was glad when they all returned—Aunty Rosa, Harry, and Judy—full of
news, and Judy laden with gifts. Who could help loving loyal little
Judy? In return for all her merry babblement, Black Sheep confided to
her that the distance from the hall-door to the top of the first landing
was exactly one hundred and eighty-four handspans. He had found it out
himself.

Then the old life recommenced; but with a difference, and a new sin. To
his other iniquities Black Sheep had now added a phenomenal
clumsiness—was as unfit to trust in action as he was in word. He himself
could not account for spilling everything he touched, upsetting glasses
as he put his hand out, and bumping his head against doors that were
manifestly shut. There was a gray haze upon all his world, and it
narrowed month by month, until at last it left Black Sheep almost alone
with the flapping curtains that were so like ghosts, and the nameless
terrors of broad daylight that were only coats on pegs after all.

Holidays came and holidays went, and Black Sheep was taken to see many
people whose faces were all exactly alike; was beaten when occasion
demanded, and tortured by Harry on all possible occasions; but defended
by Judy through good and evil report, though she hereby drew upon
herself the wrath of Aunty Rosa.

The weeks were interminable, and Papa and Mamma were clean forgotten.
Harry had left school and was a clerk in a Banking-Office. Freed from
his presence, Black Sheep resolved that he should no longer be deprived
of his allowance of pleasure-reading. Consequently when he failed at
school he reported that all was well, and conceived a large contempt for
Aunty Rosa as he saw how easy it was to deceive her. ‘She says I’m a
little liar when I don’t tell lies, and now I do, she doesn’t know,’
thought Black Sheep. Aunty Rosa had credited him in the past with petty
cunning and stratagem that had never entered into his head. By the light
of the sordid knowledge that she had revealed to him he paid her back
full tale. In a household where the most innocent of his motives, his
natural yearning for a little affection, had been interpreted into a
desire for more bread and jam, or to ingratiate himself with strangers
and so put Harry into the background, his work was easy. Aunty Rosa
could penetrate certain kinds of hypocrisy, but not all. He set his
child’s wits against hers and was no more beaten. It grew monthly more
and more of a trouble to read the school-books, and even the pages of
the open-print storybooks danced and were dim. So Black Sheep brooded in
the shadows that fell about him and cut him off from the world,
inventing horrible punishments for ‘dear Harry,’ or plotting another
line of the tangled web of deception that he wrapped round Aunty Rosa.

Then the crash came and the cobwebs were broken. It was impossible to
foresee everything. Aunty Rosa made personal inquiries as to Black
Sheep’s progress and received information that startled her. Step by
step, with a delight as keen as when she convicted an underfed housemaid
of the theft of cold meats, she followed the trail of Black Sheep’s
delinquencies. For weeks and weeks, in order to escape banishment from
the bookshelves, he had made a fool of Aunty Rosa, of Harry, of God, of
all the world! Horrible, most horrible, and evidence of an utterly
depraved mind.

Black Sheep counted the cost. ‘It will only be one big beating and then
she’ll put a card with “Liar” on my back, same as she did before. Harry
will whack me and pray for me, and she will pray for me at prayers and
tell me I’m a Child of the Devil and give me hymns to learn. But I’ve
done all my reading and she never knew. She’ll say she knew all along.
She’s an old liar too,’ said he.

For three days Black Sheep was shut in his own bedroom—to prepare his
heart. ‘That means two beatings. One at school and one here. _That_ one
will hurt most.’ And it fell even as he thought. He was thrashed at
school before the Jews and the _hubshi_ for the heinous crime of
carrying home false reports of progress. He was thrashed at home by
Aunty Rosa on the same count, and then the placard was produced. Aunty
Rosa stitched it between his shoulders and bade him go for a walk with
it upon him.

‘If you make me do that,’ said Black Sheep very quietly, ‘I shall burn
this house down, and perhaps I’ll kill you. I don’t know whether I _can_
kill you—you’re so bony—but I’ll try.’

No punishment followed this blasphemy, though Black Sheep held himself
ready to work his way to Aunty Rosa’s withered throat, and grip there
till he was beaten off. Perhaps Aunty Rosa was afraid, for Black Sheep,
having reached the Nadir of Sin, bore himself with a new recklessness.

In the midst of all the trouble there came a visitor from over the seas
to Downe Lodge, who knew Papa and Mamma, and was commissioned to see
Punch and Judy. Black Sheep was sent to the drawing-room and charged
into a solid tea-table laden with china.

‘Gently, gently, little man,’ said the visitor, turning Black Sheep’s
face to the light slowly. ‘What’s that big bird on the palings?’

‘What bird?’ asked Black Sheep.

