Tantissimi classici della letteratura e della cultura politica,
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Abbe Prevost - MANON LESCAUT
Alcott, Louisa M. - AN OLDFASHIONED GIRL
Alcott, Louisa M. - LITTLE MEN
Alcott, Louisa M. - LITTLE WOMEN
Alcott, Louisa May - JACK AND JILL
Alcott, Louisa May - LIFE LETTERS AND JOURNALS
Andersen, Hans Christian - FAIRY TALES
Anonimo - BEOWULF
Ariosto, Ludovico - ORLANDO ENRAGED
Aurelius, Marcus - MEDITATIONS
Austen, Jane - EMMA
Austen, Jane - MANSFIELD PARK
Austen, Jane - NORTHANGER ABBEY
Austen, Jane - PERSUASION
Austen, Jane - PRIDE AND PREJUDICE
Austen, Jane - SENSE AND SENSIBILITY
Authors, Various - LETTERS OF ABELARD AND HELOISE
Authors, Various - SELECTED ENGLISH LETTERS
Autori Vari - THE WORLD ENGLISH BIBLE
Bacon, Francis - THE ADVANCEMENT OF LEARNING
Balzac, Honore de - EUGENIE GRANDET
Balzac, Honore de - FATHER GORIOT
Baroness Orczy - THE SCARLET PIMPERNEL
Barrie, J. M. - PETER AND WENDY
Barrie, James M. - PETER PAN
Bierce, Ambrose - THE DEVIL'S DICTIONARY
Blake, William - SONGS OF INNOCENCE AND EXPERIENCE
Boccaccio, Giovanni - DECAMERONE
Brent, Linda - INCIDENTS IN THE LIFE OF A SLAVE GIRL
Bronte, Charlotte - JANE EYRE
Bronte, Charlotte - VILLETTE
Buchan, John - GREENMANTLE
Buchan, John - MR STANDFAST
Buchan, John - THE 39 STEPS
Bunyan, John - THE PILGRIM'S PROGRESS
Burckhardt, Jacob - THE CIVILIZATION OF THE RENAISSANCE IN ITALY
Burnett, Frances H. - A LITTLE PRINCESS
Burnett, Frances H. - LITTLE LORD FAUNTLEROY
Burnett, Frances H. - THE SECRET GARDEN
Butler, Samuel - EREWHON
Carlyle, Thomas - PAST AND PRESENT
Carlyle, Thomas - THE FRENCH REVOLUTION
Cellini, Benvenuto - AUTOBIOGRAPHY
Cervantes - DON QUIXOTE
Chaucer, Geoffrey - THE CANTERBURY TALES
Chesterton, G. K. - A SHORT HISTORY OF ENGLAND
Chesterton, G. K. - THE BALLAD OF THE WHITE HORSE
Chesterton, G. K. - THE INNOCENCE OF FATHER BROWN
Chesterton, G. K. - THE MAN WHO KNEW TOO MUCH
Chesterton, G. K. - THE MAN WHO WAS THURSDAY
Chesterton, G. K. - THE WISDOM OF FATHER BROWN
Chesterton, G. K. - TWELVE TYPES
Chesterton, G. K. - WHAT I SAW IN AMERICA
Chesterton, Gilbert K. - HERETICS
Chopin, Kate - AT FAULT
Chopin, Kate - BAYOU FOLK
Chopin, Kate - THE AWAKENING AND SELECTED SHORT STORIES
Clark Hall, John R. - A CONCISE ANGLOSAXON DICTIONARY
Clarkson, Thomas - AN ESSAY ON THE SLAVERY AND COMMERCE OF THE HUMAN SPECIES
Clausewitz, Carl von - ON WAR
Coleridge, Herbert - A DICTIONARY OF THE FIRST OR OLDEST WORDS IN THE ENGLISH
Coleridge, S. T. - COMPLETE POETICAL WORKS
Coleridge, S. T. - HINTS TOWARDS THE FORMATION OF A MORE COMPREHENSIVE THEORY
Coleridge, S. T. - THE RIME OF THE ANCIENT MARINER
Collins, Wilkie - THE MOONSTONE
Collodi - PINOCCHIO
Conan Doyle, Arthur - A STUDY IN SCARLET
Conan Doyle, Arthur - MEMOIRS OF SHERLOCK HOLMES
Conan Doyle, Arthur - THE HOUND OF THE BASKERVILLES
Conan Doyle, Arthur - THE RETURN OF SHERLOCK HOLMES
Conan Doyle, Arthur - THE SIGN OF THE FOUR
Conrad, Joseph - HEART OF DARKNESS
Conrad, Joseph - LORD JIM
Conrad, Joseph - NOSTROMO
Conrad, Joseph - THE NIGGER OF THE NARCISSUS
Conrad, Joseph - TYPHOON
Crane, Stephen - LAST WORDS
Crane, Stephen - MAGGIE
Crane, Stephen - THE RED BADGE OF COURAGE
Crane, Stephen - WOUNDS IN THE RAIN
Dante - THE DIVINE COMEDY: HELL
Dante - THE DIVINE COMEDY: PARADISE
Dante - THE DIVINE COMEDY: PURGATORY
Darwin, Charles - THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF CHARLES DARWIN
Darwin, Charles - THE ORIGIN OF SPECIES
Defoe, Daniel - A GENERAL HISTORY OF THE PYRATES
Defoe, Daniel - A JOURNAL OF THE PLAGUE YEAR
Defoe, Daniel - CAPTAIN SINGLETON
Defoe, Daniel - MOLL FLANDERS
Defoe, Daniel - ROBINSON CRUSOE
Defoe, Daniel - THE COMPLETE ENGLISH TRADESMAN
Defoe, Daniel - THE FURTHER ADVENTURES OF ROBINSON CRUSOE
Deledda, Grazia - AFTER THE DIVORCE
Dickens, Charles - A CHRISTMAS CAROL
Dickens, Charles - A TALE OF TWO CITIES
Dickens, Charles - BLEAK HOUSE
Dickens, Charles - DAVID COPPERFIELD
Dickens, Charles - DONBEY AND SON
Dickens, Charles - GREAT EXPECTATIONS
Dickens, Charles - HARD TIMES
Dickens, Charles - LETTERS VOLUME 1
Dickens, Charles - LITTLE DORRIT
Dickens, Charles - MARTIN CHUZZLEWIT
Dickens, Charles - NICHOLAS NICKLEBY
Dickens, Charles - OLIVER TWIST
Dickens, Charles - OUR MUTUAL FRIEND
Dickens, Charles - PICTURES FROM ITALY
Dickens, Charles - THE MYSTERY OF EDWIN DROOD
Dickens, Charles - THE OLD CURIOSITY SHOP
Dickens, Charles - THE PICKWICK PAPERS
Dickinson, Emily - POEMS
Dostoevsky, Fyodor - CRIME AND PUNISHMENT
Dostoyevsky, Fyodor - THE BROTHERS KARAMAZOV
Du Maurier, George - TRILBY
Dumas, Alexandre - THE COUNT OF MONTE CRISTO
Dumas, Alexandre - THE MAN IN THE IRON MASK
Dumas, Alexandre - THE THREE MUSKETEERS
Eliot, George - DANIEL DERONDA
Eliot, George - MIDDLEMARCH
Eliot, George - SILAS MARNER
Eliot, George - THE MILL ON THE FLOSS
Engels, Frederick - THE CONDITION OF THE WORKING-CLASS IN ENGLAND IN 1844
Equiano - AUTOBIOGRAPHY
Esopo - FABLES
Fenimore Cooper, James - THE LAST OF THE MOHICANS
Fielding, Henry - TOM JONES
France, Anatole - THAIS
France, Anatole - THE GODS ARE ATHIRST
France, Anatole - THE LIFE OF JOAN OF ARC
France, Anatole - THE SEVEN WIVES OF BLUEBEARD
Frank Baum, L. - THE PATCHWORK GIRL OF OZ
Frank Baum, L. - THE WONDERFUL WIZARD OF OZ
Franklin, Benjamin - AUTOBIOGRAPHY
Frazer, James George - THE GOLDEN BOUGH
Freud, Sigmund - DREAM PSYCHOLOGY
Galsworthy, John - COMPLETE PLAYS
Galsworthy, John - STRIFE
Galsworthy, John - STUDIES AND ESSAYS
Galsworthy, John - THE FIRST AND THE LAST
Galsworthy, John - THE FORSYTE SAGA
Galsworthy, John - THE LITTLE MAN
Galsworthy, John - THE SILVER BOX
Galsworthy, John - THE SKIN GAME
Gaskell, Elizabeth - CRANFORD
Gaskell, Elizabeth - MARY BARTON
Gaskell, Elizabeth - NORTH AND SOUTH
Gaskell, Elizabeth - THE LIFE OF CHARLOTTE BRONTE
Gay, John - THE BEGGAR'S OPERA
Gentile, Maria - THE ITALIAN COOK BOOK
Gilbert and Sullivan - PLAYS
Goethe - FAUST
Gogol - DEAD SOULS
Goldsmith, Oliver - SHE STOOPS TO CONQUER
Goldsmith, Oliver - THE VICAR OF WAKEFIELD
Grahame, Kenneth - THE WIND IN THE WILLOWS
Grimm, Brothers - FAIRY TALES
Harding, A. R. - GINSENG AND OTHER MEDICINAL PLANTS
Hardy, Thomas - A CHANGED MAN AND OTHER TALES
Hardy, Thomas - FAR FROM THE MADDING CROWD
Hardy, Thomas - JUDE THE OBSCURE
Hardy, Thomas - TESS OF THE D'URBERVILLES
Hardy, Thomas - THE MAYOR OF CASTERBRIDGE
Hartley, Cecil B. - THE GENTLEMEN'S BOOK OF ETIQUETTE
Hawthorne, Nathaniel - LITTLE MASTERPIECES
Hawthorne, Nathaniel - THE SCARLET LETTER
Henry VIII - LOVE LETTERS TO ANNE BOLEYN
Henry, O. - CABBAGES AND KINGS
Henry, O. - SIXES AND SEVENS
Henry, O. - THE FOUR MILLION
Henry, O. - THE TRIMMED LAMP
Henry, O. - WHIRLIGIGS
Hindman Miller, Gustavus - TEN THOUSAND DREAMS INTERPRETED
Hobbes, Thomas - LEVIATHAN
Homer - THE ILIAD
Homer - THE ODYSSEY
Hornaday, William T. - THE EXTERMINATION OF THE AMERICAN BISON
Hume, David - A TREATISE OF HUMAN NATURE
Hume, David - AN ENQUIRY CONCERNING HUMAN UNDERSTANDING
Hume, David - DIALOGUES CONCERNING NATURAL RELIGION
Ibsen, Henrik - A DOLL'S HOUSE
Ibsen, Henrik - AN ENEMY OF THE PEOPLE
Ibsen, Henrik - GHOSTS
Ibsen, Henrik - HEDDA GABLER
Ibsen, Henrik - JOHN GABRIEL BORKMAN
Ibsen, Henrik - ROSMERHOLM
Ibsen, Henrik - THE LADY FROM THE SEA
Ibsen, Henrik - THE MASTER BUILDER
Ibsen, Henrik - WHEN WE DEAD AWAKEN
Irving, Washington - THE LEGEND OF SLEEPY HOLLOW
James, Henry - ITALIAN HOURS
James, Henry - THE ASPERN PAPERS
James, Henry - THE BOSTONIANS
James, Henry - THE PORTRAIT OF A LADY
James, Henry - THE TURN OF THE SCREW
James, Henry - WASHINGTON SQUARE
Jerome, Jerome K. - THREE MEN IN A BOAT
Jerome, Jerome K. - THREE MEN ON THE BUMMEL
Jevons, Stanley - POLITICAL ECONOMY
Johnson, Samuel - A GRAMMAR OF THE ENGLISH TONGUE
Jonson, Ben - THE ALCHEMIST
Jonson, Ben - VOLPONE
Joyce, James - A PORTRAIT OF THE ARTIST AS A YOUNG MAN
Joyce, James - CHAMBER MUSIC
Joyce, James - DUBLINERS
Joyce, James - ULYSSES
Keats, John - ENDYMION
Keats, John - POEMS PUBLISHED IN 1817
Keats, John - POEMS PUBLISHED IN 1820
King James - THE BIBLE
Kipling, Rudyard - CAPTAINS COURAGEOUS
Kipling, Rudyard - INDIAN TALES
Kipling, Rudyard - JUST SO STORIES
Kipling, Rudyard - KIM
Kipling, Rudyard - THE JUNGLE BOOK
Kipling, Rudyard - THE MAN WHO WOULD BE KING
Kipling, Rudyard - THE SECOND JUNGLE BOOK
Lawrence, D. H - THE RAINBOW
Lawrence, D. H - THE WHITE PEACOCK
Lawrence, D. H - TWILIGHT IN ITALY
Lawrence, D. H. - AARON'S ROD
Lawrence, D. H. - SONS AND LOVERS
Lawrence, D. H. - THE LOST GIRL
Lawrence, D. H. - WOMEN IN LOVE
Lear, Edward - BOOK OF NONSENSE
Lear, Edward - LAUGHABLE LYRICS
Lear, Edward - MORE NONSENSE
Lear, Edward - NONSENSE SONG
Leblanc, Maurice - ARSENE LUPIN VS SHERLOCK HOLMES
Leblanc, Maurice - THE ADVENTURES OF ARSENE LUPIN
Leblanc, Maurice - THE CONFESSIONS OF ARSENE LUPIN
Leblanc, Maurice - THE HOLLOW NEEDLE
Leblanc, Maurice - THE RETURN OF ARSENE LUPIN
Lehmann, Lilli - HOW TO SING
Leroux, Gaston - THE MAN WITH THE BLACK FEATHER
Leroux, Gaston - THE MYSTERY OF THE YELLOW ROOM
Leroux, Gaston - THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA
London, Jack - MARTIN EDEN
London, Jack - THE CALL OF THE WILD
London, Jack - WHITE FANG
Machiavelli, Nicolo' - THE PRINCE
Malthus, Thomas - PRINCIPLE OF POPULATION
Mansfield, Katherine - THE GARDEN PARTY AND OTHER STORIES
Marlowe, Christopher - THE JEW OF MALTA
Marryat, Captain - THE CHILDREN OF THE NEW FOREST
Maupassant, Guy De - BEL AMI
Melville, Hermann - MOBY DICK
Melville, Hermann - TYPEE
Mill, John Stuart - PRINCIPLES OF POLITICAL ECONOMY
Milton, John - PARADISE LOST
Mitra, S. M. - HINDU TALES FROM THE SANSKRIT
Montaigne, Michel de - ESSAYS
Montgomery, Lucy Maud - ANNE OF GREEN GABLES
More, Thomas - UTOPIA
Nesbit, E. - FIVE CHILDREN AND IT
Nesbit, E. - THE PHOENIX AND THE CARPET
Nesbit, E. - THE RAILWAY CHILDREN
Nesbit, E. - THE STORY OF THE AMULET
Newton, Isaac - OPTICKS
Nietsche, Friedrich - BEYOND GOOD AND EVIL
Nietsche, Friedrich - THUS SPAKE ZARATHUSTRA
Nightingale, Florence - NOTES ON NURSING
Owen, Wilfred - POEMS
Ozaki, Yei Theodora - JAPANESE FAIRY TALES
Pascal, Blaise - PENSEES
Pellico, Silvio - MY TEN YEARS IMPRISONMENT
Perrault, Charles - FAIRY TALES
Pirandello, Luigi - THREE PLAYS
Plato - THE REPUBLIC
Poe, Edgar Allan - THE COMPLETE POETICAL WORKS 1
Poe, Edgar Allan - THE COMPLETE POETICAL WORKS 2
Poe, Edgar Allan - THE COMPLETE POETICAL WORKS 3
Poe, Edgar Allan - THE COMPLETE POETICAL WORKS 4
Poe, Edgar Allan - THE COMPLETE POETICAL WORKS 5
Poe, Edgar Allan - THE FALL OF THE HOUSE OF USHER
Potter, Beatrix - THE TALE OF PETER RABBIT
Proust, Marcel - SWANN'S WAY
Radcliffe, Ann - A SICILIAN ROMANCE
Ricardo, David - ON THE PRINCIPLES OF POLITICAL ECONOMY AND TAXATION
Richardson, Samuel - PAMELA
Rider Haggard, H. - ALLAN QUATERMAIN
Rider Haggard, H. - KING SOLOMON'S MINES
Rousseau, J. J. - THE ORIGIN AND FOUNDATION OF INEQUALITY AMONG MANKIND
Ruskin, John - THE SEVEN LAMPS OF ARCHITECTURE
Schiller, Friedrich - THE DEATH OF WALLENSTEIN
Schiller, Friedrich - THE PICCOLOMINI
Schopenhauer, Arthur - THE ART OF CONTROVERSY
Schopenhauer, Arthur - THE WISDOM OF LIFE
Scott Fitzgerald, F. - FLAPPERS AND PHILOSOPHERS
Scott Fitzgerald, F. - TALES OF THE JAZZ AGE
Scott Fitzgerald, F. - THE BEAUTIFUL AND DAMNED
Scott Fitzgerald, F. - THIS SIDE OF PARADISE
Scott, Walter - IVANHOE
Scott, Walter - QUENTIN DURWARD
Scott, Walter - ROB ROY
Scott, Walter - THE BRIDE OF LAMMERMOOR
Scott, Walter - WAVERLEY
Sedgwick, Anne Douglas - THE THIRD WINDOW
Sewell, Anna - BLACK BEAUTY
Shakespeare, William - COMPLETE WORKS
Shakespeare, William - HAMLET
Shakespeare, William - OTHELLO
Shakespeare, William - ROMEO AND JULIET
Shelley, Mary - FRANKENSTEIN
Shelley, Percy Bysshe - A DEFENCE OF POETRY AND OTHER ESSAYS
Shelley, Percy Bysshe - COMPLETE POETICAL WORKS
Sheridan, Richard B. - THE SCHOOL FOR SCANDAL
Sienkiewicz, Henryk - QUO VADIS
Smith, Adam - THE WEALTH OF NATIONS
Smollett, Tobias - TRAVELS THROUGH FRANCE AND ITALY
Spencer, Herbert - ESSAYS ON EDUCATION AND KINDRED SUBJECTS
Spyri, Johanna - HEIDI
Sterne, Laurence - A SENTIMENTAL JOURNEY
Sterne, Laurence - TRISTRAM SHANDY
Stevenson, Robert Louis - A CHILD'S GARDEN OF VERSES
Stevenson, Robert Louis - ESSAYS IN THE ART OF WRITING
Stevenson, Robert Louis - KIDNAPPED
Stevenson, Robert Louis - NEW ARABIAN NIGHTS
Stevenson, Robert Louis - THE BLACK ARROW
Stevenson, Robert Louis - THE STRANGE CASE OF DR. JEKYLL AND MR. HYDE
Stevenson, Robert Louis - TREASURE ISLAND
Stoker, Bram - DRACULA
Strindberg, August - LUCKY PEHR
Strindberg, August - MASTER OLOF
Strindberg, August - THE RED ROOM
Strindberg, August - THE ROAD TO DAMASCUS
Strindberg, August - THERE ARE CRIMES AND CRIMES
Swift, Jonathan - A MODEST PROPOSAL
Swift, Jonathan - A TALE OF A TUB
Swift, Jonathan - GULLIVER'S TRAVELS
Swift, Jonathan - THE BATTLE OF THE BOOKS AND OTHER SHORT PIECES
Tagore, Rabindranath - FRUIT GATHERING
Tagore, Rabindranath - THE GARDENER
Tagore, Rabindranath - THE HUNGRY STONES AND OTHER STORIES
Thackeray, William - BARRY LYNDON
Thackeray, William - VANITY FAIR
Thackeray, William Makepeace - THE BOOK OF SNOBS
Thackeray, William Makepeace - THE ROSE AND THE RING
Thackeray, William Makepeace - THE VIRGINIANS
Thoreau, Henry David - WALDEN
Tolstoi, Leo - A LETTER TO A HINDU
Tolstoy, Lev - ANNA KARENINA
Tolstoy, Lev - WAR AND PEACE
Trollope, Anthony - AN AUTOBIOGRAPHY
Trollope, Anthony - BARCHESTER TOWERS
Trollope, Anthony - FRAMLEY PARSONAGE
Trollope, Anthony - THE EUSTACE DIAMONDS
Trollope, Anthony - THE MAN WHO KEPT HIS MONEY IN A BOX
Trollope, Anthony - THE WARDEN
Trollope, Anthony - THE WAY WE LIVE NOW
Twain, Mark - LIFE ON THE MISSISSIPPI
Twain, Mark - SPEECHES
Twain, Mark - THE ADVENTURES OF HUCKLEBERRY FINN
Twain, Mark - THE ADVENTURES OF TOM SAWYER
Twain, Mark - THE PRINCE AND THE PAUPER
Vari, Autori - THE MAGNA CARTA
Verga, Giovanni - SICILIAN STORIES
Verne, Jules - 20000 LEAGUES UNDER THE SEAS
Verne, Jules - A JOURNEY TO THE CENTRE OF THE EARTH
Verne, Jules - ALL AROUND THE MOON
Verne, Jules - AROUND THE WORLD IN 80 DAYS
Verne, Jules - FIVE WEEKS IN A BALLOON
Verne, Jules - FROM THE EARTH TO THE MOON
Verne, Jules - MICHAEL STROGOFF
Verne, Jules - THE MYSTERIOUS ISLAND
Voltaire - PHILOSOPHICAL DICTIONARY
Vyasa - MAHABHARATA
Wallace, Edgar - SANDERS OF THE RIVER
Wallace, Edgar - THE DAFFODIL MYSTERY
Wallace, Lew - BEN HUR
Webster, Jean - DADDY LONG LEGS
Wedekind, Franz - THE AWAKENING OF SPRING
Wells, H. G. - KIPPS
Wells, H. G. - THE INVISIBLE MAN
Wells, H. G. - THE ISLAND OF DOCTOR MOREAU
Wells, H. G. - THE STOLEN BACILLUS AND OTHER INCIDENTS
Wells, H. G. - THE TIME MACHINE
Wells, H. G. - THE WAR OF THE WORLDS
Wells, H. G. - WHAT IS COMING
Wharton, Edith - THE AGE OF INNOCENCE
White, Andrew Dickson - FIAT MONEY INFLATION IN FRANCE
Wilde, Oscar - A WOMAN OF NO IMPORTANCE
Wilde, Oscar - AN IDEAL HUSBAND
Wilde, Oscar - DE PROFUNDIS
Wilde, Oscar - LADY WINDERMERE'S FAN
Wilde, Oscar - SALOME
Wilde, Oscar - SELECTED POEMS
Wilde, Oscar - THE BALLAD OF READING GAOL
Wilde, Oscar - THE CANTERVILLE GHOST
Wilde, Oscar - THE HAPPY PRINCE AND OTHER TALES
Wilde, Oscar - THE IMPORTANCE OF BEING EARNEST
Wilde, Oscar - THE PICTURE OF DORIAN GREY
Wilde, Oscar - THE SOUL OF MAN
Wilson, Epiphanius - SACRED BOOKS OF THE EAST
Wollstonecraft, Mary - A VINDICATION OF THE RIGHTS OF WOMAN
Woolf, Virgina - NIGHT AND DAY
Woolf, Virgina - THE VOYAGE OUT
Woolf, Virginia - JACOB'S ROOM
Woolf, Virginia - MONDAY OR TUESDAY
Wordsworth, William - POEMS
Wordsworth, William - PROSE WORKS
Zola, Emile - THERESE RAQUIN
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ISTRUZIONI D'USO DETTAGLIATE
BY RUDYARD KIPLING.
"THE FINEST STORY IN THE WORLD".
"Or ever the knightly years were gone
With the old world to the grave,
I was a king in Babylon
And you were a Christian slave,"
His name was Charlie Mears; he was the only son of his mother who was a
widow, and he lived in the north of London, coming into the City every day
to work in a bank. He was twenty years old and suffered from aspirations.
I met him in a public billiard-saloon where the marker called him by his
given name, and he called the marker "Bullseyes." Charlie explained, a
little nervously, that he had only come to the place to look on, and since
looking on at games of skill is not a cheap amusement for the young, I
suggested that Charlie should go back to his mother.
That was our first step toward better acquaintance. He would call on me
sometimes in the evenings instead of running about London with his
fellow-clerks; and before long, speaking of himself as a young man must,
he told me of his aspirations, which were all literary. He desired to make
himself an undying name chiefly through verse, though he was not above
sending stories of love and death to the drop-a-penny-in-the-slot
journals. It was my fate to sit still while Charlie read me poems of many
hundred lines, and bulky fragments of plays that would surely shake the
world. My reward was his unreserved confidence, and the self-revelations
and troubles of a young man are almost as holy as those of a maiden.
Charlie had never fallen in love, but was anxious to do so on the first
opportunity; he believed in all things good and all things honorable, but,
at the same time, was curiously careful to let me see that he knew his way
about the world as befitted a bank clerk on twenty-five shillings a week.
He rhymed "dove" with "love" and "moon" with "June," and devoutly believed
that they had never so been rhymed before. The long lame gaps in his plays
he filled up with hasty words of apology and description and swept on,
seeing all that he intended to do so clearly that he esteemed it already
done, and turned to me for applause.
I fancy that his mother did not encourage his aspirations, and I know that
his writing-table at home was the edge of his washstand. This he told me
almost at the outset of our acquaintance; when he was ravaging my
bookshelves, and a little before I was implored to speak the truth as to
his chances of "writing something really great, you know." Maybe I
encouraged him too much, for, one night, he called on me, his eyes flaming
with excitement, and said breathlessly:
"Do you mind--can you let me stay here and write all this evening? I won't
interrupt you, I won't really. There's no place for me to write in at my
"What's the trouble?" I said, knowing well what that trouble was.
"I've a notion in my head that would make the most splendid story that was
ever written. Do let me write it out here. It's "such" a notion!"
There was no resisting the appeal. I set him a table; he hardly thanked
me, but plunged into the work at once. For half an hour the pen scratched
without stopping. Then Charlie sighed and tugged his hair. The scratching
grew slower, there were more erasures, and at last ceased. The finest
story in the world would not come forth.
"It looks such awful rot now," he said, mournfully. "And yet it seemed so
good when I was thinking about it. What's wrong?"
I could not dishearten him by saying the truth. So I answered: "Perhaps
you don't feel in the mood for writing."
"Yes I do--except when I look at this stuff. Ugh!"
"Read me what you've done," I said.
"He read, and it was wondrous bad, and he paused at all the specially
turgid sentences, expecting a little approval; for he was proud of those
sentences, as I knew he would be.
"It needs compression," I suggested, cautiously.
"I hate cutting my things down. I don't think you could alter a word here
without spoiling the sense. It reads better aloud than when I was writing
"Charlie, you're suffering from an alarming disease afflicting a numerous
class. Put the thing by, and tackle it again in a week."
"I want to do it at once. What do you think of it?"
"How can I judge from a half-written tale? Tell me the story as it lies in
Charlie told, and in the telling there was everything that his ignorance
had so carefully prevented from escaping into the written word. I looked
at him, and wondering whether it were possible that he did not know the
originality, the power of the notion that had come in his way? It was
distinctly a Notion among notions. Men had been puffed up with pride by
notions not a tithe as excellent and practicable. But Charlie babbled on
serenely, interrupting the current of pure fancy with samples of horrible
sentences that he purposed to use. I heard him out to the end. It would be
folly to allow his idea to remain in his own inept hands, when I could do
so much with it. Not all that could be done indeed; but, oh so much!
"What do you think?" he said, at last. "I fancy I shall call it 'The Story
of a Ship.'"
"I think the idea's pretty good; but you won't be able to handle it for
ever so long. Now I"----
"Would it be of any use to you? Would you care to take it? I should be
proud," said Charlie, promptly.
There are few things sweeter in this world than the guileless, hot-headed,
intemperate, open admiration of a junior. Even a woman in her blindest
devotion does not fall into the gait of the man she adores, tilt her
bonnet to the angle at which he wears his hat, or interlard her speech
with his pet oaths. And Charlie did all these things. Still it was
necessary to salve my conscience before I possessed myself of Charlie's
"Let's make a bargain. I'll give you a fiver for the notion," I said.