The visitor looked deep down into Black Sheep’s eyes for half a minute,
and then said suddenly: ‘Good God, the little chap’s nearly blind!’

It was a most business-like visitor. He gave orders, on his own
responsibility, that Black Sheep was not to go to school or open a book
until Mamma came home. ‘She’ll be here in three weeks, as you know of
course,’ said he, ‘and I’m Inverarity Sahib. I ushered you into this
wicked world, young man, and a nice use you seem to have made of your
time. You must do nothing whatever. Can you do that?’

‘Yes,’ said Punch in a dazed way. He had known that Mamma was coming.
There was a chance, then, of another beating. Thank Heaven, Papa wasn’t
coming too. Aunty Rosa had said of late that he ought to be beaten by a
man.

For the next three weeks Black Sheep was strictly allowed to do nothing.
He spent his time in the old nursery looking at the broken toys, for all
of which account must be rendered to Mamma. Aunty Rosa hit him over the
hands if even a wooden boat were broken. But that sin was of small
importance compared to the other revelations, so darkly hinted at by
Aunty Rosa. ‘When your Mother comes, and hears what I have to tell her,
she may appreciate you properly,’ she said grimly, and mounted guard
over Judy lest that small maiden should attempt to comfort her brother,
to the peril of her soul.

And Mamma came—in a four-wheeler—fluttered with tender excitement. Such
a Mamma! She was young, frivolously young, and beautiful, with
delicately-flushed cheeks, eyes that shone like stars, and a voice that
needed no appeal of outstretched arms to draw little ones to her heart.
Judy ran straight to her, but Black Sheep hesitated. Could this wonder
be ‘showing off’? She would not put out her arms when she knew of his
crimes. Meantime was it possible that by fondling she wanted to get
anything out of Black Sheep? Only all his love and all his confidence;
but that Black Sheep did not know. Aunty Rosa withdrew and left Mamma,
kneeling between her children, half laughing, half crying, in the very
hall where Punch and Judy had wept five years before.

‘Well, chicks, do you remember me?’

‘No,’ said Judy frankly, ‘but I said, “God bless Papa and Mamma” ev’vy
night.’

‘A little,’ said Black Sheep. ‘Remember I wrote to you every week,
anyhow. That isn’t to show off, but ’cause of what comes afterwards.’

‘What comes after? What should come after, my darling boy?’ And she drew
him to her again. He came awkwardly, with many angles. ‘Not used to
petting,’ said the quick Mother-soul. ‘The girl is.’

‘She’s too little to hurt any one,’ thought Black Sheep, ‘and if I said
I’d kill her, she’d be afraid. I wonder what Aunty Rosa will tell.’

There was a constrained late dinner, at the end of which Mamma picked up
Judy and put her to bed with endearments manifold. Faithless little Judy
had shown her defection from Aunty Rosa already. And that lady resented
it bitterly. Black Sheep rose to leave the room.

‘Come and say good-night,’ said Aunty Rosa, offering a withered cheek.

‘Huh!’ said Black Sheep. ‘I never kiss you, and I’m not going to show
off. Tell that woman what I’ve done, and see what she says.’

Black Sheep climbed into bed feeling that he had lost Heaven after a
glimpse through the gates. In half an hour ‘that woman’ was bending over
him. Black Sheep flung up his right arm. It wasn’t fair to come and hit
him in the dark. Even Aunty Rosa never tried that. But no blow followed.

‘Are you showing off? I won’t tell you anything more than Aunty Rosa
has, and _she_ doesn’t know everything,’ said Black Sheep as clearly as
he could for the arms round his neck.

‘Oh, my son—my little, little son! It was my fault—_my_ fault,
darling—and yet how could we help it? Forgive me, Punch.’ The voice died
out in a broken whisper, and two hot tears fell on Black Sheep’s
forehead.

‘Has she been making you cry too?’ he asked. ‘You should see Jane cry.
But you’re nice, and Jane is a Born Liar—Aunty Rosa says so.’

‘Hush, Punch, hush! My boy, don’t talk like that. Try to love me a
little bit—a little bit. You don’t know how I want it. Punch-_baba_,
come back to me! I am your Mother—your own Mother—and never mind the
rest. I know—yes, I know, dear. It doesn’t matter now. Punch, won’t you
care for me a little?’

It is astonishing how much petting a big boy of ten can endure when he
is quite sure that there is no one to laugh at him. Black Sheep had
never been made much of before, and here was this beautiful woman
treating him—Black Sheep, the Child of the Devil and the inheritor of
undying flame—as though he were a small God.

‘I care for you a great deal, Mother dear,’ he whispered at last, ‘and
I’m glad you’ve come back; but are you sure Aunty Rosa told you
everything?’

‘Everything. What _does_ it matter? But——’ the voice broke with a sob
that was also laughter—‘Punch, my poor, dear, half-blind darling, don’t
you think it was a little foolish of you?’

‘_No._ It saved a lickin’.’

Mamma shuddered and slipped away in the darkness to write a long letter
to Papa. Here is an extract:—

  ... Judy is a dear, plump little prig who adores the woman, and
  wears with as much gravity as her religious opinions—only eight,
  Jack!—a venerable horsehair atrocity which she calls her Bustle! I
  have just burnt it, and the child is asleep in my bed as I write.
  She will come to me at once. Punch I cannot quite understand. He is
  well nourished, but seems to have been worried into a system of
  small deceptions which the woman magnifies into deadly sins. Don’t
  you recollect our own upbringing, dear, when the Fear of the Lord
  was so often the beginning of falsehood? I shall win Punch to me
  before long. I am taking the children away into the country to get
  them to know me, and, on the whole, I am content, or shall be when
  you come home, dear boy, and then, thank God, we shall be all under
  one roof again at last!

Three months later, Punch, no longer Black Sheep, has discovered that he
is the veritable owner of a real, live, lovely Mamma, who is also a
sister, comforter, and friend, and that he must protect her till the
Father comes home. Deception does not suit the part of a protector, and,
when one can do anything without question, where is the use of
deception?

‘Mother would be awfully cross if you walked through that ditch,’ says
Judy, continuing a conversation.

‘Mother’s never angry,’ says Punch. ‘She’d just say, “You’re a little
_pagal_”; and that’s not nice, but I’ll show.’

Punch walks through the ditch and mires himself to the knees. ‘Mother,
dear,’ he shouts, ‘I’m just as dirty as I can pos-_sib_-ly be!’

‘Then change your clothes as quickly as you pos-_sib_-ly can!’ Mother’s
clear voice rings out from the house. ‘And don’t be a little _pagal_!’

‘There! ’Told you so,’ says Punch. ‘It’s all different now, and we are
just as much Mother’s as if she had never gone.’

Not altogether, O Punch, for when young lips have drunk deep of the
bitter waters of Hate, Suspicion, and Despair, all the Love in the world
will not wholly take away that knowledge; though it may turn darkened
eyes for a while to the light, and teach Faith where no Faith was.


                          HIS MAJESTY THE KING

   Where the word of a King is, there is power: And who may say unto
                          him—What doest thou?

‘Yeth! And Chimo to sleep at ve foot of ve bed, and ve pink pikky-book,
and ve bwead—’cause I will be hungwy in ve night—and vat’s all, Miss
Biddums. And now give me one kiss and I’ll go to sleep.—So! Kite quiet.
Ow! Ve pink pikky-book has slidded under ve pillow and ve bwead is
cwumbling! Miss Biddums! Miss _Bid_-dums! I’m _so_ uncomfy! Come and
tuck me up, Miss Biddums.’

His Majesty the King was going to bed; and poor, patient Miss Biddums,
who had advertised herself humbly as a ‘young person, European,
accustomed to the care of little children,’ was forced to wait upon his
royal caprices. The going to bed was always a lengthy process, because
His Majesty had a convenient knack of forgetting which of his many
friends, from the _mehter’s_ son to the Commissioner’s daughter, he had
prayed for, and, lest the Deity should take offence, was used to toil
through his little prayers, in all reverence, five times in one evening.
His Majesty the King believed in the efficacy of prayer as devoutly as
he believed in Chimo the patient spaniel, or Miss Biddums, who could
reach him down his gun—‘with cursuffun caps—_reel_ ones’—from the upper
shelves of the big nursery cupboard.

At the door of the nursery his authority stopped. Beyond lay the empire
of his father and mother—two very terrible people who had no time to
waste upon His Majesty the King. His voice was lowered when he passed
the frontier of his own dominions, his actions were fettered, and his
soul was filled with awe because of the grim man who lived among a
wilderness of pigeon-holes and the most fascinating pieces of red tape,
and the wonderful woman who was always getting into or stepping out of
the big carriage.

To the one belonged the mysteries of the ‘_duftar_-room,’ to the other
the great, reflected wilderness of the ‘Memsahib’s room,’ where the
shiny, scented dresses hung on pegs, miles and miles up in the air, and
the just-seen plateau of the toilet-table revealed an acreage of speckly
combs, broidered ‘hanafitch-bags,’ and ‘white-headed’ brushes.