Charlie became a bank-clerk at once.
"Oh, that's impossible. Between two pals, you know, if I may call you so,
and speaking as a man of the world, I couldn't. Take the notion if it's
any use to you. I've heaps more."
He had--none knew this better than I--but they were the notions of other
"Look at it as a matter of business--between men of the world," I
returned. "Five pounds will buy you any number of poetry-books. Business
is business, and you may be sure I shouldn't give that price unless"----
"Oh, if you put it "that" way," said Charlie, visibly moved by the thought
of the books. The bargain was clinched with an agreement that he should at
unstated intervals come to me with all the notions that he possessed,
should have a table of his own to write at, and unquestioned right to
inflict upon me all his poems and fragments of poems. Then I said, "Now
tell me how you came by this idea."
"It came by itself," Charlie's eyes opened a little.
"Yes, but you told me a great deal about the hero that you must have read
"I haven't any time for reading, except when you let me sit here, and on
Sundays I'm on my bicycle or down the river all day. There's nothing wrong
about the hero, is there?"
"Tell me again and I shall understand clearly. You say that your hero went
pirating. How did he live?"
"He was on the lower deck of this ship-thing that I was telling you
"What sort of ship?"
"It was the kind rowed with oars, and the sea spurts through the oar-holes
and the men row sitting up to their knees in water. Then there's a bench
running down between the two lines of oars and an overseer with a whip
walks up and down the bench to make the men work."
"How do you know that?"
"It's in the tale. There's a rope running overhead, looped to the upper
deck, for the overseer to catch hold of when the ship rolls. When the
overseer misses the rope once and falls among the rowers, remember the
hero laughs at him and gets licked for it. He's chained to his oar of
"How is he chained?"
"With an iron band round his waist fixed to the bench he sits on, and a
sort of handcuff on his left wrist chaining him to the oar. He's on the
lower deck where the worst men are sent, and the only light comes from the
hatchways and through the oar-holes. Can't you imagine the sunlight just
squeezing through between the handle and the hole and wobbling about as
the ship moves?"
"I can, but I can't imagine your imagining it."
"How could it be any other way? Now you listen to me. The long oars on the
upper deck are managed by four men to each bench, the lower ones by three,
and the lowest of all by two. Remember, it's quite dark on the lowest deck
and all the men there go mad. When a man dies at his oar on that deck he
isn't thrown overboard, but cut up in his chains and stuffed through the
oar-hole in little pieces."
"Why?" I demanded, amazed, not so much at the information as the tone of
command in which it was flung out.
"To save trouble and to frighten the others. It needs two overseers to
drag a man's body up to the top deck; and if the men at the lower deck
oars were left alone, of course they'd stop rowing and try to pull up the
benches by all standing up together in their chains."
"You've a most provident imagination. Where have you been reading about
galleys and galley-slaves?"
"Nowhere that I remember. I row a little when I get the chance. But,
perhaps, if you say so, I may have read something."
He went away shortly afterward to deal with booksellers, and I wondered
how a bank clerk aged twenty could put into my hands with a profligate
abundance of detail, all given with absolute assurance, the story of
extravagant and bloodthirsty adventure, riot, piracy, and death in unnamed
seas. He had led his hero a desperate dance through revolt against the
overseers, to command of a ship of his own, and ultimate establishment of
a kingdom on an island "somewhere in the sea, you know"; and, delighted
with my paltry five pounds, had gone out to buy the notions of other men,
that these might teach him how to write. I had the consolation of knowing
that this notion was mine by right of purchase, and I thought that I could
make something of it.
When next he came to me he was drunk--royally drunk on many poets for the
first time revealed to him. His pupils were dilated, his words tumbled
over each other, and he wrapped himself in quotations. Most of all was he
drunk with Longfellow.
"Isn't it splendid? Isn't it superb?" he cried, after hasty greetings.
"Listen to this--
"'Wouldst thou,'--so the helmsman answered,
'Know the secret of the sea?
Only those who brave its dangers
Comprehend its mystery.'"
"'Only those who brave its dangers
Comprehend its mystery,'"
he repeated twenty times, walking up and down the room and forgetting me.
"But "I" can understand it too," he said to himself. "I don't know how to
thank you for that fiver, And this; listen--
"'I remember the black wharves and the ships
And the sea-tides tossing free,
And the Spanish sailors with bearded lips,
And the beauty and mystery of the ships,
And the magic of the sea.'"
I haven't braved any dangers, but I feel as if I knew all about it."
"You certainly seem to have a grip of the sea. Have you ever seen it?"
"When I was a little chap I went to Brighton once; we used to live in
Coventry, though, before we came to London. I never saw it,
"'When descends on the Atlantic
Storm-wind of the Equinox.'"
He shook me by the shoulder to make me understand the passion that was
"When that storm comes," he continued, "I think that all the oars in the
ship that I was talking about get broken, and the rowers have their chests
smashed in by the bucking oar-heads. By the way, have you done anything
with that notion of mine yet?"
"No. I was waiting to hear more of it from you. Tell me how in the world
you're so certain about the fittings of the ship. You know nothing of
"I don't know. It's as real as anything to me until I try to write it
down. I was thinking about it only last night in bed, after you had loaned
me 'Treasure Island'; and I made up a whole lot of new things to go into
"What sort of things?"
"About the food the men ate; rotten figs and black beans and wine in a
skin bag, passed from bench to bench."
"Was the ship built so long ago as "that"?"
"As what? I don't know whether it was long ago or not. It's only a notion,
but sometimes it seems just as real as if it was true. Do I bother you
with talking about it?"
"Not in the least. Did you make up anything else?"
"Yes, but it's nonsense." Charlie flushed a little.
"Never mind; let's hear about it."
"Well, I was thinking over the story, and after awhile I got out of bed
and wrote down on a piece of paper the sort of stuff the men might be
supposed to scratch on their oars with the edges of their handcuffs. It
seemed to make the thing more lifelike. It "is" so real to me, y'know."
"Have you the paper on you?"
"Ye-es, but what's the use of showing it? It's only a lot of scratches.
All the same, we might have 'em reproduced in the book on the front page."
"I'll attend to those details. Show me what your men wrote."
He pulled out of his pocket a sheet of note-paper, with a single line of
scratches upon it, and I put this carefully away.
"What is it supposed to mean in English?" I said.
"Oh, I don't know. Perhaps it means 'I'm beastly tired.' It's great
nonsense," he repeated, "but all those men in the ship seem as real as
people to me. Do do something to the notion soon; I should like to see it
written and printed."
"But all you've told me would make a long book."
"Make it then. You've only to sit down and write it out."
"Give me a little time. Have you any more notions?"
"Not just now. I'm reading all the books I've bought. They're splendid."
When he had left I looked at the sheet of note-paper with the inscription
upon it. Then I took my head tenderly between both hands, to make certain
that it was not coming off or turning round. Then ... but there seemed to
be no interval between quitting my rooms and finding myself arguing with a
policeman outside a door marked "Private" in a corridor of the British
Museum. All I demanded, as politely as possible, was "the Greek antiquity
man." The policeman knew nothing except the rules of the Museum, and it
became necessary to forage through all the houses and offices inside the
gates. An elderly gentleman called away from his lunch put an end to my
search by holding the note-paper between finger and thumb and sniffing at
"What does this mean? H'mm," said he. "So far as I can ascertain it is an
attempt to write extremely corrupt Greek on the part"--here he glared at
me with intention--"of an extremely illiterate--ah--person." He read
slowly from the paper, ""Pollock, Erckmann, Tauchnitz, Henniker""-four
names familiar to me.
"Can you tell me what the corruption is supposed to mean--the gist of the
thing?" I asked.
"I have been--many times--overcome with weariness in this particular
employment. That is the meaning." He returned me the paper, and I fled
without a word of thanks, explanation, or apology.
I might have been excused for forgetting much. To me of all men had been
given the chance to write the most marvelous tale in the world, nothing
less than the story of a Greek galley-slave, as told by himself. Small
wonder that his dreaming had seemed real to Charlie. The Fates that are so
careful to shut the doors of each successive life behind us had, in this
case, been neglectful, and Charlie was looking, though that he did not
know, where never man had been permitted to look with full knowledge since
Time began. Above all, he was absolutely ignorant of the knowledge sold to
me for five pounds; and he would retain that ignorance, for bank-clerks do
not understand metempsychosis, and a sound commercial education does not
include Greek. He would supply me--here I capered among the dumb gods of
Egypt and laughed in their battered faces--with material to make my tale
sure--so sure that the world would hail it as an impudent and vamped
fiction. And I--I alone would know that it was absolutely and literally
true. I--I alone held this jewel to my hand for the cutting and polishing.
Therefore I danced again among the gods till a policeman saw me and took
steps in my direction.
It remained now only to encourage Charlie to talk, and here there was no
difficulty. But I had forgotten those accursed books of poetry. He came to
me time after time, as useless as a surcharged phonograph--drunk on Byron,
Shelley, or Keats. Knowing now what the boy had been in his past lives,
and desperately anxious not to lose one word of his babble, I could not
hide from him my respect and interest. He misconstrued both into respect
for the present soul of Charlie Mears, to whom life was as new as it was
to Adam, and interest in his readings; and stretched my patience to
breaking point by reciting poetry--not his own now, but that of others. I
wished every English poet blotted out of the memory of mankind. I
blasphemed the mightiest names of song because they had drawn Charlie from
the path of direct narrative, and would, later, spur him to imitate them;
but I choked down my impatience until the first flood of enthusiasm should
have spent itself and the boy returned to his dreams.
"What's the use of my telling you what "I" think, when these chaps wrote
things for the angels to read?" he growled, one evening. "Why don't you
write something like theirs?"
"I don't think you're treating me quite fairly," I said, speaking under
"I've given you the story," he said, shortly, replunging into "Lara."
"But I want the details."
"The things I make up about that damned ship that you call a galley?
They're quite easy. You can just make 'em up yourself. Turn up the gas a
little, I want to go on reading."
I could have broken the gas globe over his head for his amazing stupidity.
I could indeed make up things for myself did I only know what Charlie did
not know that he knew. But since the doors were shut behind me I could
only wait his youthful pleasure and strive to keep him in good temper. One
minute's want of guard might spoil a priceless revelation; now and again
he would toss his books aside--he kept them in my rooms, for his mother
would have been shocked at the waste of good money had she seen them--and
launched into his sea dreams, Again I cursed all the poets of England. The
plastic mind of the bank-clerk had been overlaid, colored and distorted by
that which he had read, and the result as delivered was a confused tangle
of other voices most like the muttered song through a City telephone in
the busiest part of the day.
He talked of the galley--his own galley had he but known it--with
illustrations borrowed from the "Bride of Abydos." He pointed the
experiences of his hero with quotations from "The Corsair," and threw in
deep and desperate moral reflections from "Cain" and "Manfred," expecting
me to use them all. Only when the talk turned on Longfellow were the
jarring cross-currents dumb, and I knew that Charlie was speaking the
truth as he remembered it.
"What do you think of this?" I said one evening, as soon as I understood
the medium in which his memory worked best, and, before he could
expostulate, read him the whole of "The Saga of King Olaf!"
He listened open-mouthed, flushed, his hands drumming on the back of the
sofa where he lay, till I came to the Song of Einar Tamberskelver and the
"Einar then, the arrow taking
From the loosened string,
Answered: 'That was Norway breaking
'Neath thy hand, O King.'"
He gasped with pure delight of sound.
"That's better than Byron, a little," I ventured.
"Better? Why it's "true!" How could he have known?"
I went back and repeated:
"What was that?' said Olaf, standing
On the quarter-deck,
'Something heard I like the stranding
Of a shattered wreck?'"
"How could he have known how the ships crash and the oars rip out and go
"z-zzp" all along the line? Why only the other night.... But go back
please and read 'The Skerry of Shrieks' again."
"No, I'm tired. Let's talk. What happened the other night?"
"I had an awful nightmare about that galley of ours. I dreamed I was
drowned in a fight. You see we ran alongside another ship in harbor. The
water was dead still except where our oars whipped it up. You know where I
always sit in the galley?" He spoke haltingly at first, under a fine
English fear of being laughed at,
"No. That's news to me," I answered, meekly, my heart beginning to beat.
"On the fourth oar from the bow on the right side on the upper deck. There
were four of us at that oar, all chained. I remember watching the water
and trying to get my handcuffs off before the row began. Then we closed up
on the other ship, and all their fighting men jumped over our bulwarks,
and my bench broke and I was pinned down with the three other fellows on
top of me, and the big oar jammed across our backs."
"Well?" Charlie's eyes were alive and alight. He was looking at the wall
behind my chair.
"I don't know how we fought. The men were trampling all over my back, and
I lay low. Then our rowers on the left side--tied to their oars, you
know--began to yell and back water. I could hear the water sizzle, and we
spun round like a cockchafer and I knew, lying where I was, that there was
a galley coming up bow-on, to ram us on the left side. I could just lift
up my head and see her sail over the bulwarks. We wanted to meet her bow
to bow, but it was too late. We could only turn a little bit because the
galley on our right had hooked herself on to us and stopped our moving.
Then, by gum! there was a crash! Our left oars began to break as the other
galley, the moving one y'know, stuck her nose into them. Then the
lower-deck oars shot up through the deck planking, butt first, and one of
them jumped clean up into the air and came down again close to my head."
"How was that managed?"
"The moving galley's bow was plunking them back through their own
oar-holes, and I could hear the devil of a shindy in the decks below. Then
her nose caught us nearly in the middle, and we tilted sideways, and the
fellows in the right-hand galley unhitched their hooks and ropes, and
threw things on to our upper deck--arrows, and hot pitch or something that
stung, and we went up and up and up on the left side, and the right side
dipped, and I twisted my head round and saw the water stand still as it
topped the right bulwarks, and then it curled over and crashed down on the
whole lot of us on the right side, and I felt it hit my back, and I woke."
"One minute, Charlie. When the sea topped the bulwarks, what did it look
like?" I had my reasons for asking. A man of my acquaintance had once gone
down with a leaking ship in a still sea, and had seen the water-level
pause for an instant ere it fell on the deck.
"It looked just like a banjo-string drawn tight, and it seemed to stay
there for years," said Charlie.
Exactly! The other man had said: "It looked like a silver wire laid down
along the bulwarks, and I thought it was never going to break." He had
paid everything except the bare life for this little valueless piece of
knowledge, and I had traveled ten thousand weary miles to meet him and
take his knowledge at second hand. But Charlie, the bank-clerk on
twenty-five shillings a week, he who had never been out of sight of a
London omnibus, knew it all. It was no consolation to me that once in his
lives he had been forced to die for his gains. I also must have died
scores of times, but behind me, because I could have used my knowledge,
the doors were shut.
"And then?" I said, trying to put away the devil of envy.
"The funny thing was, though, in all the mess I didn't feel a bit
astonished or frightened. It seemed as if I'd been in a good many fights,
because I told my next man so when the row began. But that cad of an
overseer on my deck wouldn't unloose our chains and give us a chance. He
always said that we'd all be set free after a battle, but we never were;
we never were." Charlie shook his head mournfully.
"What a scoundrel!"
"I should say he was. He never gave us enough to eat, and sometimes we
were so thirsty that we used to drink salt-water. I can taste that
"Now tell me something about the harbor where the fight was fought."
"I didn't dream about that. I know it was a harbor, though; because we
were tied up to a ring on a white wall and all the face of the stone under
water was covered with wood to prevent our ram getting chipped when the
tide made us rock."
"That's curious. Our hero commanded the galley, didn't he?"
"Didn't he just! He stood by the bows and shouted like a good 'un. He was
the man who killed the overseer."
"But you were all drowned together, Charlie, weren't you?"
"I can't make that fit quite," he said, with a puzzled look. "The galley
must have gone down with all hands, and yet I fancy that the hero went on
living afterward. Perhaps he climbed into the attacking ship. I wouldn't
see that, of course. I was dead, you know." He shivered slightly and
protested that he could remember no more.
I did not press him further, but to satisfy myself that he lay in
ignorance of the workings of his own mind, deliberately introduced him to
Mortimer Collins's "Transmigration," and gave him a sketch of the plot
before he opened the pages.
"What rot it all is!" he said, frankly, at the end of an hour. "I don't
understand his nonsense about the Red Planet Mars and the King, and the
rest of it. Chuck me the Longfellow again."
I handed him the book and wrote out as much as I could remember of his
description of the sea-fight, appealing to him from time to time for
confirmation of fact or detail. He would answer without raising his eyes
from the book, as assuredly as though all his knowledge lay before him on
the printed page. I spoke under the normal key of my voice that the
current might not be broken, and I know that he was not aware of what he
was saying, for his thoughts were out on the sea with Longfellow.
"Charlie," I asked, "when the rowers on the gallies mutinied how did they
kill their overseers?"
"Tore up the benches and brained 'em. That happened when a heavy sea was
running. An overseer on the lower deck slipped from the centre plank and
fell among the rowers. They choked him to death against the side of the
ship with their chained hands quite quietly, and it was too dark for the
other overseer to see what had happened. When he asked, he was pulled down
too and choked, and the lower deck fought their way up deck by deck, with
the pieces of the broken benches banging behind 'em. How they howled!"
"And what happened after that?"
"I don't know. The hero went away--red hair and red beard and all. That
was after he had captured our galley, I think."
The sound of my voice irritated him, and he motioned slightly with his
left hand as a man does when interruption jars.
"You never told me he was red-headed before, or that he captured your
galley," I said, after a discreet interval.
Charlie did not raise his eyes.
"He was as red as a red bear," said he, abstractedly. "He came from the
north; they said so in the galley when he looked for rowers--not slaves,
but free men. Afterward--years and years afterward--news came from another
ship, or else he came back"--
His lips moved in silence. He was rapturously retasting some poem before
"Where had he been, then?" I was almost whispering that the sentence might
come gentle to whichever section of Charlie's brain was working on my
"To the Beaches--the Long and Wonderful Beaches!" was the reply, after a
minute of silence.
"To Furdurstrandi?" I asked, tingling from head to foot.
"Yes, to Furdurstrandi," he pronounced the word in a new fashion. "And I
too saw"----The voice failed.
"Do you know what you have said?" I shouted, incautiously.
He lifted his eyes, fully roused now, "No!" he snapped. "I wish you'd let
a chap go on reading. Hark to this:
"'But Othere, the old sea captain,
He neither paused nor stirred
Till the king listened, and then
Once more took up his pen
And wrote down every word,
"'And to the King of the Saxons
In witness of the truth,
Raising his noble head,
He stretched his brown hand and said,
"Behold this walrus tooth."'
By Jove, what chaps those must have been, to go sailing all over the shop
never knowing where they'd fetch the land! Hah!"
"Charlie," I pleaded, "if you'll only be sensible for a minute or two I'll
make our hero in our tale every inch as good as Othere."
"Umph! Longfellow wrote that poem. I don't care about writing things any
more. I want to read." He was thoroughly out of tune now, and raging over
my own ill-luck, I left him.
Conceive yourself at the door of the world's treasure-house guarded by a
child--an idle irresponsible child playing knuckle-bones--on whose favor
depends the gift of the key, and you will imagine one half my torment.
Till that evening Charlie had spoken nothing that might not lie within the
experiences of a Greek galley-slave. But now, or there was no virtue in
books, he had talked of some desperate adventure of the Vikings, of
Thorfin Karlsefne's sailing to Wineland, which is America, in the ninth or
tenth century. The battle in the harbor he had seen; and his own death he
had described. But this was a much more startling plunge into the past.
Was it possible that he had skipped half a dozen lives and was then dimly
remembering some episode of a thousand years later? It was a maddening
jumble, and the worst of it was that Charlie Mears in his normal condition
was the last person in the world to clear it up. I could only wait and
watch, but I went to bed that night full of the wildest imaginings. There
was nothing that was not possible if Charlie's detestable memory only held
I might rewrite the Saga of Thorfin Karlsefne as it had never been written
before, might tell the story of the first discovery of America, myself the
discoverer. But I was entirely at Charlie's mercy, and so long as there
was a three-and-six-penny Bohn volume within his reach Charlie would not
tell. I dared not curse him openly; I hardly dared jog his memory, for I
was dealing with the experiences of a thousand years ago, told through the
mouth of a boy of to-day; and a boy of to-day is affected by every change
of tone and gust of opinion, so that he lies even when he desires to speak
I saw no more of him for nearly a week. When next I met him it was in
Gracechurch Street with a billhook chained to his waist. Business took him
over London Bridge and I accompanied him. He was very full of the
importance of that book and magnified it. As we passed over the Thames we
paused to look at a steamer unloading great slabs of white and brown
marble. A barge drifted under the steamer's stern and a lonely cow in that
barge bellowed. Charlie's face changed from the face of the bank-clerk to
that of an unknown and--though he would not have believed this--a much
shrewder man. He flung out his arm across the parapet of the bridge and
laughing very loudly, said:
"When they heard "our" bulls bellow the Skroelings ran away!"
I waited only for an instant, but the barge and the cow had disappeared
under the bows of the steamer before I answered.
"Charlie, what do you suppose are Skroelings?"
"Never heard of 'em before. They sound like a new kind of seagull. What a
chap you are for asking questions!" he replied. "I have to go to the
cashier of the Omnibus Company yonder. Will you wait for me and we can
lunch somewhere together? I've a notion for a poem."
"No, thanks. I'm off. You're sure you know nothing about Skroelings?"
"Not unless he's been entered for the Liverpool Handicap." He nodded and
disappeared in the crowd.
Now it is written in the Saga of Eric the Red or that of Thorfin
Karlsefne, that nine hundred years ago when Karlsefne's galleys came to
Leif's booths, which Leif had erected in the unknown land called Markland,
which may or may not have been Rhode Island, the Skroelings--and the Lord
He knows who these may or may not have been--came to trade with the
Vikings, and ran away because they were frightened at the bellowing of the
cattle which Thorfin had brought with him in the ships. But what in the
world could a Greek slave know of that affair? I wandered up and down
among the streets trying to unravel the mystery, and the more I considered
it, the more baffling it grew. One thing only seemed certain, and that
certainty took away my breath for the moment. If I came to full knowledge
of anything at all it would not be one life of the soul in Charlie Mears's
body, but half a dozen--half a dozen several and separate existences spent
on blue water in the morning of the world!
Then I walked round the situation.
Obviously if I used my knowledge I should stand alone and unapproachable
until all men were as wise as myself. That would be something, but manlike
I was ungrateful. It seemed bitterly unfair that Charlie's memory should
fail me when I needed it most. Great Powers above--I looked up at them
through the fog smoke--did the Lords of Life and Death know what this
meant to me? Nothing less than eternal fame of the best kind, that comes
from One, and is shared by one alone. I would be content--remembering
Clive, I stood astounded at my own moderation,--with the mere right to
tell one story, to work out one little contribution to the light
literature of the day. If Charlie were permitted full recollection for one
hour--for sixty short minutes--of existences that had extended over a
thousand years--I would forego all profit and honor from all that I should
make of his speech. I would take no share in the commotion that would
follow throughout the particular corner of the earth that calls itself
"the world." The thing should be put forth anonymously. Nay, I would make
other men believe that they had written it. They would hire bull-hided
self-advertising Englishmen to bellow it abroad. Preachers would found a
fresh conduct of life upon it, swearing that it was new and that they had
lifted the fear of death from all mankind. Every Orientalist in Europe
would patronize it discursively with Sanskrit and Pali texts. Terrible
women would invent unclean variants of the men's belief for the elevation
of their sisters. Churches and religions would war over it. Between the
hailing and re-starting of an omnibus I foresaw the scuffles that would
arise among half a dozen denominations all professing "the doctrine of the
True Metempsychosis as applied to the world and the New Era"; and saw,
too, the respectable English newspapers shying, like frightened kine, over
the beautiful simplicity of the tale. The mind leaped forward a
hundred--two hundred--a thousand years. I saw with sorrow that men would
mutilate and garble the story; that rival creeds would turn it upside down
till, at last, the western world which clings to the dread of death more
closely than the hope of life, would set it aside as an interesting
superstition and stampede after some faith so long forgotten that it
seemed altogether new. Upon this I changed the terms of the bargain that I
would make with the Lords of Life and Death. Only let me know, let me
write, the story with sure knowledge that I wrote the truth, and I would
burn the manuscript as a solemn sacrifice. Five minutes after the last
line was written I would destroy it all. But I must be allowed to write it
with absolute certainty.
There was no answer. The flaming colors of an Aquarium poster caught my
eye and I wondered whether it would be wise or prudent to lure Charlie
into the hands of the professional mesmerist, and whether, if he were
under his power, he would speak of his past lives. If he did, and if
people believed him ... but Charlie would be frightened and flustered, or
made conceited by the interviews. In either case he would begin to lie,
through fear or vanity. He was safest in my own hands,
"They are very funny fools, your English," said a voice at my elbow, and
turning round I recognized a casual acquaintance, a young Bengali law
student, called Grish Chunder, whose father had sent him to England to
become civilized. The old man was a retired native official, and on an
income of five pounds a month contrived to allow his son two hundred
pounds a year, and the run of his teeth in a city where he could pretend
to be the cadet of a royal house, and tell stories of the brutal Indian
bureaucrats who ground the faces of the poor.
Grish Chunder was a young, fat, full-bodied Bengali dressed with
scrupulous care in frock coat, tall hat, light trousers and tan gloves.
But I had known him in the days when the brutal Indian Government paid for
his university education, and he contributed cheap sedition to "Sachi
Durpan", and intrigued with the wives of his schoolmates.
"That is very funny and very foolish," he said, nodding at the poster. "I
am going down to the Northbrook Club. Will you come too?"
I walked with him for some time. "You are not well," he said. "What is
there in your mind? You do not talk."
"Grish Chunder, you've been too well educated to believe in a God, haven't
"Oah, yes, "here!" But when I go home I must conciliate popular
superstition, and make ceremonies of purification, and my women will
"And hang up "tulsi" and feast the "purohit", and take you back into caste
again and make a good "khuttri" of you again, you advanced social
Free-thinker. And you'll eat "desi" food, and like it all, from the smell
in the courtyard to the mustard oil over you."
"I shall very much like it," said Grish Chunder, unguardedly, "Once a
Hindu--always a Hindu. But I like to know what the English think they
"I'll tell you something that one Englishman knows. It's an old tale to
I began to tell the story of Charlie in English, but Grish Chunder put a
question in the vernacular, and the history went forward naturally in the
tongue best suited for its telling. After all it could never have been
told in English. Grish Chunder heard me, nodding from time to time, and
then came up to my rooms where I finished the tale.
""Beshak,"" he said, philosophically. ""Lekin darwaza band hai". (Without
doubt, but the door is shut.) I have heard of this remembering of previous
existences among my people. It is of course an old tale with us, but, to
happen to an Englishman--a cow-fed "Malechh"--an outcast. By Jove, that is
"Outcast yourself, Grish Chunder! You eat cow-beef every day. Let's think
the thing over. The boy remembers his incarnations."
"Does he know that?" said Grish Chunder, quietly, swinging his legs as he
sat on my table. He was speaking in English now.
"He does not know anything. Would I speak to you if he did? Go on!"
"There is no going on at all. If you tell that to your friends they will
say you are mad and put it in the papers. Suppose, now, you prosecute for
"Let's leave that out of the question entirely. Is there any chance of his
being made to speak?"
"There is a chance. Oah, yess! But "if" he spoke it would mean that all
this world would end now--"instanto"--fall down on your head. These things
are not allowed, you know. As I said, the door is shut."
"Not a ghost of a chance?"
"How can there be? You are a Christian, and it is forbidden to eat, in
your books, of the Tree of Life, or else you would never die. How shall
you all fear death if you all know what your friend does not know that he
knows? I am afraid to be kicked, but I am not afraid to die, because I
know what I know. You are not afraid to be kicked, but you are afraid to
die. If you were not, by God! you English would be all over the shop in an
hour, upsetting the balances of power, and making commotions. It would not
be good. But no fear. He will remember a little and a little less, and he
will call it dreams. Then he will forget altogether. When I passed my
First Arts Examination in Calcutta that was all in the cram-book on
Wordsworth. Trailing clouds of glory, you know."