There was no room for His Majesty the King either in official reserve or
worldly gorgeousness. He had discovered that, ages and ages ago—before
even Chimo came to the house, or Miss Biddums had ceased grizzling over
a packet of greasy letters which appeared to be her chief treasure on
earth. His Majesty the King, therefore, wisely confined himself to his
own territories, where only Miss Biddums, and she feebly, disputed his
sway.

From Miss Biddums he had picked up his simple theology and welded it to
the legends of gods and devils that he had learned in the servants’
quarters.

To Miss Biddums he confided with equal trust his tattered garments and
his more serious griefs. She would make everything whole. She knew
exactly how the Earth had been born, and had reassured the trembling
soul of His Majesty the King that terrible time in July when it rained
continuously for seven days and seven nights, and—there was no Ark ready
and all the ravens had flown away! She was the most powerful person with
whom he was brought into contact—always excepting the two remote and
silent people beyond the nursery door.

How was His Majesty the King to know that, six years ago, in the summer
of his birth, Mrs. Austell, turning over her husband’s papers, had come
upon the intemperate letter of a foolish woman who had been carried away
by the silent man’s strength and personal beauty? How could he tell what
evil the overlooked slip of notepaper had wrought in the mind of a
desperately jealous wife? How could he, despite his wisdom, guess that
his mother had chosen to make of it excuse for a bar and a division
between herself and her husband, that strengthened and grew harder to
break with each year; that she, having unearthed this skeleton in the
cupboard, had trained it into a household God which should be about
their path and about their bed, and poison all their ways?

These things were beyond the province of His Majesty the King. He only
knew that his father was daily absorbed in some mysterious work for a
thing called the _Sirkar_, and that his mother was the victim
alternately of the _Nautch_ and the _Burrakhana_. To these
entertainments she was escorted by a Captain-Man for whom His Majesty
the King had no regard.

‘He _doesn’t_ laugh,’ he argued with Miss Biddums, who would fain have
taught him charity. ‘He only makes faces wiv his mouf, and when he wants
to o-muse me I am _not_ o-mused.’ And His Majesty the King shook his
head as one who knew the deceitfulness of this world.

Morning and evening it was his duty to salute his father and mother—the
former with a grave shake of the hand, and the latter with an equally
grave kiss. Once, indeed, he had put his arms round his mother’s neck,
in the fashion he used towards Miss Biddums. The openwork of his
sleeve-edge caught in an earring, and the last stage of His Majesty’s
little overture was a suppressed scream and summary dismissal to the
nursery.

‘It is w’ong,’ thought His Majesty the King, ‘to hug Memsahibs wiv fings
in veir ears. I will amember.’ He never repeated the experiment.

Miss Biddums, it must be confessed, spoilt him as much as his nature
admitted, in some sort of recompense for what she called ‘the hard ways
of his Papa and Mamma.’ She, like her charge, knew nothing of the
trouble between man and wife—the savage contempt for a woman’s stupidity
on the one side, or the dull, rankling anger on the other. Miss Biddums
had looked after many little children in her time, and served in many
establishments. Being a discreet woman, she observed little and said
less, and, when her pupils went over the sea to the Great Unknown, which
she, with touching confidence in her hearers, called ‘Home,’ packed up
her slender belongings and sought for employment afresh, lavishing all
her love on each successive batch of ingrates. Only His Majesty the King
had repaid her affection with interest; and in his uncomprehending ears
she had told the tale of nearly all her hopes, her aspirations, the
hopes that were dead, and the dazzling glories of her ancestral home in
‘_Cal_cutta, close to Wellington Square.’

Everything above the average was in the eyes of His Majesty the King
‘Calcutta good.’ When Miss Biddums had crossed his royal will, he
reversed the epithet to vex that estimable lady, and all things evil
were, until the tears of repentance swept away spite, ‘Calcutta bad.’

Now and again Miss Biddums begged for him the rare pleasure of a day in
the society of the Commissioner’s child—the wilful four-year-old Patsie,
who, to the intense amazement of His Majesty the King, was idolised by
her parents. On thinking the question out at length, by roads unknown to
those who have left childhood behind, he came to the conclusion that
Patsie was petted because she wore a big blue sash and yellow hair.

This precious discovery he kept to himself. The yellow hair was
absolutely beyond his power, his own tousled wig being potato-brown; but
something might be done towards the blue sash. He tied a large knot in
his mosquito-curtains in order to remember to consult Patsie on their
next meeting. She was the only child he had ever spoken to, and almost
the only one that he had ever seen. The little memory and the very large
and ragged knot held good.

‘Patsie, lend me your blue wiband,’ said His Majesty the King.

‘You’ll bewy it,’ said Patsie doubtfully, mindful of certain atrocities
committed on her doll.

‘No, I won’t—twoofanhonour. It’s for me to wear.’

‘Pooh!’ said Patsie. ‘Boys don’t wear sa-ashes. Zey’s only for dirls.’

‘I didn’t know.’ The face of His Majesty the King fell.

‘Who wants ribands? Are you playing horses, chickabiddies?’ said the
Commissioner’s wife, stepping into the veranda.

‘Toby wanted my sash,’ explained Patsie.

‘I don’t now,’ said His Majesty the King hastily, feeling that with one
of these terrible ‘grown-ups’ his poor little secret would be
shamelessly wrenched from him, and perhaps—most burning desecration of
all—laughed at.

‘I’ll give you a cracker-cap,’ said the Commissioner’s wife. ‘Come along
with me, Toby, and we’ll choose it.’

The cracker-cap was a stiff, three-pointed vermilion-and-tinsel
splendour. His Majesty the King fitted it on his royal brow. The
Commissioner’s wife had a face that children instinctively trusted, and
her action, as she adjusted the toppling middle spike, was tender.

‘Will it do as well?’ stammered His Majesty the King.

‘As what, little one?’

‘As ve wiban?’

‘Oh, quite. Go and look at yourself in the glass.’

The words were spoken in all sincerity, and to help forward any absurd
‘dressing-up’ amusement that the children might take into their minds.
But the young savage has a keen sense of the ludicrous. His Majesty the
King swung the great cheval-glass down, and saw his head crowned with
the staring horror of a fool’s cap—a thing which his father would rend
to pieces if it ever came into his office. He plucked it off, and burst
into tears.

‘Toby,’ said the Commissioner’s wife gravely, ‘you shouldn’t give way to
temper. I am very sorry to see it. It’s wrong.’

His Majesty the King sobbed inconsolably, and the heart of Patsie’s
mother was touched. She drew the child on to her knee. Clearly it was
not temper alone.

‘What is it, Toby? Won’t you tell me? Aren’t you well?’

The torrent of sobs and speech met, and fought for a time, with chokings
and gulpings and gasps. Then, in a sudden rush, His Majesty the King was
delivered of a few inarticulate sounds, followed by the words—‘Go a—way
you—dirty—little debbil!’

‘Toby! What do you mean?’

‘It’s what he’d say. I _know_ it is! He said vat when vere was only a
little, little eggy mess, on my t-t-unic; and he’d say it again, and
laugh, if I went in wif vat on my head.’

‘Who would say that?’

‘M-m-my Papa! And I fought if I had ve blue wiban, he’d let me play in
ve waste-paper basket under ve table.’

_‘What_ blue riband, childie?’

‘Ve same vat Patsie had—ve big blue wiban w-w-wound my t-t-tummy!’

‘What is it, Toby? There’s something on your mind. Tell me all about it,
and perhaps I can help.’

‘Isn’t anyfing,’ sniffed His Majesty, mindful of his manhood, and
raising his head from the motherly bosom upon which it was resting. ‘I
only fought vat you—you petted Patsie ’cause she had ve blue wiban,
and—and if I’d had ve blue wiban too, m-my Papa w-would pet me.’

The secret was out, and His Majesty the King sobbed bitterly in spite of
the arms around him and the murmur of comfort on his heated little
forehead.

Enter Patsie tumultuously, embarrassed by several lengths of the
Commissioner’s pet _mahseer_-rod. ‘Tum along, Toby! Zere’s a _chu-chu_
lizard in ze _chick_, and I’ve told Chimo to watch him till we tum. If
we poke him wiz zis his tail will go _wiggle-wiggle_ and fall off. Tum
along! I can’t weach.’

‘I’m comin’,’ said His Majesty the King, climbing down from the
Commissioner’s wife’s knee after a hasty kiss.

Two minutes later, the _chu-chu_ lizard’s tail was wriggling on the
matting of the veranda, and the children were gravely poking it with
splinters from the _chick_, to urge its exhausted vitality into ‘just
one wiggle more, ’cause it doesn’t hurt _chu-chu_.’

The Commissioner’s wife stood in the doorway and watched—‘Poor little
mite! A blue sash——and my own precious Patsie! I wonder if the best of
us, or we who love them best, ever understood what goes on in their
topsy-turvey little heads.’

She went indoors to devise a tea for His Majesty the King.

‘Their souls aren’t in their tummies at that age in this climate,’ said
the Commissioner’s wife, ‘but they are not far off. I wonder if I could
make Mrs. Austell understand. Poor little fellow!’

With simple craft, the Commissioner’s wife called on Mrs. Austell and
spoke long and lovingly about children; inquiring specially for His
Majesty the King.