"This seems to be an exception to the rule."
"There are no exceptions to rules. Some are not so hard-looking as others,
but they are all the same when you touch. If this friend of yours said
so-and-so and so-and-so, indicating that he remembered all his lost lives,
or one piece of a lost life, he would not be in the bank another hour. He
would be what you called sack because he was mad, and they would send him
to an asylum for lunatics. You can see that, my friend."
"Of course I can, but I wasn't thinking of him. His name need never appear
in the story,"
"Ah! I see. That story will never be written. You can try,"
"I am going to."
"For your own credit and for the sake of money, "of" course?"
"No. For the sake of writing the story. On my honor that will be all."
"Even then there is no chance. You cannot play with the Gods. It is a very
pretty story now. As they say, Let it go on that--I mean at that. Be
quick; he will not last long."
"How do you mean?"
"What I say. He has never, so far, thought about a woman."
"Hasn't he, though!" I remembered some of Charlie's confidences.
"I mean no woman has thought about him. When that comes;
"bus"--"hogya"--all up! I know. There are millions of women here.
Housemaids, for instance."
I winced at the thought of my story being ruined by a housemaid. And yet
nothing was more probable.
Grish Chunder grinned.
"Yes--also pretty girls--cousins of his house, and perhaps "not" of his
house. One kiss that he gives back again and remembers will cure all this
nonsense, or else"--
"Or else what? Remember he does not know that he knows."
"I know that. Or else, if nothing happens he will become immersed in the
trade and the financial speculations like the rest. It must be so. You can
see that it must be so. But the woman will come first, "I" think."
There was a rap at the door, and Charlie charged in impetuously. He had
been released from office, and by the look in his eyes I could see that he
had come over for a long talk; most probably with poems in his pockets.
Charlie's poems were very wearying, but sometimes they led him to talk
about the galley.
Grish Chunder looked at him keenly for a minute.
"I beg your pardon," Charlie said, uneasily; "I didn't know you had any
one with you."
"I am going," said Grish Chunder,
He drew me into the lobby as he departed.
"That is your man," he said, quickly. "I tell you he will never speak all
you wish. That is rot--bosh. But he would be most good to make to see
things. Suppose now we pretend that it was only play"--I had never seen
Grish Chunder so excited--"and pour the ink-pool into his hand. Eh, what
do you think? I tell you that he could see "anything" that a man could
see. Let me get the ink and the camphor. He is a seer and he will tell us
very many things."
"He may be all you say, but I'm not going to trust him to your gods and
"It will not hurt him. He will only feel a little stupid and dull when he
wakes up. You have seen boys look into the ink-pool before."
"That is the reason why I am not going to see it any more. You'd better
go, Grish Chunder."
He went, declaring far down the staircase that it was throwing away my
only chance of looking into the future.
This left me unmoved, for I was concerned for the past, and no peering of
hypnotized boys into mirrors and ink-pools would help me to that. But I
recognized Grish Chunder's point of view and sympathized with it.
"What a big black brute that was!" said Charlie, when I returned to him.
"Well, look here, I've just done a poem; did it instead of playing
dominoes after lunch. May I read it?"
"Let me read it to myself."
"Then you miss the proper expression. Besides, you always make my things
sound as if the rhymes were all wrong."
"Read it aloud, then. You're like the rest of 'em."
Charlie mouthed me his poem, and it was not much worse than the average of
his verses. He had been reading his books faithfully, but he was not
pleased when I told him that I preferred my Longfellow undiluted with
Then we began to go through the MS. line by line; Charlie parrying every
objection and correction with:
"Yes, that may be better, but you don't catch what I'm driving at."
Charles was, in one way at least, very like one kind of poet.
There was a pencil scrawl at the back of the paper and "What's that?" I
"Oh that's not poetry at all. It's some rot I wrote last night before I
went to bed and it was too much bother to hunt for rhymes; so I made it a
sort of blank verse instead."
Here is Charlie's "blank verse":
"We pulled for you when the wind was against us and the sails were low.
"Will you never let us go?"
We ate bread and onions when you took towns or ran aboard quickly when
you were beaten back by the foe,
The captains walked up and down the deck in fair weather singing songs,
but we were below,
We fainted with our chins on the oars and you did not see that we were
idle for we still swung to and fro.
"Will you never let us go?"
The salt made the oar bandies like sharkskin; our knees were cut to the
bone with salt cracks; our hair was stuck to our foreheads; and our lips
were cut to our gums and you whipped us because we could not row,
"Will you never let us go?"
But in a little time we shall run out of the portholes as the water runs
along the oarblade, and though you tell the others to row after us you
will never catch us till you catch the oar-thresh and tie up the winds in
the belly of the sail. Aho!
"Will you never let us go?""
"H'm. What's oar-thresh, Charlie?"
"The water washed up by the oars. That's the sort of song they might sing
in the galley, y'know. Aren't you ever going to finish that story and give
me some of the profits?"
"It depends on yourself. If you had only told me more about your hero in
the first instance it might have been finished by now. You're so hazy in
"I only want to give you the general notion of it--the knocking about from
place to place and the fighting and all that. Can't you fill in the rest
yourself? Make the hero save a girl on a pirate-galley and marry her or do
"You're a really helpful collaborator. I suppose the hero went through
some few adventures before he married."
"Well then, make him a very artful card--a low sort of man--a sort of
political man who went about making treaties and breaking them--a
black-haired chap who hid behind the mast when the fighting began."
"But you said the other day that he was red-haired."
"I couldn't have. Make him black-haired of course. You've no imagination."
Seeing that I had just discovered the entire principles upon which the
half-memory falsely called imagination is based, I felt entitled to laugh,
but forbore, for the sake of the tale.
"You're right "You're" the man with imagination. A black-haired chap in a
decked ship," I said.
"No, an open ship--like a big boat."
This was maddening.
"Your ship has been built and designed, closed and decked in; you said so
yourself," I protested.
"No, no, not that ship. That was open, or half decked because--By Jove
you're right You made me think of the hero as a red-haired chap. Of course
if he were red, the ship would be an open one with painted sails,"
Surely, I thought, he would remember now that he had served in two galleys
at least--in a three-decked Greek one under the black-haired "political
man," and again in a Viking's open sea-serpent under the man "red as a red
bear" who went to Markland. The devil prompted me to speak.
"Why, 'of course,' Charlie?" said I.
"I don't know. Are you making fun of me?"
The current was broken for the time being. I took up a notebook and
pretended to make many entries in it.
"It's a pleasure to work with an imaginative chap like yourself," I said,
after a pause. "The way that you've brought out the character of the hero
is simply wonderful."
"Do you think so?" he answered, with a pleased flush. "I often tell myself
that there's more in me than my mo--than people think."
"There's an enormous amount in you."
"Then, won't you let me send an essay on The Ways of Bank Clerks to
"Tit-Bits", and get the guinea prize?"
"That wasn't exactly what I meant, old fellow; perhaps it would be better
to wait a little and go ahead with the galley-story."
"Ah, but I sha'n't get the credit of that. "Tit-Bits" would publish my
name and address if I win. What are you grinning at? They "would"."
"I know it. Suppose you go for a walk. I want to look through my notes
about our story."
Now this reprehensible youth who left me, a little hurt and put back,
might for aught he or I knew have been one of the crew of the "Argo"--had
been certainly slave or comrade to Thorfin Karlsefne. Therefore he was
deeply interested in guinea competitions. Remembering what Grish Chunder
had said I laughed aloud. The Lords of Life and Death would never allow
Charlie Mears to speak with full knowledge of his pasts, and I must even
piece out what he had told me with my own poor inventions while Charlie
wrote of the ways of bank clerks.
I got together and placed on one file all my notes; and the net result was
not cheering. I read them a second time. There was nothing that might not
have been compiled at secondhand from other people's books--except,
perhaps, the story of the fight in the harbor. The adventures of a Viking
had been written many times before; the history of a Greek galley-slave
was no new thing, and though I wrote both, who could challenge or confirm
the accuracy of my details? I might as well tell a tale of two thousand
years hence. The Lords of Life and Death were as cunning as Grish Chunder
had hinted. They would allow nothing to escape that might trouble or make
easy the minds of men. Though I was convinced of this, yet I could not
leave the tale alone. Exaltation followed reaction, not once, but twenty
times in the next few weeks. My moods varied with the March sunlight and
flying clouds. By night or in the beauty of a spring morning I perceived
that I could write that tale and shift continents thereby. In the wet,
windy afternoons, I saw that the tale might indeed be written, but would
be nothing more than a faked, false-varnished, sham-rusted piece of
Wardour Street work at the end. Then I blessed Charlie in many
ways--though it was no fault of his. He seemed to be busy with prize
competitions, and I saw less and less of him as the weeks went by and the
earth cracked and grew ripe to spring, and the buds swelled in their
sheaths. He did not care to read or talk of what he had read, and there
was a new ring of self-assertion in his voice. I hardly cared to remind
him of the galley when we met; but Charlie alluded to it on every
occasion, always as a story from which money was to be made.
"I think I deserve twenty-five per cent., don't I, at least," he said,
with beautiful frankness. "I supplied all the ideas, didn't I?"
This greediness for silver was a new side in his nature. I assumed that it
had been developed in the City, where Charlie was picking up the curious
nasal drawl of the underbred City man.
"When the thing's done we'll talk about it. I can't make anything of it at
present. Red-haired or black-haired hero are equally difficult."
He was sitting by the fire staring at the red coals. "I can't understand
what you find so difficult. It's all as clear as mud to me," he replied. A
jet of gas puffed out between the bars, took light and whistled softly.
"Suppose we take the red-haired hero's adventures first, from the time
that he came south to my galley and captured it and sailed to the
I knew better now than to interrupt Charlie. I was out of reach of pen and
paper, and dared not move to get them lest I should break the current. The
gas-jet puffed and whinnied, Charlie's voice dropped almost to a whisper,
and he told a tale of the sailing of an open galley to Furdurstrandi, of
sunsets on the open sea, seen under the curve of the one sail evening
after evening when the galley's beak was notched into the centre of the
sinking disc, and "we sailed by that for we had no other guide," quoth
Charlie. He spoke of a landing on an island and explorations in its woods,
where the crew killed three men whom they found asleep under the pines.
Their ghosts, Charlie said, followed the galley, swimming and choking in
the water, and the crew cast lots and threw one of their number overboard
as a sacrifice to the strange gods whom they had offended. Then they ate
sea-weed when their provisions failed, and their legs swelled, and their
leader, the red-haired man, killed two rowers who mutinied, and after a
year spent among the woods they set sail for their own country, and a wind
that never failed carried them back so safely that they all slept at
night. This, and much more Charlie told. Sometimes the voice fell so low
that I could not catch the words, though every nerve was on the strain, He
spoke of their leader, the red-haired man, as a pagan speaks of his God;
for it was he who cheered them and slew them impartially as he thought
best for their needs; and it was he who steered them for three days among
floating ice, each floe crowded with strange beasts that "tried to sail
with us," said Charlie, "and we beat them back with the handles of the
The gas-jet went out, a burned coal gave way, and the fire settled down
with a tiny crash to the bottom of the grate. Charlie ceased speaking, and
I said no word,
"By Jove!" he said, at last, shaking his head. "I've been staring at the
fire till I'm dizzy. What was I going to say?"
"Something about the galley."
"I remember now. It's 25 per cent. of the profits, isn't it?"
"It's anything you like when I've done the tale."
"I wanted to be sure of that. I must go now. I've--I've an appointment."
And he left me.
Had my eyes not been held I might have known that that broken muttering
over the fire was the swan-song of Charlie Mears. But I thought it the
prelude to fuller revelation. At last and at last I should cheat the Lords
of Life and Death!
When next Charlie came to me I received him with rapture. He was nervous
and embarrassed, but his eyes were very full of light, and his lips a
"I've done a poem," he said; and then, quickly: "it's the best I've ever
done. Read it." He thrust it into my hand and retreated to the window.
I groaned inwardly. It would be the work of half an hour to
criticise--that is to say praise--the poem sufficiently to please Charlie.
Then I had good reason to groan, for Charlie, discarding his favorite
centipede metres, had launched into shorter and choppier verse, and verse
with a motive at the back of it. This is what I read:
"The day Is most fair, the cheery wind
Halloos behind the hill,
Where he bends the wood as seemeth good,
And the sapling to his will!
Riot O wind; there is that in my blood
That would not have thee still!
"She gave me herself, O Earth, O Sky;
Grey sea, she is mine alone!
Let the sullen boulders hear my cry,
And rejoice tho' they be but stone!
"Mine! I have won her O good brown earth,
Make merry! 'Tis hard on Spring;
Make merry; my love is doubly worth
All worship your fields can bring!
Let the hind that tills you feel my mirth
At the early harrowing,"
"Yes, it's the early harrowing, past a doubt," I said, with a dread at my
heart, Charlie smiled, but did not answer.
"Red cloud of the sunset, tell it abroad;
I am victor. Greet me O Sun,
Dominant master and absolute lord
Over the soul of one!"
"Well?" said Charlie, looking over my shoulder.
I thought it far from well, and very evil indeed, when he silently laid a
photograph on the paper--the photograph of a girl with a curly head, and a
foolish slack mouth.
"Isn't it--isn't it wonderful?" he whispered, pink to the tips of his
ears, wrapped in the rosy mystery of first love. "I didn't know; I didn't
think--it came like a thunderclap."
"Yes. It comes like a thunderclap. Are you very happy, Charlie?"
"My God--she--she loves me!" He sat down repeating the last words to
himself. I looked at the hairless face, the narrow shoulders already bowed
by desk-work, and wondered when, where, and how he had loved in his past
"What will your mother say?" I asked, cheerfully.
"I don't care a damn what she says."
At twenty the things for which one does not care a damn should, properly,
be many, but one must not include mothers in the list. I told him this
gently; and he described Her, even as Adam must have described to the
newly named beasts the glory and tenderness and beauty of Eve.
Incidentally I learned that She was a tobacconist's assistant with a
weakness for pretty dress, and had told him four or five times already
that She had never been kissed by a man before.
Charlie spoke on and on, and on; while I, separated from him by thousands
of years, was considering the beginnings of things. Now I understood why
the Lords of Life and Death shut the doors so carefully behind us. It is
that we may not remember our first wooings. Were it not so, our world
would be without inhabitants in a hundred years.
"Now, about that galley-story," I said, still more cheerfully, in a pause
in the rush of the speech.
Charlie looked up as though he had been hit. "The galley--what galley?
Good heavens, don't joke, man! This is serious! You don't know how serious
Grish Chunder was right, Charlie had tasted the love of woman that kills
remembrance, and the finest story in the world would never be written.
WITH THE MAIN GUARD
Der jungere Uhlanen
Sit round mit open mouth
While Breitmann tell dem stories
Of fightin' in the South;
Und gif dem moral lessons,
How before der battle pops,
Take a little prayer to Himmel
Und a goot long drink of Schnapps.
"Hans Breitmann's Ballads".
"Mary, Mother av Mercy, fwhat the divil possist us to take an' kepe this
melancolius counthry? Answer me that, sorr."
It was Mulvaney who was speaking. The time was one o'clock of a stifling
June night, and the place was the main gate of Fort Amara, most desolate
and least desirable of all fortresses in India. What I was doing there at
that hour is a question which only concerns M'Grath the Sergeant of the
Guard, and the men on the gate.
"Slape," said Mulvaney, "is a shuparfluous necessity. This gyard'll shtay
lively till relieved." He himself was stripped to the waist; Learoyd on
the next bedstead was dripping from the skinful of water which Ortheris,
clad only in white trousers, had just sluiced over his shoulders; and a
fourth private was muttering uneasily as he dozed open-mouthed in the
glare of the great guard-lantern. The heat under the bricked archway was
"The worrst night that iver I remimber. Eyah! Is all Hell loose this
tide?" said Mulvaney. A puff of burning wind lashed through the
wicket-gate like a wave of the sea, and Ortheris swore.
"Are ye more heasy, Jock?" he said to Learoyd. "Put yer 'ead between your
legs. It'll go orf in a minute."
"Ah don't care. Ah would not care, but ma heart is plaayin' tivvy-tivvy on
ma ribs. Let me die! Oh, leave me die!" groaned the huge Yorkshireman, who
was feeling the heat acutely, being of fleshly build.
The sleeper under the lantern roused for a moment and raised himself on
his elbow,--"Die and be damned then!" he said. ""I"'m damned and I can't
"Who's that?" I whispered, for the voice was new to me.
"Gentleman born," said Mulvaney; "Corp'ril wan year, Sargint nex'. Red-hot
on his C'mission, but dhrinks like a fish. He'll be gone before the cowld
weather's here. So!"
He slipped his boot, and with the naked toe just touched the trigger of
his Martini. Ortheris misunderstood the movement, and the next instant the
Irishman's rifle was dashed aside, while Ortheris stood before him, his
eyes blazing with reproof.
"You!" said Ortheris. "My Gawd, "you!" If it was you, wot would "we" do?"
"Kape quiet, little man," said Mulvaney, putting him aside, but very
gently; "'tis not me, nor will ut be me whoile Dina Shadd's here. I was
but showin' something."
Learoyd, bowed on his bedstead, groaned, and the gentleman-ranker sighed
in his sleep. Ortheris took Mulvaney's tendered pouch, and we three smoked
gravely for a space while the dust-devils danced on the glacis and scoured
the red-hot plain.
"Pop?" said Ortheris, wiping his forehead.
"Don't tantalize wid talkin' av dhrink, or I'll shtuff you into your own
breech-block an'--fire you off!" grunted Mulvaney.
Ortheris chuckled, and from a niche in the veranda produced six bottles of
"Where did ye get ut, ye Machiavel?" said Mulvaney. "'Tis no bazar pop."
"'Ow do "Hi" know wot the Orf'cers drink?" answered Ortheris. "Arst the
"Ye'll have a Disthrict Coort-martial settin' on ye yet, me son," said
Mulvaney, "but"--he opened a bottle--"I will not report ye this time.
Fwhat's in the mess-kid is mint for the belly, as they say, 'specially
whin that mate is dhrink, Here's luck! A bloody war or a--no, we've got
the sickly season. War, thin!"--he waved the innocent "pop" to the four
quarters of Heaven. "Bloody war! North, East, South, an' West! Jock, ye
quakin' hayrick, come an' dhrink."
But Learoyd, half mad with the fear of death presaged in the swelling
veins of his neck, was pegging his Maker to strike him dead, and fighting
for more air between his prayers. A second time Ortheris drenched the
quivering body with water, and the giant revived.
"An' Ah divn't see thot a mon is i' fettle for gooin' on to live; an' Ah
divn't see thot there is owt for t' livin' for. Hear now, lads! Ah'm
tired--tired. There's nobbut watter i' ma bones, Let me die!"
The hollow of the arch gave back Learoyd's broken whisper in a bass boom.
Mulvaney looked at me hopelessly, but I remembered how the madness of
despair had once fallen upon Ortheris, that weary, weary afternoon in the
banks of the Khemi River, and how it had been exorcised by the skilful
"Talk, Terence!" I said, "or we shall have Learoyd slinging loose, and
he'll be worse than Ortheris was. Talk! He'll answer to your voice."
Almost before Ortheris had deftly thrown all the rifles of the Guard on
Mulvaney's bedstead, the Irishman's voice was uplifted as that of one in
the middle of a story, and, turning to me, he said--
"In barricks or out of it, as "you" say, sorr, an Oirish rig'mint is the
divil an' more. 'Tis only fit for a young man wid eddicated fistesses. Oh
the crame av disruption is an Oirish rig'mint, an' rippin', tearin',
ragin' scattherers in the field av war! My first rig'mint was
Oirish--Faynians an' rebils to the heart av their marrow was they, an'
"so" they fought for the Widdy betther than most, bein' contrairy--Oirish.
They was the Black Tyrone. You've heard av thim, sorr?"
Heard of them! I knew the Black Tyrone for the choicest collection of
unmitigated blackguards, dog-stealers, robbers of hen-roosts, assaulters
of innocent citizens, and recklessly daring heroes in the Army List. Half
Europe and half Asia has had cause to know the Black Tyrone--good luck be
with their tattered Colors as Glory has ever been!
"They "was" hot pickils an' ginger! I cut a man's head tu deep wid my belt
in the days av my youth, an', afther some circumstances which I will
oblitherate, I came to the Ould Rig'mint, bearin' the character av a man
wid hands an' feet. But, as I was goin' to tell you, I fell acrost the
Black Tyrone agin wan day whin we wanted thim powerful bad, Orth'ris, me
son, fwhat was the name av that place where they sint wan comp'ny av us
an' wan av the Tyrone roun' a hill an' down again, all for to tache the
Paythans something they'd niver learned before? Afther Ghuzni 'twas."
"Don't know what the bloomin' Paythans called it. We call it Silver's
Theayter. You know that, sure!"
"Silver's Theatre--so 'twas, A gut betune two hills, as black as a bucket,
an' as thin as a girl's waist. There was over-many Paythans for our
convaynience in the gut, an' begad they called thimselves a Reserve--bein'
impident by natur! Our Scotchies an' lashins av Gurkys was poundin' into
some Paythan rig'mints, I think 'twas. Scotchies an' Gurkys are twins
bekaze they're so onlike, an' they get dhrunk together whin God plazes. As
I was sayin', they sint wan comp'ny av the Ould an wan av the Tyrone to
double up the hill an' clane out the Paythan Reserve. Orf'cers was scarce
in thim days, fwhat with dysintry an' not takin' care av thimselves, an'
we was sint out wid only wan orf'cer for the comp'ny; but he was a Man
that had his feet beneath him, an' all his teeth in their sockuts."
"Who was he?" I asked,
"Captain O'Neil--Old Crook--Cruikna-bulleen--him that I tould ye that tale
av whin he was in Burma. Hah! He was a Man. The Tyrone tuk a little
orf'cer bhoy, but divil a bit was he in command, as I'll dimonstrate
presintly. We an' they came over the brow av the hill, wan on each side av
the gut, an' there was that ondacint Reserve waitin' down below like rats
in a pit.
Now first of the foemen of Boh Da Thone
Was Captain O'Neil of the Black Tyrone.
"The Ballad of Boh Da Thone. "]
"'Howld on, men,' sez Crook, who tuk a mother's care av us always. 'Rowl
some rocks on thim by way av visitin'-kyards.' We hadn't rowled more than
twinty bowlders, an' the Paythans was beginnin' to swear tremenjus, whin
the little orf'cer bhoy av the Tyrone shqueaks out acrost the
valley:--'Fwhat the devil an' all are you doin', shpoilin' the fun for my
men? Do ye not see they'll stand?'
"'Faith, that's a rare pluckt wan!' sez Crook. 'Niver mind the rocks, men.
Come along down an' take tay wid thim!'
"'There's damned little sugar in ut!' sez my rear-rank man; but Crook
"'Have ye not all got spoons?' he sez, laughin', an' down we wint as fast
as we cud. Learoyd bein' sick at the Base, he, av coorse, was not there."
"Thot's a lie!" said Learoyd, dragging his bedstead nearer. "Ah gotten
"thot" theer, an' you knaw it, Mulvaney." He threw up his arms, and from
the right arm-pit ran, diagonally through the fell of his chest, a thin
white line terminating near the fourth left rib.
"My mind's goin'," said Mulvaney, the unabashed. "Ye were there. Fwhat I
was thinkin' of! Twas another man, av coorse. Well, you'll remimber thin,
Jock, how we an' the Tyrone met wid a bang at the bottom an' got jammed
past all movin' among the Paythans."
"Ow! It "was" a tight 'ole. I was squeezed till I thought I'd bloomin'
well bust," said Ortheris, rubbing his stomach meditatively,
"'Twas no place for a little man, but "wan" little man"--Mulvaney put his
hand on Ortheris's shoulder--"saved the life av me. There we shtuck, for
divil a bit did the Paythans flinch, an' divil a bit dare we: our business
bein' to clear 'em out. An' the most exthryordinar' thing av all was that
we an' they just rushed into each other's arrums, an' there was no firing
for a long time. Nothin' but knife an' bay'nit when we cud get our hands
free: an' that was not often. We was breast-on to thim, an' the Tyrone was
yelpin' behind av us in a way I didn't see the lean av at first But I knew
later, an' so did the Paythans.
"'Knee to knee!' sings out Crook, wid a laugh whin the rush av our comin'
into the gut shtopped, an' he was huggin' a hairy great Paythan, neither
bein' able to do anything to the other, tho' both was wishful.
"'Breast to breast!' he sez, as the Tyrone was pushin' us forward closer
"'An' hand over back!' sez a Sargint that was behin'. I saw a sword lick
out past Crook's ear, an' the Paythan was tuk in the apple av his throat
like a pig at Dromeen fair.
"'Thank ye, Brother Inner Guard,' sez Crook, cool as a cucumber widout
salt. 'I wanted that room.' An' he wint forward by the thickness av a
man's body, havin' turned the Paythan undher him. The man bit the heel off
Crook's boot in his death-bite.
"'Push, men!' sez Crook. 'Push, ye paper-backed beggars!' he sez. 'Am I to
pull ye through?' So we pushed, an' we kicked, an' we swung, an' we swore,
an' the grass bein' slippery, our heels wouldn't bite, an' God help the
front-rank man that wint down that day!"
"'Ave you ever bin in the Pit hentrance o' the Vic. on a thick night?"
interrupted Ortheris. "It was worse nor that, for they was goin' one way
an' we wouldn't 'ave it. Leastaways, I 'adn't much to say."
"Faith, me son, ye said ut, thin. I kep' the little man betune my knees as
long as I cud, but he was pokin' roun' wid his bay'nit, blindin' an'
stiffin' feroshus. The devil of a man is Orth'ris in a ruction--aren't
ye?" said Mulvaney.
"Don't make game!" said the Cockney. "I knowed I wasn't no good then, but
I gev 'em compot from the lef' flank when we opened out. No!" he said,
bringing down his hand with a thump on the bedstead, "a bay'nit ain't no
good to a little man--might as well 'ave a bloomin' fishin'-rod! I 'ate a
clawin', maulin' mess, but gimme a breech that's wore out a bit, an'
hamminition one year in store, to let the powder kiss the bullet, an' put
me somewheres where I ain't trod on by 'ulkin swine like you, an' s'elp me
Gawd, I could bowl you over five times outer seven at height 'undred.
Would yer try, you lumberin' Hirishman."
"No, ye wasp, I've seen ye do ut. I say there's nothin' better than the
bay'nit, wid a long reach, a double twist av ye can, an' a slow recover."
"Dom the bay'nit," said Learoyd, who had been listening intently, "Look
a-here!" He picked up a rifle an inch below the foresight with an
underhand action, and used it exactly as a man would use a dagger.
"Sitha," said he, softly, "thot's better than owt, for a mon can bash t'
faace wi' thot, an', if he divn't, he can breeak t' forearm o' t' gaard,
'Tis not i' t' books, though. Gie me t' butt"
"Each does ut his own way, like makin' love," said Mulvaney, quietly; "the
butt or the bay'nit or the bullet accordin' to the natur' av the man.
Well, as I was sayin', we shtuck there breathin' in each other's faces and
swearin' powerful; Orth'ris cursin' the mother that bore him bekaze he was
not three inches taller.
"Prisintly he sez:--'Duck, ye lump, an' I can get at a man over your
"'You'll blow me head off,' I sez, throwin' my arm clear; 'go through
under my arm-pit, ye bloodthirsty little scutt,' sez I, 'but don't shtick
me or I'll wring your ears round.'
"Fwhat was ut ye gave the Paythan man for-ninst me, him that cut at me
whin I cudn't move hand or foot? Hot or cowld was ut?"
"Cold," said Ortheris, "up an' under the rib-jint. 'E come down flat. Best
for you 'e did."
"Thrue, my son! This jam thing that I'm talkin' about lasted for five
minutes good, an' thin we got our arms clear an' wint in. I misremimber
exactly fwhat I did, but I didn't want Dinah to be a widdy at the Depot.
Thin, after some promishkuous hackin' we shtuck again, an' the Tyrone
behin' was callin' us dogs an' cowards an' all manner av names; we barrin'
"'Fwhat ails the Tyrone?' thinks I; 'they've the makin's av a most
convanient fight here.'
"A man behind me sez beseechful an' in a whisper:--'Let me get at thim!
For the Love av Mary give me room beside ye, ye tall man!"
"'An' who are you that's so anxious to be kilt?' sez I, widout turnin' my
head, for the long knives was dancin' in front like the sun on Donegal Bay
whin ut's rough.
"'We've seen our dead,' he sez, squeezin' into me; 'our dead that was men
two days gone! An' me that was his cousin by blood could not bring Tim
Coulan off! Let me get on,' he sez, 'let me get to thim or I'll run ye
through the back!'
"'My troth,' thinks I, 'if the Tyrone have seen their dead, God help the
Paythans this day!' An' thin I knew why the Oirish was ragin' behind us as
"I gave room to the man, an' he ran forward wid the Haymaker's Lift on his
bay'nit an' swung a Paythan clear off his feet by the belly-band av the
brute, an' the iron bruk at the lockin'-ring.
"'Tim Coulan 'll slape easy to-night,' sez he, wid a grin; an' the next
minut his head was in two halves and he wint down grinnin' by sections.
"The Tyrone was pushin' an' pushin' in, an' our men was swearin' at thim,
an' Crook was workin' away in front av us all, his sword-arm swingin' like
a pump-handle an' his revolver spittin' like a cat. But the strange thing
av ut was the quiet that lay upon. 'Twas like a fight in a drame--except
for thim that was dead.
"Whin I gave room to the Oirishman I was expinded an' forlorn in my
inside. 'Tis a way I have, savin' your presince, sorr, in action. 'Let me
out, bhoys,' sez I, backin' in among thim. 'I'm goin' to be onwell!' Faith
they gave me room at the wurrud, though they would not ha' given room for
all Hell wid the chill off. When I got clear, I was, savin' your presince,
sorr, outragis sick bekaze I had dhrunk heavy that day.
"Well an' far out av harm was a Sargint av the Tyrone sittin' on the
little orf'cer bhoy who had stopped Crook from rowlin' the rocks. Oh, he
was a beautiful bhoy, an' the long black curses was slidin' out av his
innocint mouth like mornin'-jew from a rose!
"'Fwhat have you got there?' sez I to the Sargint.
"'Wan av Her Majesty's bantams wid his spurs up,' sez he. 'He's goin' to
"'Let me go!' sez the little orf'cer bhoy. 'Let me go and command my men!'
manin' thereby the Black Tyrone which was beyond any command--ay, even av
they had made the Divil a Field orf'cer.
"'His father howlds my mother's cow-feed in Clonmel,' sez the man that was
sittin' on him. 'Will I go back to "his" mother an' tell her that I've let
him throw himself away? Lie still, ye little pinch av dynamite, an'
Coort-martial me aftherward.'
"'Good,' sez I; ''tis the likes av him makes the likes av the
Commandher-in-Chief, but we must presarve thim. Fwhat d'you want to do,
sorr?' sez I, very politeful.
"'Kill the beggars--kill the beggars!' he shqueaks; his big blue eyes
brimmin' wid tears.
"'An' how'll ye do that?' sez I. 'You've shquibbed off your revolver like
a child wid a cracker; you can make no play wid that fine large sword av
yours; an' your hand's shakin' like an asp on a leaf. Lie still an' grow,'
"'Get back to your comp'ny,' sez he; 'you're insolint!'
"'All in good time,' sez I, 'but I'll have a dhrink first.'
"Just thin Crook comes up, blue an' white all over where he wasn't red.
"'Wather!' sez he; 'I'm dead wid drouth! Oh, but it's a gran' day!'
"He dhrank half a skinful, and the rest he tilts into his chest, an' it
fair hissed on the hairy hide av him. He sees the little orf'cer bhoy
undher the Sargint.
"'Fwhat's yonder?' sez he.
"'Mutiny, sorr,' sez the Sargint, an' the orf'cer bhoy begins pleadin'
pitiful to Crook to be let go: but divil a bit wud Crook budge.
"'Kape him there,' he sez, ''tis no child's work this day. By the same
token,' sez he, 'I'll confishcate that iligant nickel-plated
scent-sprinkler av yours, for my own has been vomitin' dishgraceful!'
"The fork av his hand was black wid the backspit av the machine. So he tuk
the orf'cer bhoy's revolver. Ye may look, sorr, but, by my faith, "there's
a dale more done in the field than iver gets into Field Ordhers!"
"'Come on, Mulvaney,' sez Crook; 'is this a Coort-martial?' The two av us
wint back together into the mess an' the Paythans were still standin' up.
They was not "too" impart'nint though, for the Tyrone was callin' wan to
another to remimber Tim Coulan.
"Crook stopped outside av the strife an' looked anxious, his eyes rowlin'
"'Fwhat is ut, sorr?' sez I; 'can I get ye anything?'
"'Where's a bugler?' sez he.
"I wint into the crowd--our men was dhrawin' breath behin' the Tyrone who
was fightin' like sowls in tormint--an' prisintly I came acrost little
Frehan, our bugler bhoy, pokin' roun' among the best wid a rifle an'
"'Is amusin' yoursilf fwhat you're paid for, ye limb?' sez I, catchin' him
by the scruff. 'Come out av that an' attind to your duty.' I sez; but the
bhoy was not pleased.
"'I've got wan,' sez he, grinnin', 'big as you, Mulvaney, an' fair half as
ugly. Let me go get another.'
"I was dishpleased at the personability av that remark, so I tucks him
under my arm an' carries him to Crook who was watchin' how the fight wint.
Crook cuffs him till the bhoy cries, an' thin sez nothin' for a whoile.
"The Paythans began to flicker onaisy, an' our men roared. 'Opin ordher!
Double!' sez Crook. 'Blow, child, blow for the honor av the British
"That bhoy blew like a typhoon, an' the Tyrone an' we opined out as the
Paythans broke, an' I saw that fwhat had gone before wud be kissin' an'
huggin' to fwhat was to come. We'd dhruv thim into a broad part av the gut
whin they gave, an' thin we opined out an' fair danced down the valley,
dhrivin' thim before us. Oh, 'twas lovely, an' stiddy, too! There was the
Sargints on the flanks av what was left av us, kapin' touch, an' the fire
was runnin' from flank to flank, an' the Paythans was dhroppin'. We opined
out wid the widenin' av the valley, an' whin the valley narrowed we closed
again like the shticks on a lady's fan, an' at the far ind av the gut
where they thried to stand, we fair blew them off their feet, for we had
expinded very little ammunition by reason av the knife work."
"Hi used thirty rounds goin' down that valley," said Ortheris, "an' it was
gentleman's work. Might 'a' done it in a white 'andkerchief an' pink silk
stockin's, that part. Hi was on in that piece."
"You could ha' heard the Tyrone yellin' a mile away," said Mulvaney, "an'
'twas all their Sargints cud do to get thim off. They was mad--mad--mad!
Crook sits down in the quiet that fell whin we had gone down the valley,
an' covers his face wid his hands. Prisintly we all came back again
accordin' to our natures and disposishins, for they, mark you, show
through the hide av a man in that hour.
"'Bhoys! bhoys!' sez Crook to himself. 'I misdoubt we could ha' engaged at
long range an' saved betther men than me.' He looked at our dead an' said
"'Captain dear,' sez a man av the Tyrone, comin' up wid his mouth bigger
than iver his mother kissed ut, spittin' blood like a whale; 'Captain
dear,' sez he, 'if wan or two in the shtalls have been discommoded, the
gallery have enjoyed the performinces av a Roshus.'
"Thin I knew that man for the Dublin dockrat he was--wan av the bhoys that
made the lessee av Silver's Theatre grey before his time wid tearin' out
the bowils av the benches an' t'rowin' thim into the pit. So I passed the
wurrud that I knew when I was in the Tyrone an' we lay in Dublin. 'I don't
know who 'twas,' I whispers, 'an' I don't care, but anyways I'll knock the
face av you, Tim Kelly.'
"'Eyah!' sez the man, 'was you there too? We'll call ut Silver's Theatre.'
Half the Tyrone, knowin' the ould place, tuk ut up: so we called ut
"The little orf'cer bhoy av the Tyrone was thremblin' an' cryin', He had
no heart for the Coort-martials that he talked so big upon. 'Ye'll do well
later,' sez Crook, very quiet, 'for not bein' allowed to kill yourself for
"'I'm a dishgraced man!' sez the little orf'cer bhoy.
"Put me undher arrest, sorr, if you will, but by my sowl, I'd do ut again
sooner than face your mother wid you dead,' sez the Sargint that had sat
on his head, standin' to attention an' salutin'. But the young wan only
cried as tho' his little heart was breakin'.
"Thin another man av the Tyrone came up, wid the fog av fightin' on him."
"The what, Mulvaney?"
"Fog av fightin'. You know, sorr, that, like makin' love, ut takes each
man diff'rint. Now I can't help bein' powerful sick whin I'm in action.
Orth'ris, here, niver stops swearin' from ind to ind, an' the only time
that Learoyd opins his mouth to sing is whin he is messin' wid other
people's heads; for he's a dhirty fighter is Jock. Recruities sometime
cry, an' sometime they don't know fwhat they do, an' sometime they are all
for cuttin' throats an' such like dirtiness; but some men get
heavy-dead-dhrunk on the fightin'. This man was. He was staggerin', an'
his eyes were half shut, an' we cud hear him dhraw breath twinty yards
away. He sees the little orf'cer bhoy, an' comes up, talkin' thick an'
drowsy to himsilf. 'Blood the young whelp!' he sez; 'blood the young
whelp;' an' wid that he threw up his arms, shpun roun', an' dropped at our
feet, dead as a Paythan, an' there was niver sign or scratch on him. They
said 'twas his heart was rotten, but oh, 'twas a quare thing to see!
"Thin we wint to bury our dead, for we wud not lave thim to the Paythans,
an' in movin' among the haythen we nearly lost that little orf'cer bhoy.
He was for givin' wan divil wather and layin' him aisy against a rock. 'Be
careful, sorr,' sez I; 'a wounded Paythan's worse than a live wan.' My
troth, before the words was out of my mouth, the man on the ground fires
at the orf'cer bhoy lanin' over him, an' I saw the helmit fly. I dropped
the butt on the face av the man an' tuk his pistol. The little orf'cer
bhoy turned very white, for the hair av half his head was singed away.
"'I tould you so, sorr!' sez I; an', afther that, whin he wanted to help a
Paythan I stud wid the muzzle contagious to the ear. They dare not do
anythin' but curse. The Tyrone was growlin' like dogs over a bone that had
been taken away too soon, for they had seen their dead an' they wanted to
kill ivry sowl on the ground. Crook tould thim that he'd blow the hide off
any man that misconducted himself; but, seeing that ut was the first time
the Tyrone had iver seen their dead, I do not wondher they were on the
sharp. 'Tis a shameful sight! Whin I first saw ut I wud niver ha' given
quarter to any man north of the Khaibar--no, nor woman either, for the
women used to come out afther dhark--Auggrh!
"Well, evenshually we buried our dead an' tuk away our wounded, an' come
over the brow av the hills to see the Scotchies an' the Gurkys taking tay
with the Paythans in bucketsfuls. We were a gang av dissolute ruffians,
for the blood had caked the dust, an' the sweat had cut the cake, an' our
bay'nits was hangin' like butchers' steels betune ur legs, an' most av us
were marked one way or another.
"A Staff Orf'cer man, clean as a new rifle, rides up an' sez: 'What damned
scarecrows are you?'
"'A comp'ny av Her Majesty's Black Tyrone an' wan av the Ould Rig'mint,'
sez Crook very quiet, givin' our visitors the flure as 'twas.
"'Oh!' sez the Staff Orf'cer; 'did you dislodge that Reserve?'
"'No!' sez Crook, an' the Tyrone laughed.
"'Thin fwhat the divil have ye done?'
"'Disthroyed ut,' sez Crook, an' he took us on, but not before Toomey that
was in the Tyrone sez aloud, his voice somewhere in his stummick: 'Fwhat
in the name av misfortune does this parrit widout a tail mane by shtoppin'
the road av his betthers?'
"The Staff Orf'cer wint blue, an' Toomey makes him pink by changin' to the
voice av a minowderin' woman an' sayin': 'Come an' kiss me, Major dear,
for me husband's at the wars an' I'm all alone at the Depot.'
"The Staff Orf'cer wint away, an' I cud see Crook's shoulthers shakin'.
"His Corp'ril checks Toomey. 'Lave me alone,' sez Toomey, widout a wink.
'I was his batman before he was married an' he knows fwhat I mane, av you
don't. There's nothin' like livin' in the hoight av society.' D'you
remimber that, Orth'ris!"
"Hi do. Toomey, 'e died in 'orspital, next week it was, 'cause I bought
'arf his kit; an' I remember after that"--
"GUARRD, TURN OUT!"
The Relief had come; it was four o'clock. "I'll catch a kyart for you,
sorr," said Mulvaney, diving hastily into his accoutrements. "Come up to
the top av the Fort an' we'll pershue our invistigations into M'Grath's
shtable." The relieved Guard strolled round the main bastion on its way to
the swimming-bath, and Learoyd grew almost talkative. Ortheris looked into
the Fort ditch and across the plain. "Ho! it's weary waitin' for Ma-ary!"
he hummed; "but I'd like to kill some more bloomin' Paythans before my
time's up. War! Bloody war! North, East, South, and West."
"Amen," said Learoyd, slowly.
"Fwhat's here?" said Mulvaney, checking at a blurr of white by the foot of
the old sentry-box. He stooped and touched it. "It's Norah--Norah
M'Taggart! Why, Nonie, darlin', fwhat are ye doin' out av your mother's
bed at this time?"
The two-year-old child of Sergeant M'Taggart must have wandered for a
breath of cool air to the very verge of the parapet of the Fort ditch, Her
tiny night-shift was gathered into a wisp round her neck and she moaned in
her sleep. "See there!" said Mulvaney; "poor lamb! Look at the heat-rash
on the innocint skin av her. 'Tis hard--crool hard even for us. Fwhat must
it be for these? Wake up, Nonie, your mother will be woild about you.
Begad, the child might ha' fallen into the ditch!"
He picked her up in the growing light, and set her on his shoulder, and
her fair curls touched the grizzled stubble of his temples. Ortheris and
Learoyd followed snapping their fingers, while Norah smiled at them a
sleepy smile. Then carolled Mulvaney, clear as a lark, dancing the baby on
"If any young man should marry you,
Say nothin' about the joke;
That iver ye slep' in a sinthry-box,
Wrapped up in a soldier's cloak."
"Though, on my sowl, Nonie," he said, gravely, "there was not much cloak
about you. Niver mind, you won't dhress like this ten years to come. Kiss
your friends an' run along to your mother."
Nonie, set down close to the Married Quarters, nodded with the quiet
obedience of the soldier's child, but, ere she pattered off over the
flagged path, held up her lips to be kissed by the Three Musketeers.
Ortheris wiped his mouth with the back of his hand and swore
sentimentally; Learoyd turned pink; and the two walked away together. The
Yorkshireman lifted up his voice and gave in thunder the chorus of "The
Sentry-Box", while Ortheris piped at his side.
"'Bin to a bloomin' sing-song, you two?" said the Artilleryman, who was
taking his cartridge down to the Morning Gun, "You're over merry for these
"I bid ye take care o' the brat," said he,
"For it comes of a noble race"
Learoyd bellowed. The voices died out in the swimming-bath.
"Oh, Terence!" I said, dropping into Mulvaney's speech, when we were
alone, "it's you that have the Tongue!"
He looked at me wearily; his eyes were sunk in his head, and his face was
drawn and white, "Eyah!" said he; "I've blandandhered thim through the
night somehow, but can thim that helps others help thimselves? Answer me
And over the bastions of Fort Amara broke the pitiless day.
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
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 so many chances to little six-year-olds of going wrong.
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 Mrs. "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 idolized 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
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
"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
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 groom 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 scandalized 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
"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 behooved him to treat her with as much respect as Coppy's big sword or
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 "camp-fire" at the bottom of the garden.
How could he have foreseen that the flying sparks would have lighted the
Colonel's little hayrick 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
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 groom handed 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-post 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 over night, 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 thus
demonstrated her spirit, she wept copiously, 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
"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 afresh, 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 toward the
"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
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 recognized 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 bowlders on which Miss Allardyce's horse had
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 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
"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
"Yes, my little "Sahib Bahadur"," said the tallest of the men, "and eat
"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
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 breast-bone
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 Color 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 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
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
"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.
THE ROUT OF THE WHITE HUSSARS
It was not in the open fight
We threw away the sword,
But in the lonely watching
In the darkness by the ford.
The waters lapped, the night-wind blew,
Full-armed the Fear was born and grew.
And we were flying ere we knew
From panic in the night.
Some people hold that an English Cavalry regiment cannot run. This is a
mistake. I have seen four hundred and thirty-seven sabres flying over the
face of the country in abject terror--have seen the best Regiment that
ever drew bridle wiped off the Army List for the space of two hours. If
you repeat this tale to the White Hussars they will, in all probability,
treat you severely. They are not proud of the incident.
You may know the White Hussars by their "side," which is greater than that
of all the Cavalry Regiments on the roster. If this is not a sufficient
mark, you may know them by their old brandy. It has been sixty years in
the Mess and is worth going far to taste. Ask for the "McGaire" old
brandy, and see that you get it. If the Mess Sergeant thinks that you are
uneducated, and that the genuine article will be lost on you, he will
treat you accordingly. He is a good man. But, when you are at Mess, you
must never talk to your hosts about forced marches or long-distance rides.
The Mess are very sensitive; and, if they think that you are laughing at
them, will tell you so.
As the White Hussars say, it was all the Colonel's fault. He was a new
man, and he ought never to have taken the Command. He said that the
Regiment was not smart enough. This to the White Hussars, who knew that
they could walk round any Horse and through any Guns, and over any Foot on
the face of the earth! That insult was the first cause of offence.
Then the Colonel cast the Drum-Horse--the Drum-Horse of the White Hussars!
Perhaps you do not see what an unspeakable crime he had committed. I will
try to make it clear. The soul of the Regiment lives in the Drum-Horse who
carries the silver kettle-drums. He is nearly always a big piebald Waler.
That is a point of honor; and a Regiment will spend anything you please on
a piebald. He is beyond the ordinary laws of casting. His work is very
light, and he only manoeuvres at a foot-pace. Wherefore, so long as he can
step out and look handsome, his well-being is assured. He knows more about
the Regiment than the Adjutant, and could not make a mistake if he tried.
The Drum-Horse of the White Hussars was only eighteen years old, and
perfectly equal to his duties. He had at least six years' more work in
him, and carried himself with all the pomp and dignity of a Drum-Major of
the Guards. The Regiment had paid Rs.1200 for him.
But the Colonel said that he must go, and he was cast in due form and
replaced by a washy, bay beast, as ugly as a mule, with a ewe-neck,
rat-tail, and cow-hocks. The Drummer detested that animal, and the best of
the Band-horses put back their ears and showed the whites of their eyes at
the very sight of him. They knew him for an upstart and no gentleman. I
fancy that the Colonel's ideas of smartness extended to the Band, and that
he wanted to make it take part in the regular parade movements. A Cavalry
Band is a sacred thing. It only turns out for Commanding Officers'
parades, and the Band Master is one degree more important than the
Colonel. He is a High Priest and the "Keel Row" is his holy song. The
"Keel Row" is the Cavalry Trot; and the man who has never heard that tune
rising, high and shrill, above the rattle of the Regiment going past the
saluting-base, has something yet to hear and understand.
When the Colonel cast the Drum-Horse of the White Hussars, there was
nearly a mutiny.
The officers were angry, the Regiment were furious, and the Bandsmen
swore--like troopers. The Drum-Horse was going to be put up to
auction--public auction--to be bought, perhaps, by a Parsee and put into a
cart! It was worse than exposing the Inner life of the Regiment to the
whole world, or selling the Mess Plate to a Jew--a Black Jew.
The Colonel was a mean man and a bully. He knew what the Regiment thought
about his action; and, when the troopers offered to buy the Drum-Horse, he
said that their offer was mutinous and forbidden by the Regulations.
But one of the Subalterns--Hogan-Yale, an Irishman--bought the Drum-Horse
for Rs. 160 at the sale, and the Colonel was wroth. Yale professed
repentance--he was unnaturally submissive--and said that, as he had only
made the purchase to save the horse from possible ill-treatment and
starvation, he would now shoot him and end the business. This appeared to
soothe the Colonel, for he wanted the Drum-Horse disposed of. He felt that
he had made a mistake, and could not of course acknowledge it. Meantime,
the presence of the Drum-Horse was an annoyance to him.
Yale took to himself a glass of the old brandy, three cheroots, and his
friend Martyn; and they all left the Mess together. Yale and Martyn
conferred for two hours in Yale's quarters; but only the bull-terrier who
keeps watch over Yale's boot-trees knows what they said. A horse, hooded
and sheeted to his ears, left Yale's stables and was taken, very
unwillingly, into the Civil Lines. Yale's groom went with him. Two men
broke into the Regimental Theatre and took several paint-pots and some
large scenery-brushes. Then night fell over the Cantonments, and there was
a noise as of a horse kicking his loose-box to pieces in Yale's stables.
Yale had a big, old, white Waler trap-horse.
The next day was a Thursday, and the men, hearing that Yale was going to
shoot the Drum-Horse in the evening, determined to give the beast a
regular regimental funeral--a finer one than they would have given the
Colonel had he died just then. They got a bullock-cart and some sacking,
and mounds and mounds of roses, and the body, under sacking, was carried
out to the place where the anthrax cases were cremated; two-thirds of the
Regiment following. There was no Band, but they all sang "The Place where
the old Horse died" as something respectful and appropriate to the
occasion. When the corpse was dumped into the grave and the men began
throwing down armfuls of roses to cover it, the Farrier-Sergeant ripped
out an oath and said aloud, "Why, it ain't the Drum-Horse any more than
it's me!" The Troop Sergeant-Majors asked him whether he had left his head
in the Canteen. The Farrier-Sergeant said that he knew the Drum-Horse's
feet as well as he knew his own; but he was silenced when he saw the
regimental number burned in on the poor stiff, upturned near-fore.
Thus was the Drum-Horse of the White Hussars buried; the Farrier-Sergeant
grumbling. The sacking that covered the corpse was smeared In places with
black paint; and the Farrier-Sergeant drew attention to this fact. But the
Troop Sergeant-Major of E Troop kicked him severely on the shin, and told
him that he was undoubtedly drunk.
On the Monday following the burial, the Colonel sought revenge on the
White Hussars. Unfortunately, being at that time temporarily in Command of
the Station, he ordered a Brigade field-day. He said that he wished to
make the Regiment "sweat for their damned insolence," and he carried out
his notion thoroughly. That Monday was one of the hardest days in the
memory of the White Hussars. They were thrown against a skeleton-enemy,
and pushed forward, and withdrawn, and dismounted, and "scientifically
handled" in every possible fashion over dusty country, till they sweated
profusely. Their only amusement came late in the day when they fell upon
the battery of Horse Artillery and chased it for two miles. This was a
personal question, and most of the troopers had money on the event; the
Gunners saying openly that they had the legs of the White Hussars. They
were wrong. A march-past concluded the campaign, and when the Regiment got
back to their Lines, the men were coated with dirt from spur to
The White Hussars have one great and peculiar privilege. They won it at
Fontenoy, I think.
Many Regiments possess special rights such as wearing collars with undress
uniform, or a bow of riband between the shoulders, or red and white roses
in their helmets on certain days of the year. Some rights are connected
with regimental saints, and some with regimental successes. All are valued
highly; but none so highly as the right of the White Hussars to have the
Band playing when their horses are being watered in the Lines. Only one
tune is played, and that tune never varies. I don't know its real name,
but the White Hussars call it, "Take me to London again." It sounds very
pretty. The Regiment would sooner be struck off the roster than forego
After the "dismiss" was sounded, the officers rode off home to prepare for
stables; and the men filed into the lines riding easy. That is to say,
they opened their tight buttons, shifted their helmets, and began to joke
or to swear as the humor took them; the more careful slipping off and
easing girths and curbs. A good trooper values his mount exactly as much
as he values himself, and believes, or should believe, that the two
together are irresistible where women or men, girls or guns, are
Then the Orderly-Officer gave the order, "Water horses," and the Regiment
loafed off to the squadron-troughs which were in rear of the stables and
between these and the barracks. There were four huge troughs, one for each
squadron, arranged "en echelon", so that the whole Regiment could water in
ten minutes if it liked. But it lingered for seventeen, as a rule, while
the Band played.
The Band struck up as the squadrons filed off to the troughs, and the men
slipped their feet out of the stirrups and chaffed each other. The sun was
just setting in a big, hot bed of red cloud, and the road to the Civil
Lines seemed to run straight into the sun's eye. There was a little dot on
the road. It grew and grew till it showed as a horse, with a sort of
gridiron-thing on his back. The red cloud glared through the bars of the
gridiron. Some of the troopers shaded their eyes with their hands and
said--"What the mischief 'as that there 'orse got on 'im?"
In another minute they heard a neigh that every soul--horse and man--in
the Regiment knew, and saw, heading straight toward the Band, the dead
Drum-Horse of the White Hussars!
On his withers banged and bumped the kettledrums draped in crape, and on
his back, very stiff and soldierly, sat a bareheaded skeleton.
The Band stopped playing, and, for a moment, there was a hush.
Then some one in E Troop--men said it was the Troop-Sergeant-Major--swung
his horse round and yelled. No one can account exactly for what happened
afterward; but it seems that, at least, one man in each troop set an
example of panic, and the rest followed like sheep. The horses that had
barely put their muzzles into the troughs reared and capered; but as soon
as the Band broke, which it did when the ghost of the Drum-Horse was about
a furlong distant, all hooves followed suit, and the clatter of the
stampede--quite different from the orderly throb and roar of a movement on
parade, or the rough horse-play of watering in camp--made them only more
terrified. They felt that the men on their backs were afraid of something.
When horses once know that, all is over except the butchery.
Troop after troop turned from the troughs and ran--anywhere and
everywhere--like spilled quicksilver. It was a most extraordinary
spectacle, for men and horses were in all stages of easiness, and the
carbine-buckets flopping against their sides urged the horses on. Men were
shouting and cursing, and trying to pull clear of the Band which was being
chased by the Drum-Horse whose rider had fallen forward and seemed to be
spurring for a wager.
The Colonel had gone over to the Mess for a drink. Most of the officers
were with him, and the Subaltern of the Day was preparing to go down to
the lines, and receive the watering reports from the Troop-Sergeant-
Majors. When "Take me to London again" stopped, after twenty bars, every
one in the Mess said, "What on earth has happened?" A minute later, they
heard unmilitary noises, and saw, far across the plain, the White Hussars
scattered, and broken, and flying.
The Colonel was speechless with rage, for he thought that the Regiment had
risen against him or was unanimously drunk. The Band, a disorganized mob,
tore past, and at its heels labored the Drum-Horse--the dead and buried
Drum-Horse--with the jolting, clattering skeleton, Hogan-Yale whispered
softly to Martyn--"No wire will stand that treatment," and the Band, which
had doubled like a hare, came back again. But the rest of the Regiment was
gone, was rioting all over the Province, for the dusk had shut in and each
man was howling to his neighbor that the Drum-Horse was on his flank.
Troop-horses are far too tenderly treated as a rule. They can, on
emergencies, do a great deal, even with seventeen stone on their backs. As
the troopers found out.
How long this panic lasted I cannot say. I believe that when the moon rose
the men saw they had nothing to fear, and, by twos and threes and
half-troops, crept back into Cantonments very much ashamed of themselves.