‘He’s with his governess,’ said Mrs. Austell, and the tone showed that
she was not interested.

The Commissioner’s wife, unskilled in the art of war, continued her
questionings. ‘I don’t know,’ said Mrs. Austell. ‘These things are left
to Miss Biddums, and, of course, she does not ill-treat the child.’

The Commissioner’s wife left hastily. The last sentence jarred upon her
nerves. ‘Doesn’t _ill-treat_ the child! As if that were all! I wonder
what Tom would say if I only “didn’t ill-treat” Patsie!’

Thenceforward, His Majesty the King was an honoured guest at the
Commissioner’s house, and the chosen friend of Patsie, with whom he
blundered into as many scrapes as the compound and the servants’
quarters afforded. Patsie’s Mamma was always ready to give counsel,
help, and sympathy, and, if need were and callers few, to enter into
their games with an _abandon_ that would have shocked the sleek-haired
subalterns who squirmed painfully in their chairs when they came to call
on her whom they profanely nicknamed ‘Mother Bunch.’

Yet, in spite of Patsie and Patsie’s Mamma, and the love that these two
lavished upon him, His Majesty the King fell grievously from grace, and
committed no less a sin than that of theft—unknown, it is true, but
burdensome.

There came a man to the door one day, when His Majesty was playing in
the hall and the bearer had gone to dinner, with a packet for His
Majesty’s Mamma. And he put it upon the hall-table, and said that there
was no answer, and departed.

Presently, the pattern of the dado ceased to interest His Majesty, while
the packet, a white, neatly-wrapped one of fascinating shape, interested
him very much indeed. His Mamma was out, so was Miss Biddums, and there
was pink string round the packet. He greatly desired pink string. It
would help him in many of his little businesses—the haulage across the
floor of his small cane-chair, the torturing of Chimo, who could never
understand harness—and so forth. If he took the string it would be his
own, and nobody would be any the wiser. He certainly could not pluck up
sufficient courage to ask Mamma for it. Wherefore, mounting upon a
chair, he carefully untied the string and, behold, the stiff white paper
spread out in four directions, and revealed a beautiful little leather
box with gold lines upon it! He tried to replace the string, but that
was a failure. So he opened the box to get full satisfaction for his
iniquity, and saw a most beautiful Star that shone and winked, and was
altogether lovely and desirable.

‘Vat,’ said His Majesty meditatively, ‘is a ’parkle cwown, like what I
will wear when I go to heaven. I will wear it on my head—Miss Biddums
says so. I would like to wear it _now_. I would like to play wiv it. I
will take it away and play wiv it, very careful, until Mamma asks for
it. I fink it was bought for me to play wiv—same as my cart.’

His Majesty the King was arguing against his conscience, and he knew it,
for he thought immediately after: ‘Never mind, I will keep it to play
wiv until Mamma says where is it, and then I will say—“I tookt it and I
am sorry.” I will not hurt it because it is a ’parkle cwown. But Miss
Biddums will tell me to put it back. I will not show it to Miss
Biddums.’

If Mamma had come in at that moment all would have gone well. She did
not, and His Majesty the King stuffed paper, case, and jewel into the
breast of his blouse and marched to the nursery.

‘When Mamma asks I will tell,’ was the salve that he laid upon his
conscience. But Mamma never asked, and for three whole days His Majesty
the King gloated over his treasure. It was of no earthly use to him, but
it was splendid, and, for aught he knew, something dropped from the
heavens themselves. Still Mamma made no inquiries, and it seemed to him,
in his furtive peeps, as though the shiny stones grew dim. What was the
use of a ’parkle cwown if it made a little boy feel all bad in his
inside? He had the pink string as well as the other treasure, but
greatly he wished that he had not gone beyond the string. It was his
first experience of iniquity, and it pained him after the flush of
possession and secret delight in the ‘’parkle cwown’ had died away.

Each day that he delayed rendered confession to the people beyond the
nursery doors more impossible. Now and again he determined to put
himself in the path of the beautifully-attired lady as she was going
out, and explain that he and no one else was the possessor of a ‘’parkle
cwown,’ most beautiful and quite uninquired for. But she passed
hurriedly to her carriage, and the opportunity was gone before His
Majesty the King could draw the deep breath which clinches noble
resolve. The dread secret cut him off from Miss Biddums, Patsie, and the
Commissioner’s wife, and—doubly hard fate—when he brooded over it Patsie
said, and told her mother, that he was cross.

The days were very long to His Majesty the King, and the nights longer
still. Miss Biddums had informed him, more than once, what was the
ultimate destiny of ‘fieves,’ and when he passed the interminable mud
flanks of the Central Jail, he shook in his little strapped shoes.