Meantime, the Drum-Horse, disgusted at his treatment by old friends,
pulled up, wheeled round, and trotted up to the Mess veranda-steps for
bread. No one liked to run; but no one cared to go forward till the
Colonel made a movement and laid hold of the skeleton's foot. The Band had
halted some distance away, and now came back slowly. The Colonel called
it, individually and collectively, every evil name that occurred to him at
the time; for he had set his hand on the bosom of the Drum-Horse and found
flesh and blood. Then he beat the kettle-drums with his clenched fist, and
discovered that they were but made of silvered paper and bamboo. Next,
still swearing, he tried to drag the skeleton out of the saddle, but found
that it had been wired into the cantle. The sight of the Colonel, with his
arms round the skeleton's pelvis and his knee in the old Drum-Horse's
stomach, was striking. Not to say amusing. He worried the thing off in a
minute or two, and threw it down on the ground, saying to the Band--"Here,
you curs, that's what you're afraid of." The skeleton did not look pretty
in the twilight The Band-Sergeant seemed to recognize it, for he began to
chuckle and choke. "Shall I take it away, sir?" said the Band-Sergeant.
"Yes," said the Colonel, "take it to Hell, and ride there yourselves!"
The Band-Sergeant saluted, hoisted the skeleton across his saddle-bow, and
led off to the stables. Then the Colonel began to make inquiries for the
rest of the Regiment, and the language he used was wonderful, He would
disband the Regiment--he would court-martial every soul in it--he would
not command such a set of rabble, and so on, and so on. As the men dropped
in, his language grew wilder, until at last it exceeded the utmost limits
of free speech allowed even to a Colonel of Horse.
Martyn took Hogan-Yale aside and suggested compulsory retirement from the
Service as a necessity when all was discovered. Martyn was the weaker man
of the two. Hogan-Yale put up his eyebrows and remarked, firstly, that he
was the son of a Lord, and, secondly, that he was as innocent as the babe
unborn of the theatrical resurrection of the Drum-Horse.
"My instructions," said Yale, with a singularly sweet smile, "were that
the Drum-Horse should be sent back as impressively as possible. I ask you,
"am" I responsible if a mule-headed friend sends him back in such a manner
as to disturb the peace of mind of a regiment of Her Majesty's Cavalry?"
Martyn said, "You are a great man, and will in time become a General; but
I'd give my chance of a troop to be safe out of this affair."
Providence saved Martyn and Hogan-Yale. The Second-in-Command led the
Colonel away to the little curtained alcove wherein the Subalterns of the
White Hussars were accustomed to play poker of nights; and there, after
many oaths on the Colonel's part, they talked together in low tones. I
fancy that the Second-in-Command must have represented the scare as the
work of some trooper whom it would be hopeless to detect; and I know that
he dwelt upon the sin and the shame of making a public laughing-stock of
"They will call us," said the Second-in-Command, who had really a fine
imagination--"they will call us the 'Fly-by-Nights'; they will call us the
'Ghost Hunters'; they will nickname us from one end of the Army List to
the other. All the explanation in the world won't make outsiders
understand that the officers were away when the panic began. For the honor
of the Regiment and for your own sake keep this thing quiet."
The Colonel was so exhausted with anger that soothing him down was not so
difficult as might be imagined. He was made to see, gently and by degrees,
that it was obviously impossible to court-martial the whole Regiment and
equally impossible to proceed against any subaltern who, in his belief,
had any concern in the hoax.
"But the beast's alive! He's never been shot at all!" shouted the Colonel.
"It's flat flagrant disobedience! I've known a man broke for less--dam
sight less. They're mocking me, I tell you, Mutman! They're mocking me!"
Once more, the Second-in-Command set himself to soothe the Colonel, and
wrestled with him for half an hour. At the end of that time, the
Regimental Sergeant-Major reported himself. The situation was rather novel
to him; but he was not a man to be put out by circumstances. He saluted
and said, "Regiment all comeback, Sir." Then, to propitiate the
Colonel--"An' none of the 'orses any the worse, Sir,"
The Colonel only snorted and answered--"You'd better tuck the men into
their cots, then, and see that they don't wake up and cry in the night"
The Sergeant withdrew.
His little stroke of humor pleased the Colonel, and, further, he felt
slightly ashamed of the language he had been using. The Second-in-Command
worried him again, and the two sat talking far into the night.
Next day but one, there was a Commanding Officer's parade, and the Colonel
harangued the White Hussars vigorously. The pith of his speech was that,
since the Drum-Horse in his old age had proved himself capable of cutting
up the whole Regiment, he should return to his post of pride at the head
of the Band, "but" the Regiment were a set of ruffians with bad
The White Hussars shouted, and threw everything movable about them into
the air, and when the parade was over, they cheered the Colonel till they
couldn't speak. No cheers were put up for Lieutenant Hogan-Yale, who
smiled very sweetly in the background.
Said the Second-in-Command to the Colonel, unofficially--
"These little things ensure popularity, and do not the least affect
"But I went back on my word," said the Colonel.
"Never mind," said the Second-in-Command. "The White Hussars will follow
you anywhere from to-day. Regiments are just like women. They will do
anything for trinketry."
A week later, Hogan-Yale received an extraordinary letter from some one
who signed himself "Secretary, "Charity and Zeal," 3709, E. C.," and asked
for "the return of our skeleton which we have reason to believe is in your
"Who the deuce is this lunatic who trades in bones?" said Hogan-Yale.
"Beg your pardon, Sir," said the Band-Sergeant, "but the skeleton is with
me, an' I'll return it if you'll pay the carriage into the Civil Lines.
There's a coffin with it, Sir."
Hogan-Yale smiled and handed two rupees to the Band-Sergeant, saying,
"Write the date on the skull, will you?"
If you doubt this story, and know where to go, you can see the date on the
skeleton. But don't mention the matter to the White Hussars.
I happened to know something about it, because I prepared the Drum-Horse
for his resurrection. He did not take kindly to the skeleton at all.
Narrow as the womb, deep as the Pit, and dark as the heart of a
man.--"Sonthal Miner's Proverb".
"A weaver went out to reap but stayed to unravel the corn-stalks. Ha! Ha!
Ha! Is there any sense in a weaver?"
Janki Meah glared at Kundoo, but, as Janki Meah was blind, Kundoo was not
impressed. He had come to argue with Janki Meah, and, if chance favored,
to make love to the old man's pretty young wife.
This was Kundoo's grievance, and he spoke in the name of all the five men
who, with Janki Meah, composed the gang in Number Seven gallery of
Twenty-Two. Janki Meah had been blind for the thirty years during which he
had served the Jimahari Collieries with pick and crowbar. All through
those thirty years he had regularly, every morning before going down,
drawn from the overseer his allowance of lamp-oil--just as if he had been
an eyed miner. What Kundoo's gang resented, as hundreds of gangs had
resented before, was Janki Meah's selfishness. He would not add the oil to
the common stock of his gang, but would save and sell it.
"I knew these workings before you were born," Janki Meah used to reply; "I
don't want the light to get my coal out by, and I am not going to help
you. The oil is mine, and I intend to keep it."
A strange man in many ways was Janki Meah, the white-haired, hot tempered,
sightless weaver who had turned pitman. All day long--except on Sundays
and Mondays when he was usually drunk--he worked in the Twenty-Two shaft
of the Jimahari Colliery as cleverly as a man with all the senses. At
evening he went up in the great steam-hauled cage to the pit-bank, and
there called for his pony--a rusty, coal-dusty beast, nearly as old as
Janki Meah. The pony would come to his side, and Janki Meah would clamber
on to its back and be taken at once to the plot of land which he, like the
other miners, received from the Jimahari Company. The pony knew that
place, and when, after six years, the Company changed all the allotments
to prevent the miners from acquiring proprietary rights, Janki Meah
represented, with tears in his eyes, that were his holdings shifted, he
would never be able to find his way to the new one. "My horse only knows
that place," pleaded Janki Meah, and so he was allowed to keep his land.
On the strength of this concession and his accumulated oil-savings, Janki
Meah took a second wife--a girl of the Jolaha main stock of the Meahs, and
singularly beautiful. Janki Meah could not see her beauty; wherefore he
took her on trust, and forbade her to go down the pit. He had not worked
for thirty years in the dark without knowing that the pit was no place for
pretty women. He loaded her with ornaments--not brass or pewter, but real
silver ones--and she rewarded him by flirting outrageously with Kundoo of
Number Seven gallery gang. Kundoo was really the gang-head, but Janki Meah
insisted upon all the work being entered in his own name, and chose the
men that he worked with. Custom--stronger even than the Jimahari
Company--dictated that Janki, by right of his years, should manage these
things, and should, also, work despite his blindness. In Indian mines
where they cut into the solid coal with the pick and clear it out from
floor to ceiling, he could come to no great harm. At Home, where they
undercut the coal and bring it down in crashing avalanches from the roof,
he would never have been allowed to set foot in a pit. He was not a
popular man, because of his oil-savings; but all the gangs admitted that
Janki knew all the "khads," or workings, that had ever been sunk or worked
since the Jimahari Company first started operations on the Tarachunda
Pretty little Unda only knew that her old husband was a fool who could be
managed. She took no interest in the collieries except in so far as they
swallowed up Kundoo five days out of the seven, and covered him with
coal-dust. Kundoo was a great workman, and did his best not to get drunk,
because, when he had saved forty rupees, Unda was to steal everything that
she could find in Janki's house and run with Kundoo to a land where there
were no mines, and every one kept three fat bullocks and a milch-buffalo.
While this scheme ripened it was his custom to drop in upon Janki and
worry him about the oil savings. Unda sat in a corner and nodded approval.
On the night when Kundoo had quoted that objectionable proverb about
weavers, Janki grew angry.
"Listen, you pig," said he, "blind I am, and old I am, but, before ever
you were born, I was grey among the coal. Even in the days when the
Twenty-Two "khad" was unsunk and there were not two thousand men here, I
was known to have all knowledge of the pits. What "khad" is there that I
do not know, from the bottom of the shaft to the end of the last drive? Is
it the Baromba "khad", the oldest, or the Twenty-Two where Tibu's gallery
runs up to Number Five?"
"Hear the old fool talk!" said Kundoo, nodding to Unda. "No gallery of
Twenty-Two will cut into Five before the end of the Rains. We have a
month's solid coal before us. The Babuji says so."
"Babuji! Pigji! Dogji! What do these fat slugs from Calcutta know? He
draws and draws and draws, and talks and talks and talks, and his maps are
all wrong. I, Janki, know that this is so. When a man has been shut up in
the dark for thirty years, God gives him knowledge. The old gallery that
Tibu's gang made is not six feet from Number Five."
"Without doubt God gives the blind knowledge," said Kundoo, with a look at
Unda. "Let it be as you say. I, for my part, do not know where lies the
gallery of Tibu's gang, but "I" am not a withered monkey who needs oil to
grease his joints with."
Kundoo swung out of the hut laughing, and Unda giggled. Janki turned his
sightless eyes toward his wife and swore. "I have land, and I have sold a
great deal of lamp-oil," mused Janki; "but I was a fool to marry this
A week later the Rains set in with a vengeance, and the gangs paddled
about in coal-slush at the pit-banks. Then the big mine-pumps were made
ready, and the Manager of the Colliery ploughed through the wet toward the
Tarachunda River swelling between its soppy banks. "Lord send that this
beastly beck doesn't misbehave," said the Manager, piously, and he went to
take counsel with his Assistant about the pumps.
But the Tarachunda misbehaved very much indeed. After a fall of three
inches of rain in an hour it was obliged to do something. It topped its
bank and joined the flood water that was hemmed between two low hills just
where the embankment of the Colliery main line crossed. When a large part
of a rain-fed river, and a few acres of flood-water, made a dead set for a
nine-foot culvert, the culvert may spout its finest, but the water cannot
"all" get out. The Manager pranced upon one leg with excitement, and his
language was improper.
He had reason to swear, because he knew that one inch of water on land
meant a pressure of one hundred tons to the acre; and here were about five
feet of water forming, behind the railway embankment, over the shallower
workings of Twenty-Two. You must understand that, in a coal-mine, the coal
nearest the surface is worked first from the central shaft. That is to
say, the miners may clear out the stuff to within ten, twenty, or thirty
feet of the surface, and, when all is worked out, leave only a skin of
earth upheld by some few pillars of coal. In a deep mine where they know
that they have any amount of material at hand, men prefer to get all their
mineral out at one shaft, rather than make a number of little holes to tap
the comparatively unimportant surface-coal.
And the Manager watched the flood.
The culvert spouted a nine-foot gush; but the water still formed, and word
was sent to clear the men out of Twenty-Two. The cages came up crammed and
crammed again with the men nearest the pit-eye, as they call the place
where you can see daylight from the bottom of the main shaft. All away and
away up the long black galleries the flare-lamps were winking and dancing
like so many fireflies, and the men and the women waited for the clanking,
rattling, thundering cages to come down and fly up again. But the
outworkings were very far off, and word could not be passed quickly,
though the heads of the gangs and the Assistant shouted and swore and
tramped and stumbled. The Manager kept one eye on the great troubled pool
behind the embankment, and prayed that the culvert would give way and let
the water through in time. With the other eye he watched the cages come up
and saw the headmen counting the roll of the gangs. With all his heart and
soul he swore at the winder who controlled the iron drum that wound up the
wire rope on which hung the cages.
In a little time there was a down-draw in the water behind the
embankment--a sucking whirlpool, all yellow and yeasty. The water had
smashed through the skin of the earth and was pouring into the old shallow
workings of Twenty-Two.
Deep down below, a rush of black water caught the last gang waiting for
the cage, and as they clambered in, the whirl was about their waists. The
cage reached the pit-bank, and the Manager called the roll. The gangs were
all safe except Gang Janki, Gang Mogul, and Gang Rahim, eighteen men, with
perhaps ten basket-women who loaded the coal into the little iron
carriages that ran on the tramways of the main galleries. These gangs were
in the out-workings, three-quarters of a mile away, on the extreme fringe
of the mine. Once more the cage went down, but with only two English men
in it, and dropped into a swirling, roaring current that had almost
touched the roof of some of the lower side-galleries. One of the wooden
balks with which they had propped the old workings shot past on the
current, just missing the cage.
"If we don't want our ribs knocked out, we'd better go," said the Manager.
"We can't even save the Company's props."
The cage drew out of the water with a splash, and a few minutes later, it
was officially reported that there were at least ten feet of water in the
pit's eye. Now ten feet of water there meant that all other places in the
mine were flooded except such galleries as were more than ten feet above
the level of the bottom of the shaft. The deep workings would be full, the
main galleries would be full, but in the high workings reached by inclines
from the main roads, there would be a certain amount of air cut off, so to
speak, by the water and squeezed up by it. The little science-primers
explain how water behaves when you pour it down test-tubes. The flooding
of Twenty-Two was an illustration on a large scale.
"By the Holy Grove, what has happened to the air!" It was a Sonthal
gangman of Gang Mogul in Number Nine gallery, and he was driving a
six-foot way through the coal. Then there was a rush from the other
galleries, and Gang Janki and Gang Rahim stumbled up with their
"Water has come in the mine," they said, "and there is no way of getting
"I went down," said Janki--"down the slope of my gallery, and I felt the
"There has been no water in the cutting in our time," clamored the women,
"Why cannot we go away?"
"Be silent!" said Janki, "Long ago, when my father was here, water came to
Ten--no, Eleven--cutting, and there was great trouble. Let us get away to
where the air is better."
The three gangs and the basket-women left Number Nine gallery and went
further up Number Sixteen. At one turn of the road they could see the
pitchy black water lapping on the coal. It had touched the roof of a
gallery that they knew well--a gallery where they used to smoke their
"huqas" and manage their flirtations. Seeing this, they called aloud upon
their Gods, and the Mehas, who are thrice bastard Muhammadans, strove to
recollect the name of the Prophet. They came to a great open square whence
nearly all the coal had been extracted. It was the end of the
out-workings, and the end of the mine.
Far away down the gallery a small pumping-engine, used for keeping dry a
deep working and fed with steam from above, was throbbing faithfully. They
heard it cease.
"They have cut off the steam," said Kundoo, hopefully. "They have given
the order to use all the steam for the pit-bank pumps. They will clear out
"If the water has reached the smoking-gallery," said Janki, "all the
Company's pumps can do nothing for three days."
"It is very hot," moaned Jasoda, the Meah basket-woman. "There is a very
bad air here because of the lamps."
"Put them out," said Janki; "why do you want lamps?" The lamps were put
out and the company sat still in the utter dark. Somebody rose quietly and
began walking over the coals. It was Janki, who was touching the walls
with his hands. "Where is the ledge?" he murmured to himself.
"Sit, sit!" said Kundoo. "If we die, we die. The air is very bad."
But Janki still stumbled and crept and tapped with his pick upon the
walls. The women rose to their feet.
"Stay all where you are. Without the lamps you cannot see, and I--I am
always seeing," said Janki. Then he paused, and called out: "Oh, you who
have been in the cutting more than ten years, what is the name of this
open place? I am an old man and I have forgotten."
"Bullia's Room," answered the Sonthal, who had complained of the vileness
of the air.
"Again," said Janki.
"Then I have found it," said Janki. "The name only had slipped my memory.
Tibu's gang's gallery is here."
"A lie," said Kundoo. "There have been no galleries in this place since my
"Three paces was the depth of the ledge," muttered Janki, without
heeding--"and--oh, my poor bones!--I have found it! It is here, up this
ledge, Come all you, one by one, to the place of my voice, and I will
There was a rush in the dark, and Janki felt the first man's face hit his
knees as the Sonthal scrambled up the ledge.
"Who?" cried Janki.
"I, Sunua Manji."
"Sit you down," said Janki, "Who next?"
One by one the women and the men crawled up the ledge which ran along one
side of "Bullia's Room." Degraded Muhammadan, pig-eating Musahr and wild
Sonthal, Janki ran his hand over them all.
"Now follow after," said he, "catching hold of my heel, and the women
catching the men's clothes." He did not ask whether the men had brought
their picks with them. A miner, black or white, does not drop his pick.
One by one, Janki leading, they crept into the old gallery--a six-foot way
with a scant four feet from hill to roof.
"The air is better here," said Jasoda. They could hear her heart beating
in thick, sick bumps.
"Slowly, slowly," said Janki. "I am an old man, and I forget many things.
This is Tibu's gallery, but where are the four bricks where they used to
put their "huqa" fire on when the Sahibs never saw? Slowly, slowly, O you
They heard his hands disturbing the small coal on the floor of the gallery
and then a dull sound. "This is one unbaked brick, and this is another and
another. Kundoo is a young man--let him come forward. Put a knee upon this
brick and strike here. When Tibu's gang were at dinner on the last day
before the good coal ended, they heard the men of Five on the other side,
and Five worked "their" gallery two Sundays later--or it may have been
one. Strike there, Kundoo, but give me room to go back."
Kundoo, doubting, drove the pick, but the first soft crush of the coal was
a call to him. He was fighting for his life and for Unda--pretty little
Unda with rings on all her toes--for Unda and the forty rupees. The women
sang the Song of the Pick--the terrible, slow, swinging melody with the
muttered chorus that repeats the sliding of the loosened coal, and, to
each cadence, Kundoo smote in the black dark. When he could do no more,
Sunua Manji took the pick, and struck for his life and his wife, and his
village beyond the blue hills over the Tarachunda River. An hour the men
worked, and then the women cleared away the coal.
"It is farther than I thought," said Janki. "The air is very bad; but
strike, Kundoo, strike hard,"
For the fifth time Kundoo took up the pick as the Sonthal crawled back.
The song had scarcely recommenced when it was broken by a yell from Kundoo
that echoed down the gallery: ""Par hua! Par hua!" We are through, we are
through!" The imprisoned air in the mine shot through the opening, and the
women at the far end of the gallery heard the water rush through the
pillars of "Bullia's Room" and roar against the ledge. Having fulfilled
the law under which it worked, it rose no farther. The women screamed and
pressed forward, "The water has come--we shall be killed! Let us go."
Kundoo crawled through the gap and found himself in a propped gallery by
the simple process of hitting his head against a beam.
"Do I know the pits or do I not?" chuckled Janki. "This is the Number
Five; go you out slowly, giving me your names. Ho! Rahim, count your gang!
Now let us go forward, each catching hold of the other as before."
They formed a line in the darkness and Janki led them--for a pit-man in a
strange pit is only one degree less liable to err than an ordinary mortal
underground for the first time. At last they saw a flare-lamp, and Gangs
Janki, Mogul, and Rahim of Twenty-Two stumbled dazed into the glare of the
draught-furnace at the bottom of Five; Janki feeling his way and the rest
"Water has come into Twenty-Two. God knows where are the others. I have
brought these men from Tibu's gallery in our cutting; making connection
through the north side of the gallery. Take us to the cage," said Janki
At the pit-bank of Twenty-Two, some thousand people clamored and wept and
shouted. One hundred men--one thousand men--had been drowned in the
cutting. They would all go to their homes to-morrow. Where were their men?
Little Unda, her cloth drenched with the rain, stood at the pit-mouth
calling down the shaft for Kundoo. They had swung the cages clear of the
mouth, and her only answer was the murmur of the flood in the pit's eye
two hundred and sixty feet below.
"Look after that woman! She'll chuck herself down the shaft in a minute,"
shouted the Manager.
But he need not have troubled; Unda was afraid of Death. She wanted
Kundoo. The Assistant was watching the flood and seeing how far he could
wade into it. There was a lull in the water, and the whirlpool had
slackened. The mine was full, and the people at the pit-bank howled.
"My faith, we shall be lucky if we have five hundred hands on the place
to-morrow!" said the Manager. "There's some chance yet of running a
temporary dam across that water. Shove in anything--tubs and bullock-carts
if you haven't enough bricks. Make them work "now" if they never worked
before. Hi! you gangers, make them work."
Little by little the crowd was broken into detachments, and pushed toward
the water with promises of overtime. The dam-making began, and when it was
fairly under way, the Manager thought that the hour had come for the
pumps. There was no fresh inrush into the mine. The tall, red,
iron-clamped pump-beam rose and fell, and the pumps snored and guttered
and shrieked as the first water poured out of the pipe.
"We must run her all to-night," said the Manager, wearily, "but there's no
hope for the poor devils down below. Look here, Gur Sahai, if you are
proud of your engines, show me what they can do now."
Gur Sahai grinned and nodded, with his right hand upon the lever and an
oil-can in his left. He could do no more than he was doing, but he could
keep that up till the dawn. Were the Company's pumps to be beaten by the
vagaries of that troublesome Tarachunda River? Never, never! And the pumps
sobbed and panted: "Never, never!" The Manager sat in the shelter of the
pit-bank roofing, trying to dry himself by the pump-boiler fire, and, in
the dreary dusk, he saw the crowds on the dam scatter and fly.
"That's the end," he groaned. "'Twill take us six weeks to persuade 'em
that we haven't tried to drown their mates on purpose. Oh, for a decent,
But the flight had no panic in it. Men had run over from Five with
astounding news, and the foremen could not hold their gangs together.
Presently, surrounded by a clamorous crew, Gangs Rahim, Mogul, and Janki,
and ten basket-women, walked up to report themselves, and pretty little
Unda stole away to Janki's hut to prepare his evening meal.
"Alone I found the way," explained Janki Meah, "and now will the Company
give me pension?"
The simple pit-folk shouted and leaped and went back to the dam, reassured
in their old belief that, whatever happened, so great was the power of the
Company whose salt they ate, none of them could be killed. But Gur Sahai
only bared his white teeth and kept his hand upon the lever and proved his
pumps to the uttermost.
"I say," said the Assistant to the Manager, a week later, "do you
"Yes. 'Queer thing, I thought of it In the cage when that balk went by.
"Oh, this business seems to be "Germinal" upside down. Janki was in my
veranda all this morning, telling me that Kundoo had eloped with his
wife--Unda or Anda, I think her name was."
"Hillo! And those were the cattle that you risked your life to clear out
"No--I was thinking of the Company's props, not the Company's men."
"Sounds better to say so "now"; but I don't believe you, old fellow."
THE COURTING OF DINAH SHADD
What did the colonel's lady think?
Nobody never knew.
Somebody asked the sergeant's wife
An' she told 'em true.
When you git to a man in the case
They're like a row o' pins,
For the colonel's lady an' Judy O'Grady
Are sisters under their skins.
"Barrack Room Ballad."
All day I had followed at the heels of a pursuing army engaged on one of
the finest battles that ever camp of exercise beheld. Thirty thousand
troops had by the wisdom of the Government of India been turned loose over
a few thousand square miles of country to practice in peace what they
would never attempt in war. Consequently cavalry charged unshaken infantry
at the trot. Infantry captured artillery by frontal attacks delivered in
line of quarter columns, and mounted infantry skirmished up to the wheels
of an armored train which carried nothing more deadly than a twenty-five
pounder Armstrong, two Nordenfeldts, and a few score volunteers all cased
in three-eighths-inch boiler-plate. Yet it was a very lifelike camp.
Operations did not cease at sundown; nobody knew the country and nobody
spared man or horse. There was unending cavalry scouting and almost
unending forced work over broken ground. The Army of the South had finally
pierced the centre of the Army of the North, and was pouring through the
gap hot-foot to capture a city of strategic importance. Its front extended
fanwise, the sticks being represented by regiments strung out along the
line of route backward to the divisional transport columns and all the
lumber that trails behind an army on the move. On its right the broken
left of the Army of the North was flying in mass, chased by the Southern
horse and hammered by the Southern guns till these had been pushed far
beyond the limits of their last support. Then the flying sat down to rest,
while the elated commandant of the pursuing force telegraphed that he held
all in check and observation.
Unluckily he did not observe that three miles to his right flank a flying
column of Northern horse with a detachment of Ghoorkhas and British troops
had been pushed round, as fast as the failing light allowed, to cut across
the entire rear of the Southern Army, to break, as it were, all the ribs
of the fan where they converged by striking at the transport, reserve
ammunition, and artillery supplies. Their instructions were to go in,
avoiding the few scouts who might not have been drawn off by the pursuit,
and create sufficient excitement to impress the Southern Army with the
wisdom of guarding their own flank and rear before they captured cities.
It was a pretty manoeuvre, neatly carried out.
Speaking for the second division of the Southern Army, our first
intimation of the attack was at twilight, when the artillery were laboring
in deep sand, most of the escort were trying to help them out, and the
main body of the infantry had gone on. A Noah's Ark of elephants, camels,
and the mixed menagerie of an Indian transport-train bubbled and squealed
behind the guns, when there appeared from nowhere in particular British
infantry to the extent of three companies, who sprang to the heads of the
gun-horses and brought all to a standstill amid oaths and cheers.
"How's that, umpire?" said the major commanding the attack, and with one
voice the drivers and limber gunners answered "Hout!" while the colonel of
"All your scouts are charging our main body," said the major. "Your flanks
are unprotected for two miles. I think we've broken the back of this
division. And listen,--there go the Ghoorkhas!"
A weak fire broke from the rear-guard more than a mile away, and was
answered by cheerful howlings. The Ghoorkhas, who should have swung clear
of the second division, had stepped on its tail in the dark, but drawing
off hastened to reach the next line of attack, which lay almost parallel
to us five or six miles away.
Our column swayed and surged irresolutely,--three batteries, the
divisional ammunition reserve, the baggage, and a section of the hospital
and bearer corps. The commandant ruefully promised to report himself "cut
up" to the nearest umpires and commending his cavalry and all other
cavalry to the special care of Eblis, toiled on to resume touch with the
rest of the division.
"We'll bivouac here to-night," said the major, "I have a notion that the
Ghoorkhas will get caught. They may want us to re-form on. Stand easy till
the transport gets away,"
A hand caught my beast's bridle and led him out of the choking dust; a
larger hand deftly canted me out of the saddle; and two of the hugest
hands in the world received me sliding. Pleasant is the lot of the special
correspondent who falls into such hands as those of Privates Mulvaney,
Ortheris, and Learoyd.
"An' that's all right," said the Irishman, calmly. "We thought we'd find
you somewheres here by. Is there anything av yours in the transport?
Orth'ris 'll fetch ut out."
Ortheris did "fetch ut out," from under the trunk of an elephant, in the
shape of a servant and an animal both laden with medical comforts. The
little man's eyes sparkled.
"If the brutil an' licentious soldiery av these parts gets sight av the
thruck," said Mulvaney, making practiced investigation, "they'll loot
ev'rything. They're bein' fed on iron-filin's an' dog-biscuit these days,
but glory's no compensation for a belly-ache. Praise be, we're here to
protect you, sorr. Beer, sausage, bread (soft an' that's a cur'osity),
soup in a tin, whisky by the smell av ut, an' fowls! Mother av Moses, but
ye take the field like a confectioner! 'Tis scand'lus."
"'Ere's a orficer," said Ortheris, significantly. "When the sergent's done
lushin' the privit may clean the pot."
I bundled several things into Mulvaney's haversack before the major's hand
fell on my shoulder and he said, tenderly, "Requisitioned for the Queen's
service. Wolseley was quite wrong about special correspondents: they are
the soldier's best friends. Come and take pot-luck with us to-night."
And so it happened amid laughter and shoutings that my well-considered
commissariat melted away to reappear later at the mess-table, which was a
waterproof sheet spread on the ground. The flying column had taken three
days' rations with it, and there be few things nastier than government
rations--especially when government is experimenting with German toys.
Erbsenwurst, tinned beef of surpassing tinniness, compressed vegetables,
and meat-biscuits may be nourishing, but what Thomas Atkins needs is bulk
in his inside. The major, assisted by his brother officers, purchased
goats for the camp and so made the experiment of no effect. Long before
the fatigue-party sent to collect brushwood had returned, the men were
settled down by their valises, kettles and pots had appeared from the
surrounding country and were dangling over fires as the kid and the
compressed vegetable bubbled together; there rose a cheerful clinking of
mess-tins; outrageous demands for "a little more stuffin' with that there
liver-wing;" and gust on gust of chaff as pointed as a bayonet and as
delicate as a gun-butt.
"The boys are in a good temper," said the major. "They'll be singing
presently. Well, a night like this is enough to keep them happy."
Over our heads burned the wonderful Indian stars, which are not all
pricked in on one plane, but, preserving an orderly perspective, draw the
eye through the velvet darkness of the void up to the barred doors of
heaven itself. The earth was a grey shadow more unreal than the sky. We
could hear her breathing lightly in the pauses between the howling of the
jackals, the movement of the wind in the tamarisks, and the fitful mutter
of musketry-fire leagues away to the left. A native woman from some unseen
hut began to sing, the mail-train thundered past on its way to Delhi, and
a roosting crow cawed drowsily. Then there was a belt-loosening silence
about the fires, and the even breathing of the crowded earth took up the
The men, full fed, turned to tobacco and song,--their officers with them.
The subaltern is happy who can win the approval of the musical critics in
his regiment, and is honored among the more intricate step-dancers. By
him, as by him who plays cricket cleverly, Thomas Atkins will stand in
time of need, when he will let a better officer go on alone. The ruined
tombs of forgotten Mussulman saints heard the ballad of "Agra Town, The
Buffalo Battery, Marching to Kabul, The long, long Indian Day, The Place
where the Punkah-coolie died", and that crashing chorus which announces,
Youth's daring spirit, manhood's fire,
Firm hand and eagle eye,
Must he acquire who would aspire
To see the grey boar die.
To-day, of all those jovial thieves who appropriated my commissariat and
lay and laughed round that waterproof sheet, not one remains. They went to
camps that were not of exercise and battles without umpires. Burmah, the
Soudan, and the frontier,--fever and fight,--took them in their time.
I drifted across to the men's fires in search of Mulvaney, whom I found
strategically greasing his feet by the blaze. There is nothing
particularly lovely in the sight of a private thus engaged after a long
day's march, but when you reflect on the exact proportion of the "might,
majesty, dominion, and power" of the British Empire which stands on those
feet you take an interest in the proceedings.
"There's a blister, bad luck to ut, on the heel," said Mulvaney. "I can't
touch ut. Prick ut out, little man,"
Ortheris took out his house-wife, eased the trouble with a needle, stabbed
Mulvaney in the calf with the same weapon, and was swiftly kicked into the
"I've bruk the best av my toes over you, ye grinnin' child av disruption,"
said Mulvaney, sitting cross-legged and nursing his feet; then seeing me,
"Oh, ut's you, sorr! Be welkim, an' take that maraudin' scutt's place,
Jock, hold him down on the cindhers for a bit."
But Ortheris escaped and went elsewhere, as I took possession of the
hollow he had scraped for himself and lined with his greatcoat. Learoyd on
the other side of the fire grinned affably and in a minute fell fast
"There's the height av politeness for you," said Mulvaney, lighting his
pipe with a flaming branch. "But Jock's eaten half a box av your sardines
at wan gulp, an' I think the tin too. What's the best wid you, sorr, an'
how did you happen to be on the losin' side this day whin we captured
"The Army of the South is winning all along the line," I said.
"Then that line's the hangman's rope, savin' your presence. You'll learn
to-morrow how we rethreated to dhraw thim on before we made thim trouble,
an' that's what a woman does. By the same tokin, we'll be attacked before
the dawnin' an' ut would be betther not to slip your boots. How do I know
that? By the light av pure reason. Here are three companies av us ever so
far inside av the enemy's flank an' a crowd av roarin', tarin', squealin'
cavalry gone on just to turn out the whole hornet's nest av them. Av
course the enemy will pursue, by brigades like as not, an' thin we'll have
to run for ut. Mark my words. I am av the opinion av Polonius whin he
said, 'Don't fight wid ivry scutt for the pure joy av fightin', but if you
do, knock the nose av him first an' frequint.'. We ought to ha' gone on
an' helped the Ghoorkhas."
"But what do you know about Polonius?" I demanded. This was a new side of
"All that Shakespeare iver wrote an' a dale more that the gallery
shouted," said the man of war, carefully lacing his boots. "Did I not tell
you av Silver's theatre in Dublin, whin I was younger than I am now an' a
patron av the drama? Ould Silver wud never pay actor-man or woman their
just dues, an' by consequince his comp'nies was collapsible at the last
minut. Thin the bhoys wud clamor to take a part, an' oft as not ould
Silver made them pay for the fun. Faith, I've seen Hamlut played wid a new
black eye an' the queen as full as a cornucopia. I remimber wanst Hogin
that 'listed in the Black Tyrone an' was shot in South Africa, he sejuced
ould Silver into givin' him Hamlut's part instid av me that had a fine
fancy for rhetoric in those days. Av course I wint into the gallery an'
began to fill the pit wid other people's hats, an' I passed the time av
day to Hogin walkin' through Denmark like a hamstrung mule wid a pall on
his back, 'Hamlut,' sez I, 'there's a hole in your heel. Pull up your
shtockin's, Hamlut,' sez I, 'Hamlut, Hamlut, for the love av decincy dhrop
that skull an' pull up your shtockin's.' The whole house begun to tell him
that. He stopped his soliloquishms mid-between. 'My shtockin's may be
comin' down or they may not,' sez he, screwin' his eye into the gallery,
for well he knew who I was. 'But afther this performince is over me an'
the Ghost 'll trample the tripes out av you, Terence, wid your ass's
bray!' An' that's how I come to know about Hamlut. Eyah! Those days, those
days! Did you iver have onendin' devilmint an' nothin' to pay for it in
your life, sorr?"
"Never, without having to pay," I said.
"That's thrue! 'Tis mane whin you considher on ut; but ut's the same wid
horse or fut. A headache if you dhrink, an' a belly-ache if you eat too
much, an' a heart-ache to kape all down. Faith, the beast only gets the
colic, an' he's the lucky man."
He dropped his head and stared into the fire, fingering his moustache the
while. From the far side of the bivouac the voice of Corbet-Nolan, senior
subaltern of B Company, uplifted itself in an ancient and much appreciated
song of sentiment, the men moaning melodiously behind him.
The north wind blew coldly, she dropped from that hour,
My own little Kathleen, my sweet little Kathleen,
Kathleen, my Kathleen, Kathleen O'Moore!
With forty-five O's in the last word: even at that distance you might have
cut the soft South Irish accent with a shovel.
"For all we take we must pay, but the price is cruel high," murmured
Mulvaney when the chorus had ceased.
"What's the trouble?" I said gently, for I knew that he was a man of an
"Hear now," said he. "Ye know what I am now. "I" know what I mint to be at
the beginnin' av my service. I've tould you time an' again, an' what I
have not Dinah Shadd has. An' what am I? Oh, Mary Mother av Hiven, an ould
dhrunken, untrustable baste av a privit that has seen the reg'ment change
out from colonel to drummer-boy, not wanst or twice, but scores av times!
Ay, scores! An' me not so near gettin' promotion as in the first! An' me
livin' on an' kapin' clear av clink, not by my own good conduck, but the
kindness av some orf'cer-bhoy young enough to be son to me! Do I not know
ut? Can I not tell whin I'm passed over at p'rade, tho' I'm rockin' full
av liquor an' ready to fall all in wan piece, such as even a suckin' child
might see, bekaze, 'Oh, 'tis only ould Mulvaney!' An' whin I'm let off in
ord'ly-room through some thrick of the tongue an' a ready answer an' the
ould man's mercy, is ut smilin' I feel whin I fall away an' go back to
Dinah Shadd, thryin' to carry ut all off as a joke? Not I! 'Tis hell to
me, dumb hell through ut all; an' next time whin the fit comes I will be
as bad again. Good cause the reg'ment has to know me for the best soldier
in ut. Better cause have I to know mesilf for the worst man. I'm only fit
to tache the new drafts what I'll niver learn mesilf; an' I am sure, as
tho' I heard ut, that the minut wan av these pink-eyed recruities gets
away from my 'Mind ye now,' an' 'Listen to this, Jim, bhoy,'--sure I am
that the sergint houlds me up to him for a warnin'. So I tache, as they
say at musketry-instruction, by direct and ricochet fire. Lord be good to
me, for I have stud some throuble!"
"Lie down and go to sleep," said I, not being able to comfort or advise.
"You're the best man in the regiment, and, next to Ortheris, the biggest
fool. Lie down and wait till we're attacked. What force will they turn
out? Guns, think you?"
"Try that wid your lorrds an' ladies, twistin' an' turnin' the talk, tho'
you mint ut well. Ye cud say nothin' to help me, an' yet ye niver knew
what cause I had to be what I am."
"Begin at the beginning and go on to the end," I said, royally. "But rake
up the fire a bit first."
I passed Ortheris's bayonet for a poker.
"That shows how little we know what we do," said Mulvaney, putting it
aside. "Fire takes all the heart out av the steel, an' the next time, may
be, that our little man is fighting for his life his bradawl 'll break,
an' so you'll ha' killed him, manin' no more than to kape yourself warm.
'Tis a recruity's thrick that. Pass the clanin'-rod, sorr."
I snuggled down abased; and after an interval the voice of Mulvaney began.
"Did I iver tell you how Dinah Shadd came to be wife av mine?"
I dissembled a burning anxiety that I had felt for some months--ever since
Dinah Shadd, the strong, the patient, and the infinitely tender, had of
her own good love and free will washed a shirt for me, moving in a barren
land where washing was not.
"I can't remember," I said, casually. "Was it before or after you made
love to Annie Bragin, and got no satisfaction?"
The story of Annie Bragin is written in another place. It is one of the
many less respectable episodes in Mulvaney's checkered career.
"Before--before--long before, was that business av Annie Bragin an' the
corp'ril's ghost. Niver woman was the worse for me whin I had married
Dinah. There's a time for all things, an' I know how to kape all things in
place--barrin' the dhrink, that kapes me in my place wid no hope av comin'
to be aught else."
"Begin at the beginning," I insisted. "Mrs. Mulvaney told me that you
married her when you were quartered in Krab Bokhar barracks."
"An' the same is a cess-pit," said Mulvaney, piously. "She spoke thrue,
did Dinah. 'Twas this way. Talkin' av that, have ye iver fallen in love,
I preserved the silence of the damned. Mulvaney continued--
"Thin I will assume that ye have not. "I" did. In the days av my youth, as
I have more than wanst tould you, I was a man that filled the eye an'
delighted the sowl av women. Niver man was hated as I have bin. Niver man
was loved as I--no, not within half a day's march av ut! For the first
five years av my service, whin I was what I wud give my sowl to be now, I
tuk whatever was within my reach an' digested ut--an' that's more than
most men can say. Dhrink I tuk, an' ut did me no harm. By the Hollow av
Hiven, I cud play wid four women at wanst, an' kape them from findin' out
anythin' about the other three, an' smile like a fullblown marigold
through ut all. Dick Coulhan, av the battery we'll have down on us
to-night, could drive his team no better than I mine, an' I hild the
worser cattle! An' so I lived, an' so I was happy till afther that
business wid Annie Bragin--she that turned me off as cool as a meat-safe,
an' taught me where I stud in the mind av an honest woman. 'Twas no sweet
dose to swallow.
"Afther that I sickened awhile an' tuk thought to my reg'mental work;
conceiting mesilf I wud study an' be a sargint, an' a major-gineral twinty
minutes afther that. But on top av my ambitiousness there was an empty
place in my sowl, an' me own opinion av mesilf cud not fill ut. Sez I to
mesilf, 'Terence, you're a great man an' the best set-up in the reg'mint.
Go on an' get promotion.' Sez mesilf to me, 'What for?' Sez I to mesilf,
'For the glory av ut!' Sez mesilf to me, 'Will that fill these two strong
arrums av yours, Terence?' 'Go to the devil,' sez I to mesilf, 'Go to the
married lines,' sez mesilf to me. 'Tis the same thing,' sez I to mesilf.
'Av you're the same man, ut is,' said mesilf to me; an' wid that I
considhered on ut a long while. Did you iver feel that way, sorr?"
I snored gently, knowing that if Mulvaney were uninterrupted he would go
on. The clamor from the bivouac fires beat up to the stars, as the rival
singers of the companies were pitted against each other.
"So I felt that way an' a bad time ut was. Wanst, bein' a fool, I wint
into the married lines more for the sake av spakin' to our ould
color-sergint Shadd than for any thruck wid womenfolk. I was a corp'ril
then--rejuced aftherward, but a corp'ril then. I've got a photograft av
mesilf to prove ut. 'You'll take a cup av tay wid us?' sez Shadd. 'I will
that,' I sez, 'tho' tay is not my divarsion.'
"''Twud be better for you if ut were,' sez ould Mother Shadd, an' she had
ought to know, for Shadd, in the ind av his service, dhrank bung-full each
"Wid that I tuk off my gloves--there was pipe-clay in thim, so that they
stud alone--an' pulled up my chair, lookin' round at the china ornaments
an' bits av things in the Shadds' quarters. They were things that belonged
to a man, an' no camp-kit, here to-day an' dishipated next. 'You're
comfortable in this place, sergint,' sez I. ''Tis the wife that did ut,
boy,' sez he, pointin' the stem av his pipe to ould Mother Shadd, an' she
smacked the top av his bald head apon the compliment. 'That manes you want
money,' sez she.
"An' thin--an' thin whin the kettle was to be filled, Dinah came in--my
Dinah--her sleeves rowled up to the elbow an' her hair in a winkin' glory
over her forehead, the big blue eyes beneath twinklin' like stars on a
frosty night, an' the tread av her two feet lighter than wastepaper from
the colonel's basket in ord'ly-room whin ut's emptied. Bein' but a shlip
av a girl she went pink at seein' me, an' I twisted me moustache an'
looked at a picture forninst the wall. Niver show a woman that ye care the
snap av a finger for her, an' begad she'll come bleatin' to your
"I suppose that's why you followed Annie Bragin till everybody in the
married quarters laughed at you," said I, remembering that unhallowed
wooing and casting off the disguise of drowsiness.
"I'm layin' down the gin'ral theory av the attack," said Mulvaney, driving
his boot into the dying fire. "If you read the "Soldier's Pocket Book",
which niver any soldier reads, you'll see that there are exceptions. Whin
Dinah was out av the door (an' 'twas as tho' the sunlight had shut
too)--'Mother av Hiven, sergint,' sez I, 'but is that your
daughter?'--'I've believed that way these eighteen years,' sez ould Shadd,
his eyes twinklin'; 'but Mrs. Shadd has her own opinion, like iv'ry
woman,'--'Tis wid yours this time, for a mericle,' sez Mother Shadd. 'Thin
why in the name av fortune did I niver see her before?' sez I. 'Bekaze
you've been thrapesin' round wid the married women these three years past.
She was a bit av a child till last year, an' she shot up wid the spring,'
sez ould Mother Shadd, 'I'll thrapese no more,' sez I. 'D'you mane that?'
sez ould Mother Shadd, lookin' at me side-ways like a hen looks at a hawk
whin the chickens are runnin' free. 'Try me, an' tell,' sez I. Wid that I
pulled on my gloves, dhrank off the tay, an' went out av the house as
stiff as at gin'ral p'rade, for well I knew that Dinah Shadd's eyes were
in the small av my back out av the scullery window. Faith! that was the
only time I mourned I was not a cav'lry man for the pride av the spurs to
"I wint out to think, an' I did a powerful lot av thinkin', but ut all
came round to that shlip av a girl in the dotted blue dhress, wid the blue
eyes an' the sparkil in them. Thin I kept off canteen, an' I kept to the
married quarthers, or near by, on the chanst av meetin' Dinah. Did I meet
her? Oh, my time past, did I not; wid a lump in my throat as big as my
valise an' my heart goin' like a farrier's forge on a Saturday morning?
'Twas 'Good day to ye, Miss Dinah,' an' 'Good day t'you, corp'ril,' for a
week or two, and divil a bit further could I get bekaze av the respect I
had to that girl that I cud ha' broken betune finger an' thumb."
Here I giggled as I recalled the gigantic figure of Dinah Shadd when she
handed me my shirt.
"Ye may laugh," grunted Mulvaney. "But I'm speakin' the trut', an' 'tis
you that are in fault. Dinah was a girl that wud ha' taken the
imperiousness out av the Duchess av Clonmel in those days. Flower hand,
foot av shod air, an' the eyes av the livin' mornin' she had that is my
wife to-day--ould Dinah, and niver aught else than Dinah Shadd to me.
"'Twas after three weeks standin' off an' on, an' niver makin' headway
excipt through the eyes, that a little drummer boy grinned in me face whin
I had admonished him wid the buckle av my belt for riotin' all over the
place, 'An' I'm not the only wan that doesn't kape to barricks,' sez he. I
tuk him by the scruff av his neck,--my heart was hung on a hair-thrigger
those days, you will onderstand--an' 'Out wid ut,' sez I, 'or I'll lave no
bone av you unbreakable,'--'Speak to Dempsey,' sez he howlin'. 'Dempsey
which?' sez I, 'ye unwashed limb av Satan.'--'Av the Bob-tailed
Dhragoons,' sez he, 'He's seen her home from her aunt's house in the civil
lines four times this fortnight,'--'Child!' sez I, dhroppin' him, 'your
tongue's stronger than your body. Go to your quarters. I'm sorry I
dhressed you down.'
"At that I went four ways to wanst huntin' Dempsey. I was mad to think
that wid all my airs among women I shud ha' been chated by a basin-faced
fool av a cav'lryman not fit to trust on a trunk. Presintly I found him in
our lines--the Bobtails was quartered next us--an' a tallowy, topheavy son
av a she-mule he was wid his big brass spurs an' his plastrons on his
epigastrons an' all. But he niver flinched a hair.
"'A word wid you, Dempsey,' sez I. 'You've walked wid Dinah Shadd four
times this fortnight gone.'
"'What's that to you?' sez he. 'I'll walk forty times more, an' forty on
top av that, ye shovel-futted clod-breakin' infantry lance-corp'ril.'
"Before I cud gyard he had his gloved fist home on my cheek an' down I
went full-sprawl. 'Will that content you?' sez he, blowin' on his knuckles
for all the world like a Scots Greys orf'cer. 'Content!' sez I. 'For your
own sake, man, take off your spurs, peel your jackut, an' onglove. 'Tis
the beginnin' av the overture; stand up!'
"He stud all he know, but he niver peeled his jacket, an' his shoulders
had no fair play. I was fightin' for Dinah Shadd an' that cut on my cheek.
What hope had he forninst me? 'Stand up,' sez I, time an' again whin he
was beginnin' to quarter the ground an' gyard high an' go large. 'This
isn't ridin'-school,' I sez. 'O man, stand up an' let me get in at ye.'
But whin I saw he wud be runnin' about, I grup his shtock in my left an'
his waist-belt in my right an' swung him clear to my right front, head
undher, he hammerin' my nose till the wind was knocked out av him on the
bare ground. 'Stand up,' sez I, 'or I'll kick your head into your chest!'
and I wud ha' done ut too, so ragin' mad I was.
"'My collar-bone's bruk,' sez he. 'Help me back to lines. I'll walk wid
her no more.' So I helped him back."
"And was his collar-bone broken?" I asked, for I fancied that only Learoyd
could neatly accomplish that terrible throw.
"He pitched on his left shoulder point. Ut was. Next day the news was in
both barricks, an' whin I met Dinah Shadd wid a cheek on me like all the
reg'mintal tailor's samples there was no 'Good mornin', corp'ril,' or
aught else. 'An' what have I done, Miss Shadd,' sez I, very bould,
plantin' mesilf forninst her, 'that ye should not pass the time of day?'
"'Ye've half-killed rough-rider Dempsey,' sez she, her dear blue eyes
"'May be,' sez I. 'Was he a friend av yours that saw ye home four times in
"'Yes,' sez she, but her mouth was down at the corners, 'An'--an' what's
that to you?' she sez.
"'Ask Dempsey,' sez I, purtendin' to go away.
"'Did you fight for me then, ye silly man?' she sez, tho' she knew ut all
"'Who else?' sez I, an' I tuk wan pace to the front.
"'I wasn't worth ut,' sez she, fingerin' in her apron.
"'That's for me to say,' sez I. 'Shall I say ut?'
"'Yes,' sez she, in a saint's whisper, an' at that I explained mesilf; and
she tould me what ivry man that is a man, an' many that is a woman, hears
wanst in his life.
"'But what made ye cry at startin', Dinah, darlin'?' sez I.
"'Your--your bloody cheek,' sez she, duckin' her little head down on my
sash (I was on duty for the day) an' whimperin' like a sorrowful angil.
"Now a man cud take that two ways. I tuk ut as pleased me best an' my
first kiss wid ut. Mother av Innocence! but I kissed her on the tip av the
nose and undher the eye; an' a girl that let's a kiss come tumble-ways
like that has never been kissed before. Take note av that, sorr. Thin we
wint hand in hand to ould Mother Shadd like two little childher, an' she
said 'twas no bad thing, an' ould Shadd nodded behind his pipe, an' Dinah
ran away to her own room. That day I throd on rollin' clouds. All earth
was too small to hould me. Begad, I cud ha' hiked the sun out av the sky
for a live coal to my pipe, so magnificent I was. But I tuk recruities at
squad-drill instid, an' began wid general battalion advance whin I shud
ha' been balance-steppin' them. Eyah! that day! that day!"
A very long pause. "Well?" said I.
"'Twas all wrong," said Mulvaney, with an enormous sigh. "An' I know that
ev'ry bit av ut was my own foolishness. That night I tuk maybe the half av
three pints--not enough to turn the hair of a man in his natural senses.
But I was more than half drunk wid pure joy, an' that canteen beer was so
much whisky to me, I can't tell how it came about, but "bekaze" I had no
thought for anywan except Dinah, "bekaze" I hadn't slipped her little
white arms from my neck five minuts, "bekaze" the breath of her kiss was
not gone from my mouth, I must go through the married lines on my way to
quarters an' I must stay talkin' to a red-headed Mullingar heifer av a
girl, Judy Sheehy, that was daughter to Mother Sheehy, the wife of Nick
Sheehy, the canteen-sergint--the Black Curse av Shielygh be on the whole
brood that are above groun' this day!
"'An' what are ye houldin' your head that high for, corp'ril?' sez Judy.
'Come in an' thry a cup av tay,' she sez, standin' in the doorway. Bein'
an ontrustable fool, an' thinkin' av anything but tay, I wint.
"'Mother's at canteen,' sez Judy, smoothin' the hair av hers that was like
red snakes, an' lookin' at me corner-ways out av her green cats' eyes. 'Ye
will not mind, corp'ril?'
"'I can endure,' sez I; ould Mother Sheehy bein' no divarsion av mine, nor
her daughter too. Judy fetched the tea things an' put thim on the table,
leanin' over me very close to get thim square. I dhrew back, thinkin' av
"'Is ut afraid you are av a girl alone?' sez Judy.
"'No,' sez I. 'Why should I be?'
"'That rests wid the girl,' sez Judy, dhrawin' her chair next to mine.
"'Thin there let ut rest,' sez I; an' thinkin' I'd been a trifle onpolite,
I sez, 'The tay's not quite sweet enough for my taste. Put your little
finger in the cup, Judy. 'Twill make ut necthar.'
"'What's necthar?' sez she.
"'Somethin' very sweet,' sez I; an' for the sinful life av me I cud not
help lookin' at her out av the corner av my eye, as I was used to look at
"'Go on wid ye, corp'ril,' sez she. 'You're a flirrt.'
"'On me sowl I'm not,' sez I.
"'Then you're a cruel handsome man, an' that's worse,' sez she, heaving
big sighs an' lookin' crossways.
"'You know your own mind,' sez I.
"''Twud be better for me if I did not,' she sez.
"'There's a dale to be said on both sides av that,' sez I, unthinkin'.
"'Say your own part av ut, then, Terence, darlin',' sez she; 'for begad
I'm thinkin' I've said too much or too little for an honest girl,' an' wid
that she put her arms round my neck an' kissed me.
"'There's no more to be said afther that,' sez I, kissin' her back
again--Oh the mane scutt that I was, my head ringin' wid Dinah Shadd! How
does ut come about, sorr, that when a man has put the comether on wan
woman, he's sure bound to put it on another? 'Tis the same thing at
musketry, Wan day ivry shot goes wide or into the bank, an' the next, lay
high lay low, sight or snap, ye can't get off the bull's-eye for ten shots
"That only happens to a man who has had a good deal of experience. He does
it without thinking," I replied.
"Thankin' you for the complimint, sorr, ut may be so. But I'm doubtful
whether you mint ut for a complimint. Hear now; I sat there wid Judy on my
knee tellin' me all manner av nonsinse an' only sayin' 'yes' an' 'no,'
when I'd much better ha' kept tongue betune teeth. An' that was not an
hour afther I had left Dinah! What I was thinkin' av I cannot say,
Presintly. quiet as a cat, ould Mother Sheehy came in velvet-dhrunk. She
had her daughter's red hair, but 'twas bald in patches, an' I cud see in
her wicked ould face, clear as lightnin', what Judy wud be twenty years to
come. I was for jumpin' up, but Judy niver moved.
"'Terence has promust, mother,' sez she, an' the could sweat bruk out all
over me. Ould Mother Sheehy sat down of a heap an' began playin' wid the
cups. 'Thin you're a well-matched pair,' she sez, very thick. 'For he's
the biggest rogue that iver spoiled the queen's shoe-leather,' an'--
"'I'm off, Judy,' sez I. 'Ye should not talk nonsinse to your mother. Get
her to bed, girl.'
"'Nonsinse!' sez the ould woman, prickin' up her ears like a cat an'
grippin' the table-edge. ''Twill be the most nonsinsical nonsinse for you,
ye grinnin' badger, if nonsinse 'tis. Git clear, you. I'm goin' to bed.'
"I ran out into the dhark, my head in a stew an' my heart sick, but I had
sinse enough to see that I'd brought ut all on mysilf. 'It's this to pass
the time av day to a panjandhrum av hellcats,' sez I. 'What I've said, an'
what I've not said do not matther. Judy an' her dam will hould me for a
promust man, an' Dinah will give me the go, an' I desarve ut. I will go
an' get dhrunk,' sez I, 'an' forget about ut, for 'tis plain I'm not a
"On my way to canteen I ran against Lascelles, color-sergeant that was av
E Comp'ny, a hard, hard man, wid a torment av a wife. 'You've the head av
a drowned man on your shoulders,' sez he; 'an' you're goin' where you'll
get a worse wan. 'Come back,' sez he. 'Let me go,' sez I. 'I've thrown my
luck over the wall wid my own hand!'--'Then that's not the way to get ut
back again,' sez he. 'Have out wid your throuble, ye fool-bhoy.' An' I
tould him how the matther was.
"He sucked in his lower lip. 'You've been thrapped,' sez he. 'Ju Sheehy
wud be the betther for a man's name to hers as soon as can. An' ye thought
ye'd put the comether on her,--that's the natural vanity of the baste.