But release came after an afternoon spent in playing boats by the edge
of the tank at the bottom of the garden. His Majesty the King went to
tea, and, for the first time in his memory, the meal revolted him. His
nose was very cold, and his cheeks were burning hot. There was a weight
about his feet, and he pressed his head several times to make sure that
it was not swelling as he sat.

‘I feel vevy funny,’ said His Majesty the King, rubbing his nose.
‘Vere’s a buzz-buzz in my head.’

He went to bed quietly. Miss Biddums was out and the bearer undressed
him.

The sin of the ‘’parkle cwown’ was forgotten in the acuteness of the
discomfort to which he roused after a leaden sleep of some hours. He was
thirsty, and the bearer had forgotten to leave the drinking-water. ‘Miss
Biddums! Miss Biddums! I’m so kirsty!’

No answer. Miss Biddums had leave to attend the wedding of a Calcutta
schoolmate. His Majesty the King had forgotten that.

‘I want a dwink of water,’ he cried, but his voice was dried up in his
throat. ‘I want a dwink! Vere is ve glass?’

He sat up in bed and looked round. There was a murmur of voices from the
other side of the nursery door. It was better to face the terrible
unknown than to choke in the dark. He slipped out of bed, but his feet
were strangely wilful, and he reeled once or twice. Then he pushed the
door open and staggered—a puffed and purple-faced little figure—into the
brilliant light of the dining-room full of pretty ladies.

‘I’m vevy hot! I’m vevy uncomfitivle,’ moaned His Majesty the King,
clinging to the portière, ‘and vere’s no water in ve glass, and I’m _so_
kirsty. Give me a dwink of water.’

An apparition in black and white—His Majesty the King could hardly see
distinctly—lifted him up to the level of the table, and felt his wrists
and forehead. The water came, and he drank deeply, his teeth chattering
against the edge of the tumbler. Then every one seemed to go away—every
one except the huge man in black and white, who carried him back to his
bed; the mother and father following. And the sin of the ‘’parkle cwown’
rushed back and took possession of the terrified soul.

‘I’m a fief!’ he gasped. ‘I want to tell Miss Biddums vat I’m a fief.
Vere is Miss Biddums?’

Miss Biddums had come and was bending over him. ‘I’m a fief,’ he
whispered. ‘A fief—like ve men in ve pwison. But I’ll tell now. I
tookt—I tookt ve ’parkle cwown when ve man that came left it in ve hall.
I bwoke ve paper and ve little bwown box, and it looked shiny, and I
tookt it to play wif, and I was afwaid. It’s in ve dooly-box at ve
bottom. No one _never_ asked for it, but I was afwaid. Oh, go an’ get ve
dooly-box!’

Miss Biddums obediently stooped to the lowest shelf of the _almirah_ and
unearthed the big paper box in which His Majesty the King kept his
dearest possessions. Under the tin soldiers, and a layer of mud pellets
for a pellet-bow, winked and blazed a diamond star, wrapped roughly in a
half-sheet of notepaper whereon were a few words.

Somebody was crying at the head of the bed, and a man’s hand touched the
forehead of His Majesty the King, who grasped the packet and spread it
on the bed.

‘Vat is ve ’parkle cwown,’ he said, and wept bitterly; for now that he
had made restitution he would fain have kept the shining splendour with
him.

‘It concerns you too,’ said a voice at the head of the bed. ‘Read the
note. This is not the time to keep back anything.’

The note was curt, very much to the point, and signed by a single
initial. ‘_If you wear this to-morrow night I shall know what to
expect._’ The date was three weeks old.

A whisper followed, and the deeper voice returned: ‘And you drifted as
far apart as _that_! I think it makes us quits now, doesn’t it? Oh,
can’t we drop this folly once and for all? Is it worth it, darling?’

‘Kiss me too,’ said His Majesty the King dreamily. ‘You isn’t _vevy_
angwy, is you?’

The fever burned itself out, and His Majesty the King slept.

When he waked, it was in a new world—peopled by his father and mother as
well as Miss Biddums; and there was much love in that world and no
morsel of fear, and more petting than was good for several little boys.
His Majesty the King was too young to moralise on the uncertainty of
things human, or he would have been impressed with the singular
advantages of crime—ay, black sin. Behold, he had stolen the ‘’parkle
cwown,’ and his reward was Love, and the right to play in the
waste-paper basket under the table ‘for always.’

                  *       *       *       *       *

He trotted over to spend an afternoon with Patsie, and the
Commissioner’s wife would have kissed him. ‘No, not vere,’ said His
Majesty the King, with superb insolence, fencing one corner of his mouth
with his hand. ‘Vat’s my Mamma’s place—vere _she_ kisses me.’