Terence, you're a big born fool, but you're not bad enough to marry into
that comp'ny. If you said anythin', an' for all your protestations I'm
sure ye did--or did not, which is worse,--eat ut all--lie like the father
of all lies, but come out av ut free av Judy. Do I not know what ut is to
marry a woman that was the very spit an' image av Judy whin she was young?
I'm gettin' old an' I've larnt patience, but you, Terence, you'd raise
hand on Judy an' kill her in a year. Never mind if Dinah gives you the go,
you've desarved ut; never mind if the whole reg'mint laughs you all day.
Get shut av Judy an' her mother. They can't dhrag you to church, but if
they do, they'll dhrag you to hell. Go back to your quarters and lie
down,' sez he. Thin over his shoulder, 'You "must" ha' done with thim,'
"Next day I wint to see Dinah, but there was no tucker in me as I walked.
I knew the throuble wud come soon enough widout any handlin' av mine, an'
I dreaded ut sore.
"I heard Judy callin' me, but I hild straight on to the Shadds' quarthers,
an' Dinah wud ha' kissed me but I put her back.
"'Whin all's said, darlin',' sez I, 'you can give ut me if ye will, tho' I
misdoubt 'twill be so easy to come by then.'
"I had scarce begun to put the explanation into shape before Judy an' her
mother came to the door. I think there was a veranda, but I'm forgettin'.
"'Will ye not step in?' sez Dinah, pretty and polite, though the Shadds
had no dealin's with the Sheehys. Old Mother Shadd looked up quick, an'
she was the fust to see the throuble; for Dinah was her daughter.
"'I'm pressed for time to-day,' sez Judy as bould as brass; 'an' I've only
come for Terence,--my promust man. Tis strange to find him here the day
afther the day.'
"Dinah looked at me as though I had hit her, an' I answered straight.
"'There was some nonsinse last night at the Sheehys' quarthers, an' Judy's
carryin' on the joke, darlin',' sez I.
"'At the Sheehys' quarthers?' sez Dinah very slow, an' Judy cut in wid:
'He was there from nine till ten, Dinah Shadd, an' the betther half av
that time I was sittin' on his knee, Dinah Shadd. Ye may look and ye may
look an' ye may look me up an' down, but ye won't look away that Terence
is my promust man, Terence, darlin', 'tis time for us to be comin' home.'
"Dinah Shadd niver said word to Judy. 'Ye left me at half-past eight,' she
sez to me, 'an' I niver thought that ye'd leave me for Judy,--promises, or
no promises. Go back wid her, you that have to be fetched by a girl! I'm
done with you,' sez she, and she ran into her own room, her mother
followin'. So I was alone wid those two women and at liberty to spake my
"'Judy Sheehy,' sez I, 'if you made a fool av me betune the lights you
shall not do ut in the day. I niver promised you words or lines.'
"'You lie,' sez ould Mother Sheehy, 'an' may ut choke you waere you
stand!' She was far gone in dhrink.
"'An' tho' ut choked me where I stud I'd not change,' sez I. 'Go home,
Judy. I take shame for a decent girl like you dhraggin' your mother out
bareheaded on this errand. Hear now, and have ut for an answer. I gave my
word to Dinah Shadd yesterday, an', more blame to me, I was wid you last
night talkin' nonsinse but nothin' more. You've chosen to thry to hould me
on ut. I will not be held thereby for anythin' in the world. Is that
"Judy wint pink all over. 'An' I wish you joy av the perjury,' sez she,
duckin' a curtsey. 'You've lost a woman that would ha' wore her hand to
the bone for your pleasure; an' 'deed, Terence, ye were not thrapped....'
Lascelles must ha' spoken plain to her. 'I am such as Dinah is--'deed I
am! Ye've lost a fool av a girl that'll niver look at you again, an' ye've
lost what ye niver had,--your common honesty. If you manage your men as
you manage your love-makin', small wondher they call you the worst
corp'ril in the comp'ny. Come away, mother,' sez she.
"But divil a fut would the ould woman budge! 'D'you hould by that?' sez
she, peerin' up under her thick grey eyebrows.
"'Ay, an wud,' sez I, 'tho' Dinah give me the go twinty times. I'll have
no thruck with you or yours,' sez I. 'Take your child away, ye shameless
"'An' am I shameless?' sez she, bringin' her hands up above her head.
'Thin what are you, ye lyin', schamin', weak-kneed, dhirty-souled son av a
sutler? Am "I" shameless? Who put the open shame on me an' my child that
we shud go beggin' through the lines in the broad daylight for the broken
word of a man? Double portion of my shame be on you, Terence Mulvaney,
that think yourself so strong! By Mary and the saints, by blood and water
an' by ivry sorrow that came into the world since the beginnin', the black
blight fall on you and yours, so that you may niver be free from pain for
another when ut's not your own! May your heart bleed in your breast drop
by drop wid all your friends laughin' at the bleedin'! Strong you think
yourself? May your strength be a curse to you to dhrive you into the
divil's hands against your own will! Clear-eyed you are? May your eyes see
dear evry step av the dark path you take till the hot cindhers av hell put
thim out! May the ragin' dry thirst in my own ould bones go to you that
you shall niver pass bottle full nor glass empty. God preserve the light
av your onder-standin' to you, my jewel av a bhoy, that ye may niver
forget what you mint to be an' do, whin you're wallowin' in the muck! May
ye see the betther and follow the worse as long as there's breath in your
body; an' may ye die quick in a strange land; watchin' your death before
ut takes you, an' onable to stir hand or foot!'
"I heard a scufflin' in the room behind, and thin Dinah Shadd's hand
dhropped into mine like a rose-leaf into a muddy road.
"'The half av that I'll take,' sez she, 'an' more too if I can. Go home,
ye silly talkin' woman,--go home an' confess.'
"'Come away! Come away!' sez Judy, pullin' her mother by the shawl. ''Twas
none av Terence's fault. For the love av Mary stop the talkin'!'
"'An' you!' said ould Mother Sheehy, spinnin' round forninst Dinah. 'Will
ye take the half av that man's load? Stand off from him, Dinah Shadd,
before he takes you down too--you that look to be a quarther-master-
sergeant's wife in five years. You look too high, child. You shall "wash"
for the quarther-master-sergeant, whin he plases to give you the job out
av charity; but a privit's wife you shall be to the end, an' evry sorrow
of a privit's wife you shall know and nivir a joy but wan, that shall go
from you like the running tide from a rock. The pain av bearin' you shall
know but niver the pleasure av giving the breast; an' you shall put away
a man-child into the common ground wid never a priest to say a prayer over
him, an' on that man-child ye shall think ivry day av your life. Think
long, Dinah Shadd, for you'll niver have another tho' you pray till your
knees are bleedin'. The mothers av childer shall mock you behind your back
when you're wringing over the washtub. You shall know what ut is to help a
dhrunken husband home an' see him go to the gyard-room. Will that plase
you, Dinah Shadd, that won't be seen talkin' to my daughter? You shall
talk to worse than Judy before all's over. The sergints' wives shall look
down on you contemptuous, daughter av a sergint, an' you shall cover ut
all up wid a smiling face when your heart's burstin'. Stand off av him,
Dinah Shadd, for I've put the Black Curse of Shielygh upon him an' his own
mouth shall make ut good."
"She pitched forward on her head an' began foamin' at the mouth. Dinah
Shadd ran out wid water, an' Judy dhragged the ould woman into the veranda
till she sat up.
"'I'm old an' forlore,' she sez, thremblin' an' cryin', 'and 'tis like I
say a dale more than I mane.'
"'When you're able to walk,--go,' says ould Mother Shadd. 'This house has
no place for the likes av you that have cursed my daughter.'
"'Eyah!' said the ould woman. 'Hard words break no bones, an' Dinah Shadd
'll keep the love av her husband till my bones are green corn, Judy
darlin', I misremember what I came here for. Can you lend us the bottom av
a taycup av tay, Mrs. Shadd?'
"But Judy dhragged her off cryin' as tho' her heart wud break. An' Dinah
Shadd an' I, in ten minutes we had forgot ut all."
"Then why do you remember it now?" said I.
"Is ut like I'd forget? Ivry word that wicked ould woman spoke fell thrue
in my life aftherward, an' I cud ha' stud ut all--stud ut all--excipt when
my little Shadd was born. That was on the line av march three months
afther the regiment was taken with cholera. We were betune Umballa an'
Kalka thin, an' I was on picket. Whin I came off duty the women showed me
the child, an' ut turned on uts side an' died as I looked. We buried him
by the road, an' Father Victor was a day's march behind wid the heavy
baggage, so the comp'ny captain read a prayer. An' since then I've been a
childless man, an' all else that ould Mother Sheehy put upon me an' Dinah
Shadd. What do you think, sorr?"
I thought a good deal, but it seemed better then to reach out for
Mulvaney's hand. The demonstration nearly cost me the use of three
fingers. Whatever he knows of his weaknesses, Mulvaney is entirely
ignorant of his strength.
"But what do you think?" he repeated, as I was straightening out the
My reply was drowned in yells and outcries from the next fire, where ten
men were shouting for "Orth'ris," "Privit Orth'ris," "Mistah
Or--ther--ris!" "Deah boy," "Cap'n Orth'ris," "Field-Marshal Orth'ris,"
"Stanley, you pen'north o' pop, come 'ere to your own comp'ny!" And the
cockney, who had been delighting another audience with recondite and
Rabelaisian yarns, was shot down among his admirers by the major force.
"You've crumpled my dress-shirt 'orrid," said he, "an' I shan't sing no
more to this 'ere bloomin' drawin'-room."
Learoyd, roused by the confusion, uncoiled himself, crept behind Ortheris,
and slung him aloft on his shoulders.
"Sing, ye bloomin' hummin' bird!" said he, and Ortheris, beating time on
Learoyd's skull, delivered himself, in the raucous voice of the Ratcliffe
Highway, of this song:--
My girl she give me the go onst,
When I was a London lad,
An' I went on the drink for a fortnight,
An' then I went to the bad.
The Queen she give me a shillin'
To fight for 'er over the seas;
But Guv'ment built me a fever-trap,
An' Injia give me disease.
Ho! don't you 'eed what a girl says,
An' don't you go for the beer;
But I was an ass when I was at grass,
An' that is why I'm here.
I fired a shot at a Afghan,
The beggar 'e fired again,
An' I lay on my bed with a 'ole in my 'ed,
An' missed the next campaign!
I up with my gun at a Burman
Who carried a bloomin' "dah",
But the cartridge stuck and the bay'nit bruk,
An' all I got was the scar.
Ho! don't you aim at a Afghan
When you stand on the sky-line clear;
An' don't you go for a Burman
If none o' your friends is near.
I served my time for a corp'ral,
An' wetted my stripes with pop,
For I went on the bend with a intimate friend,
An' finished the night in the "shop."
I served my time for a sergeant;
The colonel 'e sez "No!
The most you'll see is a full C.B." 
An' ... very next night 'twas so.
[Footnote 1: Confined to barracks.]
Ho! don't you go for a corp'ral
Unless your 'ed is clear;
But I was an ass when I was at grass,
An' that is why I'm 'ere.
I've tasted the luck o' the army
In barrack an' camp an' clink,
An' I lost my tip through the bloomin' trip
Along o' the women an' drink.
I'm down at the heel o' my service
An' when I am laid on the shelf,
My very wust friend from beginning to end
By the blood of a mouse was myself!
Ho! don't you 'eed what a girl says,
An' don't you go for the beer:
But I was an ass when I was at grass,
An' that is why I'm 'ere,
"Ay, listen to our little man now, singin' an' shoutin' as tho' trouble
had niver touched him. D' you remember when he went mad with the
homesickness?" said Mulvaney, recalling a never-to-be-forgotten season
when Ortheris waded through the deep waters of affliction and behaved
abominably. "But he's talkin' bitter truth, though. Eyah!
"My very worst frind from beginnin' to ind By the blood av a mouse was
* * * * *
When I woke I saw Mulvaney, the night-dew gemming his moustache, leaning
on his rifle at picket, lonely as Prometheus on his rock, with I know not
what vultures tearing his liver.
THE STORY OF MUHAMMAD DIN
Who is the happy man? He that sees in his own house at home, little
children crowned with dust, leaping and falling and crying.
--"Munichandra", translated by Professor Peterson.
The polo-ball was an old one, scarred, chipped, and dinted. It stood on
the mantelpiece among the pipe-stems which Imam Din, "khitmatgar", was
cleaning for me.
"Does the Heaven-born want this ball?" said Imam Din, deferentially.
The Heaven-born set no particular store by it; but of what use was a
polo-ball to a "khitmatgar"?
"By your Honor's favor, I have a little son. He has seen this ball, and
desires it to play with. I do not want it for myself."
No one would for an instant accuse portly old Imam Din of wanting to play
with polo-balls. He carried out the battered thing into the veranda; and
there followed a hurricane of joyful squeaks, a patter of small feet, and
the "thud-thud-thud" of the ball rolling along the ground. Evidently the
little son had been waiting outside the door to secure his treasure. But
how had he managed to see that polo-ball?
Next day, coming back from office half an hour earlier than usual, I was
aware of a small figure in the dining-room--a tiny, plump figure in a
ridiculously inadequate shirt which came, perhaps, half-way down the tubby
stomach. It wandered round the room, thumb in mouth, crooning to itself as
it took stock of the pictures. Undoubtedly this was the "little son."
He had no business in my room, of course; but was so deeply absorbed in
his discoveries that he never noticed me in the doorway. I stepped into
the room and startled him nearly into a fit. He sat down on the ground
with a gasp. His eyes opened, and his mouth followed suit. I knew what was
coming, and fled, followed by a long, dry howl which reached the servants'
quarters far more quickly than any command of mine had ever done. In ten
seconds Imam Din was in the dining-room. Then despairing sobs arose, and I
returned to find Imam Din admonishing the small sinner who was using most
of his shirt as a handkerchief.
"This boy," said Imam Din, judicially, "is a "budmash"--a big "budmash".
He will, without doubt, go to the "jail-khana" for his behavior." Renewed
yells from the penitent, and an elaborate apology to myself from Imam Din.
"Tell the baby," said I, "that the "Sahib" is not angry, and take him
away." Imam Din conveyed my forgiveness to the offender, who had now
gathered all his shirt round his neck, stringwise, and the yell subsided
into a sob. The two set off for the door. "His name," said Imam Din, as
though the name were part of the crime, "is Muhammad Din, and he is a
"budmash"." Freed from present danger, Muhammad Din turned round in his
father's arms, and said gravely, "It is true that my name is Muhammad Din,
"Tahib", but I am not a "budmash". I am a "man!""
From that day dated my acquaintance with Muhammad Din. Never again did he
come into my dining-room, but on the neutral ground of the garden, we
greeted each other with much state, though our conversation was confined
to ""Talaam, Tahib"" from his side, and ""Salaam, Muhammad Din"" from
mine. Daily on my return from office, the little white shirt, and the fat
little body used to rise from the shade of the creeper-covered trellis
where they had been hid; and daily I checked my horse here, that my
salutation might not be slurred over or given unseemly.
Muhammad Din never had any companions. He used to trot about the compound,
in and out of the castor-oil bushes, on mysterious errands of his own. One
day I stumbled upon some of his handiwork far down the grounds. He had
half buried the polo-ball in dust, and stuck six shriveled old marigold
flowers in a circle round it.
Outside that circle again was a rude square, traced out in bits of red
brick alternating with fragments of broken china; the whole bounded by a
little bank of dust. The water-man from the well-curb put in a plea for
the small architect, saying that it was only the play of a baby and did
not much disfigure my garden.
Heaven knows that I had no intention of touching the child's work then or
later; but, that evening, a stroll through the garden brought me unawares
full on it; so that I trampled, before I knew, marigold-heads, dust-bank,
and fragments of broken soap-dish into confusion past all hope of mending.
Next morning, I came upon Muhammad Din crying softly to himself over the
ruin I had wrought. Some one had cruelly told him that the "Sahib" was
very angry with him for spoiling the garden, and had scattered his
rubbish, using bad language the while. Muhammad Din labored for an hour at
effacing every trace of the dust-bank and pottery fragments, and it was
with a tearful and apologetic face that he said ""Talaam, Tahib"," when I
came home from office. A hasty inquiry resulted in Imam Din informing
Muhammad Din that, by my singular favor, he was permitted to disport
himself as he pleased. Whereat the child took heart and fell to tracing
the ground-plan of an edifice which was to eclipse the marigold-polo-ball
For some months, the chubby little eccentricity revolved in his humble
orbit among the castor-oil bushes and in the dust; always fashioning
magnificent palaces from stale flowers thrown away by the bearer, smooth
water-worn pebbles, bits of broken glass, and feathers pulled, I fancy,
from my fowls--always alone, and always crooning to himself.
A gaily-spotted sea-shell was dropped one day close to the last of his
little buildings; and I looked that Muhammad Din should build something
more than ordinarily splendid on the strength of it. Nor was I
disappointed. He meditated for the better part of an hour, and his
crooning rose to a jubilant song. Then he began tracing in the dust. It
would certainly be a wondrous palace, this one, for it was two yards long
and a yard broad in ground-plan. But the palace was never completed.
Next day there was no Muhammad Din at the head of the carriage-drive, and
no ""Talaam, Tahib"" to welcome my return. I had grown accustomed to the
greeting, and its omission troubled me. Next day Imam Din told me that the
child was suffering slightly from fever and needed quinine. He got the
medicine, and an English Doctor.
"They have no stamina, these brats," said the Doctor, as he left Imam
A week later, though I would have given much to have avoided it, I met on
the road to the Mussulman burying-ground Imam Din, accompanied by one
other friend, carrying in his arms, wrapped in a white cloth, all that was
left of little Muhammad Din.
IN FLOOD TIME
Tweed said tae Till:
"What gars ye rin sae Still?"
Till said tae Tweed:
"Though ye rin wi' speed
An' I rin slaw--
Yet where ye droon ae man
I droon twa."
There is no getting over the river to-night, Sahib. They say that a
bullock-cart has been washed down already, and the "ekka" that went over a
half hour before you came, has not yet reached the far side. Is the Sahib
in haste? I will drive the ford-elephant in to show him. "Ohe, mahout"
there in the shed! Bring out Ram Pershad, and if he will face the current,
good. An elephant never lies, Sahib, and Ram Pershad is separated from his
friend Kala Nag. He, too, wishes to cross to the far side. Well done! Well
done! my King! Go half way across, "mahoutji", and see what the river
says. Well done, Ram Pershad! Pearl among elephants, go into the river!
Hit him on the head, fool! Was the goad made only to scratch thy own fat
back with, bastard? Strike! Strike! What are the boulders to thee, Ram
Pershad, my Rustum, my mountain of strength? Go in! Go in!
No, Sahib! It is useless. You can hear him trumpet. He is telling Kala Nag
that he cannot come over. See! He has swung round and is shaking his head.
He is no fool. He knows what the Barhwi means when it is angry. Aha!
Indeed, thou art no fool, my child! "Salaam", Ram Pershad, Bahadur! Take
him under the trees, "mahout", and see that he gets his spices. Well done,
thou chiefest among tuskers. "Salaam" to the Sirkar and go to sleep.
What is to be done? The Sahib must wait till the river goes down. It will
shrink to-morrow morning, if God pleases, or the day after at the latest.
Now why does the Sahib get so angry? I am his servant. Before God, "I" did
not create this stream! What can I do? My hut and all that is therein is
at the service of the Sahib, and it is beginning to rain. Come away, my
Lord, How will the river go down for your throwing abuse at it? In the old
days the English people were not thus. The fire-carriage has made them
soft. In the old days, when they drave behind horses by day or by night,
they said naught if a river barred the way, or a carriage sat down in the
mud. It was the will of God--not like a fire-carriage which goes and goes
and goes, and would go though all the devils in the land hung on to its
tail. The fire-carriage hath spoiled the English people. After all, what
is a day lost, or, for that matter, what are two days? Is the Sahib going
to his own wedding, that he is so mad with haste? Ho! Ho! Ho! I am an old
man and see few Sahibs. Forgive me if I have forgotten the respect that is
due to them. The Sahib is not angry?
His own wedding! Ho! Ho! Ho! The mind of an old man is like the
"numah"-tree. Fruit, bud, blossom, and the dead leaves of all the years of
the past flourish together. Old and new and that which is gone out of
remembrance, all three are there! Sit on the bedstead, Sahib, and drink
milk. Or--would the Sahib in truth care to drink my tobacco? It is good.
It is the tobacco of Nuklao. My son, who is in service there sent it to
me. Drink, then, Sahib, if you know how to handle the tube. The Sahib
takes it like a Musalman. Wah! Wah! Where did he learn that? His own
wedding! Ho! Ho! Ho! The Sahib says that there is no wedding in the matter
at all? Now "is" it likely that the Sahib would speak true talk to me who
am only a black man? Small wonder, then, that he is in haste. Thirty years
have I beaten the gong at this ford, but never have I seen a Sahib in such
haste. Thirty years, Sahib! That is a very long time. Thirty years ago
this ford was on the track of the "bunjaras", and I have seen two thousand
pack-bullocks cross in one night. Now the rail has come, and the
fire-carriage says "buz-buz-buz", and a hundred lakhs of maunds slide
across that big bridge. It is very wonderful; but the ford is lonely now
that there are no "bunjaras" to camp under the trees.
Nay, do not trouble to look at the sky without. It will rain till the
dawn. Listen! The boulders are talking to-night in the bed of the river.
Hear them! They would be husking your bones, Sahib, had you tried to
cross. See, I will shut the door and no rain can enter. "Wahi! Ahi! Ugh!"
Thirty years on the banks of the ford! An old man am I and--where is the
oil for the lamp?
Your pardon, but, because of my years, I sleep no sounder than a dog; and
you moved to the door. Look then, Sahib. Look and listen. A full half
"kos" from bank to bank is the stream now--you can see it under the
stars--and there are ten feet of water therein. It will not shrink because
of the anger in your eyes, and it will not be quiet on account of your
curses. Which is louder, Sahib--your voice or the voice of the river? Call
to it--perhaps it will be ashamed. Lie down and sleep afresh, Sahib. I
know the anger of the Barhwi when there has fallen rain in the foot-hills.
I swam the flood, once, on a night tenfold worse than this, and by the
Favor of God I was released from Death when I had come to the very gates
May I tell the tale? Very good talk. I will fill the pipe anew.
Thirty years ago it was, when I was a young man and had but newly come to
the ford. I was strong then, and the "bunjaras" had no doubt when I said
"this ford is clear." I have toiled all night up to my shoulder-blades in
running water amid a hundred bullocks mad with fear, and have brought them
across losing not a hoof. When all was done I fetched the shivering men,
and they gave me for reward the pick of their cattle--the bell-bullock of
the drove. So great was the honor in which I was held! But, to-day when
the rain falls and the river rises, I creep into my hut and whimper like a
dog. My strength is gone from me. I am an old man and the fire-carriage
has made the ford desolate. They were wont to call me the Strong One of
Behold my face, Sahib--it is the face of a monkey. And my arm--it is the
arm of an old woman. I swear to you, Sahib, that a woman has loved this
face and has rested in the hollow of this arm. Twenty years ago, Sahib.
Believe me, this was true talk--twenty years ago.
Come to the door and look across. Can you see a thin fire very far away
down the stream? That is the temple-fire, in the shrine of Hanuman, of the
village of Pateera. North, under the big star, is the village itself, but
it is hidden by a bend of the river. Is that far to swim, Sahib? Would you
take off your clothes and adventure? Yet I swam to Pateera--not once but
many times; and there are "muggers" in the river too.
Love knows no caste; else why should I, a Musalman and the son of a
Musalman, have sought a Hindu woman--a widow of the Hindus--the sister of
the headman of Pateera? But it was even so. They of the headman's
household came on a pilgrimage to Muttra when She was but newly a bride.
Silver tires were upon the wheels of the bullock-cart, and silken curtains
hid the woman. Sahib, I made no haste in their conveyance, for the wind
parted the curtains and I saw Her. When they returned from pilgrimage the
boy that was Her husband had died, and I saw Her again in the
bullock-cart. By God, these Hindus are fools! What was it to me whether
She was Hindu or Jain--scavenger, leper, or whole? I would have married
Her and made Her a home by the ford. The Seventh of the Nine Bars says
that a man may not marry one of the idolaters? Is that truth? Both Shiahs
and Sunnis say that a Musalman may not marry one of the idolaters? Is the
Sahib a priest, then, that he knows so much? I will tell him something
that he does not know. There is neither Shiah nor Sunni, forbidden nor
idolater, in Love; and the Nine Bars are but nine little fagots that the
flame of Love utterly burns away. In truth, I would have taken Her; but
what could I do? The headman would have sent his men to break my head with
staves. I am not--I was not--afraid of any five men; but against half a
village who can prevail?
Therefore it was my custom, these things having been arranged between us
twain, to go by night to the village of Pateera, and there we met among
the crops; no man knowing aught of the matter. Behold, now! I was wont to
cross here, skirting the jungle to the river bend where the railway bridge
is, and thence across the elbow of land to Pateera. The light of the
shrine was my guide when the nights were dark. That jungle near the river
is very full of snakes--little "karaits" that sleep on the sand--and
moreover, Her brothers would have slain me had they found me in the crops.
But none knew--none knew save She and I; and the blown sand of the
river-bed covered the track of my feet. In the hot months it was an easy
thing to pass from the ford to Pateera, and in the first Rains, when the
river rose slowly, it was an easy thing also. I set the strength of my
body against the strength of the stream, and nightly I ate in my hut here
and drank at Pateera yonder. She had said that one Hirnam Singh, a thief,
had sought Her, and he was of a village up the river but on the same bank.
All Sikhs are dogs, and they have refused in their folly that good gift of
God--tobacco. I was ready to destroy Hirnam Singh that ever he had come
nigh Her; and the more because he had sworn to Her that She had a lover,
and that he would lie in wait and give the name to the headman unless She
went away with him. What curs are these Sikhs!
After that news, I swam always with a little sharp knife in my belt, and
evil would it have been for a man had he stayed me, I knew not the face of
Hirnam Singh, but I would have killed any who came between me and Her.
Upon a night in the beginning of the Rains, I was minded to go across to
Pateera, albeit the river was angry. Now the nature of the Barhwi is this,
Sahib. In twenty breaths it comes down from the Hills, a wall three feet
high, and I have seen it, between the lighting of a fire and the cooking
of a "chupatty", grow from a runnel to a sister of the Jumna.
When I left this bank there was a shoal a half mile down, and I made shift
to fetch it and draw breath there ere going forward; for I felt the hands
of the river heavy upon my heels. Yet what will a young man not do for
Love's sake? There was but little light from the stars, and midway to the
shoal a branch of the stinking deodar tree brushed my mouth as I swam.
That was a sign of heavy rain in the foot-hills and beyond, for the deodar
is a strong tree, not easily shaken from the hillsides. I made haste, the
river aiding me, but ere I had touched the shoal, the pulse of the stream
beat, as it were, within me and around, and, behold, the shoal was gone
and I rode high on the crest of a wave that ran from bank to bank. Has the
Sahib ever been cast into much water that fights and will not let a man
use his limbs? To me, my head upon the water, it seemed as though there
were naught but water to the world's end, and the river drave me with its
driftwood. A man is a very little thing in the belly of a flood. And
"this" flood, though I knew it not, was the Great Flood about which men
talk still. My liver was dissolved and I lay like a log upon my back in
the fear of Death. There were living things in the water, crying and
howling grievously--beasts of the forest and cattle, and once the voice of
a man asking for help. But the rain came and lashed the water white, and I
heard no more save the roar of the boulders below and the roar of the rain
above. Thus I was whirled down-stream, wrestling for the breath in me. It
is very hard to die when one is young. Can the Sahib, standing here, see
the railway bridge? Look, there are the lights of the mail-train going to
Peshawur! The bridge is now twenty feet above the river, but upon that
night the water was roaring against the lattice-work and against the
lattice came I feet first, But much driftwood was piled there and upon the
piers, and I took no great hurt. Only the river pressed me as a strong man
presses a weaker. Scarcely could I take hold of the lattice-work and crawl
to the upper boom. Sahib, the water was foaming across the rails a foot
deep! Judge therefore what manner of flood it must have been. I could not
hear, I could not see. I could but lie on the boom and pant for breath.