‘Oh!’ said the Commissioner’s wife briefly. Then to herself: ‘Well, I
suppose I ought to be glad for his sake. Children are selfish little
grubs and—I’ve got my Patsie.’


                     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 freshet 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
reintroduced, 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 fists 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.

‘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’po	se I’m going to be a Bandmaster? Not I, quite. I’ll be a orf’cer
too. There’s nothin’ like taking 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, but 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 dying 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 worn 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.’

‘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!’

‘_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-’ed, 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 quite don’t 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 an’ 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 Lew 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.

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
forhever?’ 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 Ressaldar 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.


                                THE END


           _Printed by_ R. & R. CLARK, LIMITED, _Edinburgh_.

------------------------------------------------------------------------



                          THE SERVICE KIPLING.


                         _26 Vols.      16mo._

                _Blue Cloth.      2s. 6d. net per Vol._

The volumes are printed in an old-style type designed after an old
Venetian model and known as the Dolphin Type. They will be issued in the
following order:—

          Plain Tales from the Hills. 2 Vols.│1914 _November_
          Soldiers Three. 2 Vols.            │       „

          Wee Willie Winkie. 2 Vols.         │  _December_
          From Sea to Sea. 4 Vols.           │       „

          Life’s Handicap. 2 Vols.           │1915 _January_
          The Light that Failed. 2 Vols.     │       „

          The Naulahka. 2 Vols.              │  _February_
          Many Inventions. 2 Vols.           │       „

          The Day’s Work. 2 Vols.            │    _March_
          Kim. 2 Vols.                       │       „

          Traffics and Discoveries. 2 Vols.  │    _April_
          Actions and Reactions. 2 Vols.     │       „

                    MACMILLAN AND CO., LTD., LONDON.



                     THE WORKS OF RUDYARD KIPLING.


                            UNIFORM EDITION.

         Extra Crown 8vo. Red Cloth, with Gilt Tops. 6s. each.

                            POCKET EDITION.

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  =PLAIN TALES FROM THE HILLS.= Seventy-ninth Thousand.

  =LIFE’S HANDICAP. Being Stories of Mine Own People.= Sixty-sixth
    Thousand.

  =MANY INVENTIONS.= Sixty-second Thousand.

  =THE LIGHT THAT FAILED.= Seventy-eighth Thousand.

  =WEE WILLIE WINKIE, and other Stories.= Fortieth Thousand.

  =SOLDIERS THREE, and other Stories.= Forty-fifth Thousand.

  =“CAPTAINS COURAGEOUS.” A Story of the Grand Banks.= Illustrated by I.
    W. TABER. Forty-eighth Thousand.

  =THE JUNGLE BOOK.= With Illustrations by J. L. KIPLING, W. H. DRAKE,
    and P. FRENZENY. One-hundred-and-Thirty-Fourth Thousand.

  =THE DAY’S WORK.= Eighty-sixth Thousand.

  =THE SECOND JUNGLE BOOK.= With Illustrations by J. LOCKWOOD KIPLING.
    Seventy-fifth Thousand.

  =STALKY & CO.= Fifty-ninth Thousand.

  =FROM SEA TO SEA. Letters of Travel.= In Two Vols. Twenty-ninth
    Thousand.

  =THE NAULAHKA. A Story of West and East.= By RUDYARD KIPLING and
    WOLCOTT BALESTIER. Twenty-fifth Thousand.

  =KIM.= Illustrated by J. LOCKWOOD KIPLING. Ninety-seventh Thousand.

  =JUST SO STORIES FOR LITTLE CHILDREN.= Illustrated by the Author.
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  =TRAFFICS AND DISCOVERIES.= Forty-sixth Thousand.

  =PUCK OF POOK’S HILL.= With Illustrations by H. R. MILLAR. Forty-ninth
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 Also issued in Special Binding for Presentation. Extra Gilt Cloth, Gilt
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  =SOLDIER TALES.= With Illustrations by A. S. HARTRICK. Fourteenth
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  =THE JUNGLE BOOK.= Illustrated.

  =THE SECOND JUNGLE BOOK.= Illustrated.

  “=CAPTAINS COURAGEOUS.=” Illustrated.

                    MACMILLAN AND CO., LTD., LONDON.

------------------------------------------------------------------------



                          TRANSCRIBER’S NOTES


 1. Silently corrected typographical errors and variations in spelling.
 2. Archaic, non-standard, and uncertain spellings retained as printed.
 3. Enclosed italics font in _underscores_.





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