After a while the rain ceased and there came out in the sky certain new
washed stars, and by their light I saw that there was no end to the black
water as far as the eye could travel, and the water had risen upon the
rails. There were dead beasts in the driftwood on the piers, and others
caught by the neck in the lattice-work, and others not yet drowned who
strove to find a foothold on the lattice-work--buffaloes and kine, and
wild pig, and deer one or two, and snakes and jackals past all counting.
Their bodies were black upon the left side of the bridge, but the smaller
of them were forced through the lattice-work and whirled down-stream.
Thereafter the stars died and the rain came down afresh and the river rose
yet more, and I felt the bridge begin to stir under me as a man stirs in
his sleep ere he wakes. But I was not afraid, Sahib. I swear to you that I
was not afraid, though I had no power in my limbs. I knew that I should
not die till I had seen Her once more. But I was very cold, and I felt
that the bridge must go.
There was a trembling in the water, such a trembling as goes before the
coming of a great wave, and the bridge lifted its flank to the rush of
that coming so that the right lattice dipped under water and the left rose
clear. On my beard, Sahib, I am speaking God's truth! As a Mirzapore
stone-boat careens to the wind, so the Barhwi Bridge turned. Thus and in
no other manner.
I slid from the boom into deep water, and behind me came the wave of the
wrath of the river. I heard its voice and the scream of the middle part of
the bridge as it moved from the piers and sank, and I knew no more till I
rose in the middle of the great flood. I put forth my hand to swim, and
lo! it fell upon the knotted hair of the head of a man. He was dead, for
no one but I, the Strong One of Barhwi, could have lived in that race. He
had been dead full two days, for he rode high, wallowing, and was an aid
to me, I laughed then, knowing for a surety that I should yet see Her and
take no harm; and I twisted my fingers in the hair of the man, for I was
far spent, and together we went down the stream--he the dead and I the
living. Lacking that help I should have sunk: the cold was in my marrow,
and my flesh was ribbed and sodden on my bones. But "he" had no fear who
had known the uttermost of the power of the river; and I let him go where
he chose. At last we came into the power of a side-current that set to the
right bank, and I strove with my feet to draw with it. But the dead man
swung heavily in the whirl, and I feared that some branch had struck him
and that he would sink. The tops of the tamarisk brushed my knees, so I
knew we were come into flood-water above the crops, and, after, I let down
my legs and felt bottom--the ridge of a field--and, after, the dead man
stayed upon a knoll under a fig-tree, and I drew my body from the water
Does the Sahib know whither the backwash of the flood had borne me? To the
knoll which is the eastern boundary-mark of the village of Pateera! No
other place. I drew the dead man up on the grass for the service that he
had done me, and also because I knew not whether I should need him again.
Then I went, crying thrice like a jackal, to the appointed place which was
near the byre of the headman's house. But my Love was already there,
weeping. She feared that the flood had swept my hut at the Barhwi Ford.
When I came softly through the ankle-deep water, She thought it was a
ghost and would have fled, but I put my arms round Her, and--I was no
ghost in those days, though I am an old man now. Ho! Ho! Dried corn, in
truth. Maize without juice. Ho! Ho! [Footnote: I grieve to say that the
Warden of Barhwi ford is responsible here for two very bad puns in the
I told Her the story of the breaking of the Barhwi Bridge, and She said
that I was greater than mortal man, for none may cross the Barhwi in full
flood, and I had seen what never man had seen before. Hand in hand we went
to the knoll where the dead lay, and I showed Her by what help I had made
the ford. She looked also upon the body under the stars, for the latter
end of the night was clear, and hid Her face in Her hands, crying: "It is
the body of Hirnam Singh!" I said: "The swine is of more use dead than
living, my Beloved," and She said: "Surely, for he has saved the dearest
life in the world to my love. None the less, he cannot stay here, for that
would bring shame upon me." The body was not a gunshot from her door.
Then said I, rolling the body with my hands: "God hath judged between us,
Hirnam Singh, that thy blood might not be upon my head. Now, whether I
have done thee a wrong in keeping thee from the burning-ghat, do thou and
the crows settle together." So I cast him adrift into the flood-water, and
he was drawn out to the open, ever wagging his thick black beard like a
priest under the pulpit-board. And I saw no more of Hirnam Singh.
Before the breaking of the day we two parted, and I moved toward such of
the jungle as was not flooded. With the full light I saw what I had done
in the darkness, and the bones of my body were loosened in my flesh, for
there ran two "kos" of raging water between the village of Pateera and the
trees of the far bank, and, in the middle, the piers of the Barhwi Bridge
showed like broken teeth in the jaw of an old man. Nor was there any life
upon the waters--neither birds nor boats, but only an army of drowned
things--bullocks and horses and men--and the river was redder than blood
from the clay of the foot-hills. Never had I seen such a flood--never
since that year have I seen the like--and, O Sahib, no man living had done
what I had done. There was no return for me that day. Not for all the
lands of the headman would I venture a second time without the shield of
darkness that cloaks danger. I went a "kos" up the river to the house of a
blacksmith, saying that the flood had swept me from my hut, and they gave
me food. Seven days I stayed with the blacksmith, till a boat came and I
returned to my house. There was no trace of wall, or roof, or
floor--naught but a patch of slimy mud. Judge, therefore, Sahib, how far
the river must have risen.
It was written that I should not die either in my house, or in the heart
of the Barhwi, or under the wreck of the Barhwi Bridge, for God sent down
Hirnam Singh two days dead, though I know not how the man died, to be my
buoy and support. Hirnam Singh has been in Hell these twenty years, and
the thought of that night must be the flower of his torment.
Listen, Sahib! The river has changed its voice. It is going to sleep
before the dawn, to which there is yet one hour. With the light it will
come down afresh. How do I know? Have I been here thirty years without
knowing the voice of the river as a father knows the voice of his son?
Every moment it is talking less angrily. I swear that there will be no
danger for one hour or, perhaps, two. I cannot answer for the morning. Be
quick, Sahib! I will call Ram Pershad, and he will not turn back this
time. Is the paulin tightly corded upon all the baggage? "Ohe, mahout"
with a mud head, the elephant for the Sahib, and tell them on the far side
that there will be no crossing after daylight.
Money? Nay, Sahib. I am not of that kind. No, not even to give sweetmeats
to the baby-folk. My house, look you, is empty, and I am an old man.
"Dutt", Ram Pershad! "Dutt! Dutt! Dutt!" Good luck go with you, Sahib.
MY OWN TRUE GHOST STORY
As I came through the Desert thus it was--
As I came through the Desert.
--"The City of Dreadful Night".
Somewhere in the Other World, where there are books and pictures and plays
and shop-windows to look at, and thousands of men who spend their lives in
building up all four, lives a gentleman who writes real stories about the
real insides of people; and his name is Mr. Walter Besant. But he will
insist upon treating his ghosts--he has published half a workshopful of
them--with levity. He makes his ghost-seers talk familiarly, and, in some
cases, flirt outrageously, with the phantoms. You may treat anything, from
a Viceroy to a Vernacular Paper, with levity; but you must behave
reverently toward a ghost, and particularly an Indian one.
There are, in this land, ghosts who take the form of fat, cold, pobby
corpses, and hide in trees near the roadside till a traveler passes. Then
they drop upon his neck and remain. There are also terrible ghosts of
women who have died in child-bed. These wander along the pathways at dusk,
or hide in the crops near a village, and call seductively. But to answer
their call is death in this world and the next. Their feet are turned
backward that all sober men may recognize them. There are ghosts of little
children who have been thrown into wells. These haunt well-curbs and the
fringes of jungles, and wail under the stars, or catch women by the wrist
and beg to be taken up and carried. These and the corpse-ghosts, however,
are only vernacular articles and do not attack Sahibs. No native ghost has
yet been authentically reported to have frightened an Englishman; but many
English ghosts have scared the life out of both white and black.
Nearly every other Station owns a ghost. There are said to be two at
Simla, not counting the woman who blows the bellows at Syree dak-bungalow
on the Old Road; Mussoorie has a house haunted of a very lively Thing; a
White Lady is supposed to do night-watchman round a house in Lahore;
Dalhousie says that one of her houses "repeats" on autumn evenings all the
incidents of a horrible horse-and-precipice accident; Murree has a merry
ghost, and, now that she has been swept by cholera, will have room for a
sorrowful one; there are Officers Quarters in Mian Mir whose doors open
without reason, and whose furniture is guaranteed to creak, not with the
heat of June but with the weight of Invisibles who come to lounge in the
chair; Peshawur possesses houses that none will willingly rent; and there
is something--not fever--wrong with a big bungalow in Allahabad. The older
Provinces simply bristle with haunted houses, and march phantom armies
along their main thoroughfares.
Some of the dak-bungalows on the Grand Trunk Road have handy little
cemeteries in their compound--witnesses to the "changes and chances of
this mortal life" in the days when men drove from Calcutta to the
Northwest. These bungalows are objectionable places to put up in. They are
generally very old, always dirty, while the "khansamah" is as ancient as
the bungalow. He either chatters senilely, or falls into the long trances
of age. In both moods he is useless. If you get angry with him, he refers
to some Sahib dead and buried these thirty years, and says that when he
was in that Sahib's service not a "khansamah" in the Province could touch
him. Then he jabbers and mows and trembles and fidgets among the dishes,
and you repent of your irritation.
In these dak-bungalows, ghosts are most likely to be found, and when
found, they should be made a note of. Not long ago it was my business to
live in dak-bungalows. I never inhabited the same house for three nights
running, and grew to be learned in the breed. I lived in Government-built
ones with red brick walls and rail ceilings, an inventory of the furniture
posted in every room, and an excited snake at the threshold to give
welcome. I lived in "converted" ones--old houses officiating as
dak-bungalows--where nothing was in its proper place and there wasn't even
a fowl for dinner. I lived in second-hand palaces where the wind blew
through open-work marble tracery just as uncomfortably as through a broken
pane. I lived in dak-bungalows where the last entry in the visitors' book
was fifteen months old, and where they slashed off the curry-kid's head
with a sword. It was my good-luck to meet all sorts of men, from sober
traveling missionaries and deserters flying from British Regiments, to
drunken loafers who threw whiskey bottles at all who passed; and my still
greater good-fortune just to escape a maternity case. Seeing that a fair
proportion of the tragedy of our lives out here acted itself in
dak-bungalows, I wondered that I had met no ghosts. A ghost that would
voluntarily hang about a dak-bungalow would be mad of course; but so many
men have died mad in dak-bungalows that there must be a fair percentage of
In due time I found my ghost, or ghosts rather, for there were two of
them. Up till that hour I had sympathized with Mr. Besant's method of
handling them, as shown in ""The Strange Case of Mr. Lucraft and other
Stories."" I am now in the Opposition.
We will call the bungalow Katmal dak-bungalow. But "that" was the smallest
part of the horror. A man with a sensitive hide has no right to sleep in
dak-bungalows. He should marry. Katmal dak-bungalow was old and rotten and
unrepaired. The floor was of worn brick, the walls were filthy, and the
windows were nearly black with grime. It stood on a bypath largely used by
native Sub-Deputy Assistants of all kinds, from Finance to Forests; but
real Sahibs were rare. The "khansamah", who was nearly bent double with
old age, said so.
When I arrived, there was a fitful, undecided rain on the face of the
land, accompanied by a restless wind, and every gust made a noise like the
rattling of dry bones in the stiff toddy-palms outside. The "khansamah"
completely lost his head on my arrival. He had served a Sahib once. Did I
know that Sahib? He gave me the name of a well-known man who has been
buried for more than a quarter of a century, and showed me an ancient
daguerreotype of that man in his prehistoric youth. I had seen a steel
engraving of him at the head of a double volume of Memoirs a month before,
and I felt ancient beyond telling.
The day shut in and the "khansamah" went to get me food. He did not go
through the pretence of calling it ""khana""--man's victuals. He said
""ratub"," and that means, among other things, "grub"--dog's rations.
There was no insult in his choice of the term. He had forgotten the other
word, I suppose.
While he was cutting up the dead bodies of animals, I settled myself down,
after exploring the dak-bungalow. There were three rooms, beside my own,
which was a corner kennel, each giving into the other through dingy white
doors fastened with long iron bars. The bungalow was a very solid one, but
the partition-walls of the rooms were almost jerry-built in their
flimsiness. Every step or bang of a trunk echoed from my room down the
other three, and every footfall came back tremulously from the far walls.
For this reason I shut the door. There were no lamps--only candles in long
glass shades. An oil wick was set in the bath-room.
For bleak, unadulterated misery that dak-bungalow was the worst of the
many that I had ever set foot in. There was no fireplace, and the windows
would not open; so a brazier of charcoal would have been useless. The rain
and the wind splashed and gurgled and moaned round the house, and the
toddy-palms rattled and roared. Half a dozen jackals went through the
compound singing, and a hyena stood afar off and mocked them. A hyena
would convince a Sadducee of the Resurrection of the Dead--the worst sort
of Dead. Then came the "ratub"--a curious meal, half native and half
English in composition--with the old "khansamah" babbling behind my chair
about dead and gone English people, and the wind-blown candles playing
shadow-bo-peep with the bed and the mosquito-curtains. It was just the
sort of dinner and evening to make a man think of every single one of his
past sins, and of all the others that he intended to commit if he lived.
Sleep, for several hundred reasons, was not easy. The lamp in the
bath-room threw the most absurd shadows into the room, and the wind was
beginning to talk nonsense.
Just when the reasons were drowsy with blood-sucking I heard the
regular--"Let-us-take-and-heave-him-over" grunt of doolie-bearers in the
compound. First one doolie came in, then a second, and then a third. I
heard the doolies dumped on the ground, and the shutter in front of my
door shook. "That's some one trying to come in," I said. But no one spoke,
and I persuaded myself that it was the gusty wind. The shutter of the room
next to mine was attacked, flung back, and the inner door opened, "That's
some Sub-Deputy Assistant," I said, "and he has brought his friends with
him. Now they'll talk and spit and smoke for an hour."
But there were no voices and no footsteps, No one was putting his luggage
into the next room. The door shut, and I thanked Providence that I was to
be left in peace. But I was curious to know where the doolies had gone. I
got out of bed and looked into the darkness. There was never a sign of a
doolie. Just as I was getting into bed again, I heard, in the next room,
the sound that no man in his senses can possibly mistake--the whir of a
billiard ball down the length of the slates when the striker is stringing
for break. No other sound is like it. A minute afterward there was another
whir, and I got into bed. I was not frightened--indeed I was not. I was
very curious to know what had become of the doolies. I jumped into bed for
Next minute I heard the double click of a cannon and my hair sat up. It is
a mistake to say that hair stands up. The skin of the head tightens and
you can feel a faint, prickly bristling all ever the scalp. That is the
hair sitting up.
There was a whir and a click, and both sounds could only have been made by
one thing--a billiard ball. I argued the matter out at great length with
myself; and the more I argued the less probable it seemed that one bed,
one table, and two chairs--all the furniture of the room next to
mine--could so exactly duplicate the sounds of a game of billiards. After
another cannon, a three-cushion one to judge by the whir, I argued no
more. I had found my ghost and would have given worlds to have escaped
from that dak-bungalow. I listened, and with each listen the game grew
clearer. There was whir on whir and click on click. Sometimes there was a
double click and a whir and another click. Beyond any sort of doubt,
people were playing billiards in the next room. And the next room was not
big enough to hold a billiard table!
Between the pauses of the wind I heard the game go forward--stroke after
stroke. I tried to believe that I could not hear voices; but that attempt
was a failure.
Do you know what fear is? Not ordinary fear of insult, injury or death,
but abject, quivering dread of something that you cannot see--fear that
dries the inside of the mouth and half of the throat--fear that makes you
sweat on the palms of the hands, and gulp in order to keep the uvula at
work? This is a fine Fear--a great cowardice, and must be felt to be
appreciated. The very improbability of billiards in a dak-bungalow proved
the reality of the thing. No man--drunk or sober--could imagine a game a
billiards, or invent the spitting crack of a "screw-cannon."
A severe course of dak-bungalows has this disadvantage--it breeds infinite
credulity. If a man said to a confirmed dak-bungalow-haunter:--"There is a
corpse in the next room, and there's a mad girl in the next but one, and
the woman and man on that camel have just eloped from a place sixty miles
away," the hearer would not disbelieve because he would know that nothing
is too wild, grotesque, or horrible to happen in a dak-bungalow.
This credulity, unfortunately extends to ghosts. A rational person fresh
from his own house would have turned on his side and slept. I did not. So
surely as I was given up as a bad carcass by the scores of things in the
bed because the bulk of my blood was in my heart, so surely did I hear
every stroke of a long game at billiards played in the echoing room behind
the iron-barred door. My dominant fear was that the players might want a
marker. It was an absurd fear; because creatures who could play in the
dark would be above such superfluities. I only know that that was my
terror; and it was real.
After a long long while, the game stopped, and the door banged, I slept
because I was dead tired. Otherwise I should have preferred to have kept
awake. Not for everything in Asia would I have dropped the door-bar and
peered into the dark of the next room.
When the morning came, I considered that I had done well and wisely, and
inquired for the means of departure.
"By the way, "khansamah"," I said, "what were those three doolies doing in
my compound in the night?"
"There were no doolies," said the "khansamah".
I went into the next room and the daylight streamed through the open door.
I was immensely brave. I would, at that hour, have played Black Pool with
the owner of the big Black Pool down below.
"Has this place always been a dak-bungalow?" I asked.
"No," said the "khansamah". "Ten or twenty years ago, I have forgotten how
long, it was a billiard-room."
"A how much?"
"A billiard-room for the Sahibs who built the Railway. I was "khansamah"
then in the big house where all the Railway-Sahibs lived, and I used to
come across with brandy-"shrab". These three rooms were all one, and they
held a big table on which the Sahibs played every evening. But the Sahibs
are all dead now, and the Railway runs, you say, nearly to Kabul."
"Do you remember anything about the Sahibs?"
"It is long ago, but I remember that one Sahib, a fat man and always
angry, was playing here one night, and he said to me:--'Mangal Khan,
brandy-"pani do",' and I filled the glass, and he bent over the table to
strike, and his head fell lower and lower till it hit the table, and his
spectacles came off, and when we--the Sahibs and I myself--ran to lift him
he was dead. I helped to carry him out. Aha, he was a strong Sahib! But he
is dead and I, old Mangal Khan, am still living, by your favor."
That was more than enough! I had my ghost--a first-hand, authenticated
article. I would write to the Society for Psychical Research--I would
paralyze the Empire with the news! But I would, first of all, put eighty
miles of assessed crop-land between myself and that dak-bungalow before
nightfall. The Society might send their regular agent to investigate later
I went into my own room and prepared to pack after noting down the facts
of the case. As I smoked I heard the game begin again--with a miss in balk
this time, for the whir was a short one.
The door was open and I could see into the room. "Click-click!" That was a
cannon. I entered the room without fear, for there was sunlight within and
a fresh breeze without. The unseen game was going on at a tremendous rate.
And well it might, when a restless little rat was running to and fro
inside the dingy ceiling-cloth, and a piece of loose window-sash was
making fifty breaks off the window-bolt as it shook in the breeze!
Impossible to mistake the sound of billiard balls! Impossible to mistake
the whir of a ball over the slate! But I was to be excused. Even when I
shut my enlightened eyes the sound was marvelously like that of a fast
Entered angrily the faithful partner of my sorrows, Kadir Baksh.
"This bungalow is very bad and low-caste! No wonder the Presence was
disturbed and is speckled. Three sets of doolie-bearers came to the
bungalow late last night when I was sleeping outside, and said that it was
their custom to rest in the rooms set apart for the English people! What
honor has the "khansamah"? They tried to enter, but I told them to go. No
wonder, if these "Oorias" have been here, that the Presence is sorely
spotted. It is shame, and the work of a dirty man!"
Kadir Baksh did not say that he had taken from each gang two annas for
rent in advance, and then, beyond my earshot, had beaten them with the big
green umbrella whose use I could never before divine. But Kadir Baksh has
no notions of morality.
There was an interview with the "khansamah", but as he promptly lost his
head, wrath gave place to pity, and pity led to a long conversation, in
the course of which he put the fat Engineer-Sahib's tragic death in three
separate stations--two of them fifty miles away. The third shift was to
Calcutta, and there the Sahib died while driving a dog-cart.
If I had encouraged him the "khansamah" would have wandered all through
Bengal with his corpse.
I did not go away as soon as I intended. I stayed for the night, while the
wind and the rat and the sash and the window-bolt played a ding-dong
"hundred and fifty up." Then the wind ran out and the billiards stopped,
and I felt that I had ruined my one genuine, hall-marked ghost story.
Had I only stopped at the proper time, I could have made "anything" out of
That was the bitterest thought of all!
THE BIG DRUNK DRAF'
We're goin' 'ome, we're goin' 'ome--
Our ship is "at" the shore,
An' you mus' pack your 'aversack,
For we won't come back no more.
Ho, don't you grieve for me,
My lovely Mary Ann,
For I'll marry you yet on a fourp'ny bit,
As a time-expired ma-a-an!
"Barrack Room Ballad".
An awful thing has happened! My friend, Private Mulvaney, who went home in
the "Serapis", time-expired, not very long ago, has come back to India as
a civilian! It was all Dinah Shadd's fault. She could not stand the poky
little lodgings, and she missed her servant Abdullah more than words could
tell. The fact was that the Mulvaneys had been out here too long, and had
lost touch of England.
Mulvaney knew a contractor on one of the new Central India lines, and
wrote to him for some sort of work. The contractor said that if Mulvaney
could pay the passage he would give him command of a gang of coolies for
old sake's sake. The pay was eighty-five rupees a month, and Dinah Shadd
said that if Terence did not accept she would make his life a "basted
purgathory." Therefore the Mulvaneys came out as "civilians," which was a
great and terrible fall; though Mulvaney tried to disguise it, by saying
that he was "Ker'nel on the railway line, an' a consequinshal man."
He wrote me an invitation, on a tool-indent form, to visit him; and I came
down to the funny little "construction" bungalow at the side of the line.
Dinah Shadd had planted peas about and about, and nature had spread all
manner of green stuff round the place. There was no change in Mulvaney
except the change of clothing, which was deplorable, but could not be
helped. He was standing upon his trolly, haranguing a gang-man, and his
shoulders were as well drilled, and his big, thick chin was as
clean-shaven as ever.
"I'm a civilian now," said Mulvaney. "Cud you tell that I was iver a
martial man? Don't answer, sorr, av you're strainin' betune a complimint
an' a lie. There's no houldin' Dinah Shadd now she's got a house av her
own. Go inside, an' dhrink tay out av chiny in the drrrrawin'-room, an'
thin we'll dhrink like Christians undher the tree here. Scutt, ye
naygur-folk! There's a Sahib come to call on me, an' that's more than
he'll iver do for you onless you run! Get out, an' go on pilin' up the
earth, quick, till sundown."
When we three were comfortably settled under the big "sisham" in front of
the bungalow, and the first rush of questions and answers about Privates
Ortheris and Learoyd and old times and places had died away, Mulvaney
said, reflectively--"Glory be there's no p'rade to-morrow, an' no
bun-headed Corp'ril-bhoy to give you his lip. An' yit I don't know. Tis
harrd to be something ye niver were an' niver meant to be, an' all the
ould days shut up along wid your papers. Eyah! I'm growin' rusty, an' 'tis
the will av God that a man mustn't serve his Quane for time an' all."
He helped himself to a fresh peg, and sighed furiously.
"Let your beard grow, Mulvaney," said I, "and then you won't be troubled
with those notions. You'll be a real civilian."
Dinah Shadd had told me in the drawing-room of her desire to coax Mulvaney
into letting his beard grow. "Twas so civilian-like," said poor Dinah, who
hated her husband's hankering for his old life.
"Dinah Shadd, you're a dishgrace to an honust, clane-scraped man!" said
Mulvaney, without replying to me. "Grow a beard on your own chin, darlint,
and lave my razors alone. They're all that stand betune me and
dis-ris-pect-ability. Av I didn't shave, I wud be torminted wid an
outrajis thurrst; for there's nothin' so dhryin' to the throat as a big
billy-goat beard waggin' undher the chin. Ye wudn't have me dhrink
"always," Dinah Shadd? By the same token, you're kapin' me crool dhry now.
Let me look at that whiskey."
The whiskey was lent and returned, but Dinah Shadd, who had been just as
eager as her husband in asking after old friends, rent me with--
"I take shame for you, sorr, coming down here--though the Saints know
you're as welkim as the daylight whin you "do" come--an' upsettin'
Terence's head wid your nonsense about--about fwhat's much better
forgotten. He bein' a civilian now, an' you niver was aught else. Can you
not let the Arrmy rest? 'Tis not good for Terence."
I took refuge by Mulvaney, for Dinah Shadd has a temper of her own.
"Let be--let be," said Mulvaney, "'Tis only wanst in a way I can talk
about the ould days." Then to me:--"Ye say Dhrumshticks is well, an' his
lady tu? I niver knew how I liked the grey garron till I was shut av him
an' Asia."--"Dhrumshticks" was the nickname of the Colonel commanding
Mulvaney's old regiment.--"Will you be seein' him again? You will. Thin
tell him"--Mulvaney's eyes began to twinkle--"tell him wid
Privit"--""Mister", Terence," interrupted Dinah Shadd.
"Now the Divil an' all his angils an' the Firmament av Hiven fly away wid
the 'Mister,' an' the sin av making me swear be on your confession, Dinah
Shadd! "Privit", I tell ye. Wid "Privit" Mulvaney's best obedience, that
but for me the last time-expired wud be still pullin' hair on their way to
He threw himself back in the chair, chuckled, and was silent.
"Mrs. Mulvaney," I said, "please take up the whiskey, and don't let him
have it until he has told the story."
Dinah Shadd dexterously whipped the bottle away, saying at the same time,
"'Tis nothing to be proud av," and thus captured by the enemy, Mulvaney
"'Twas on Chuseday week. I was behaderin' round wid the gangs on the
'bankmint--I've taught the hoppers how to kape step an' stop
screechin'--whin a head-gangman comes up to me, wid about two inches av
shirt-tail hanging round his neck an' a disthressful light in his oi.
'Sahib,' sez he, 'there's a reg'mint an' a half av soldiers up at the
junction, knockin' red cinders out av ivrything an' ivrybody! They thried
to hang me in my cloth,' he sez, 'an' there will be murder an' ruin an'
rape in the place before nightfall! They say they're comin' down here to
wake us up. What will we do wid our womenfolk?'
"'Fetch my throlly!' sez I; 'my heart's sick in my ribs for a wink at
anything wid the Quane's uniform on ut, Fetch my throlly, an' six av the
jildiest men, and run me up in shtyle.'"
"He tuk his best coat," said Dinah Shadd, reproachfully.
"'Twas to do honor to the Widdy. I cud ha' done no less, Dinah Shadd. You
and your digresshins interfere wid the coorse av the narrative. Have you
iver considhered fwhat I wud look like wid me "head" shaved as well as my
chin? You bear that in your mind, Dinah darlin'.
"I was throllied up six miles, all to get a shquint at that draf'. I
"knew" 'twas a spring draf' goin' home, for there's no rig'mint
hereabouts, more's the pity."
"Praise the Virgin!" murmured Dinah Shadd. But Mulvaney did not hear.
"Whin I was about three-quarters av a mile off the rest-camp, powtherin'
along fit to burrst, I heard the noise av the men an', on my sowl, sorr, I
cud catch the voice av Peg Barney bellowin' like a bison wid the
belly-ache. You remimber Peg Barney that was in D Comp'ny--a red, hairy
scraun, wid a scar on his jaw? Peg Barney that cleared out the Blue
Lights' jubilee meeting wid the cook-room mop last year?
"Thin I knew ut was a draf' of the ould rig'mint, an' I was conshumed wid
sorrow for the bhoy that was in charge. We was harrd scrapin's at any
time. Did I iver tell you how Horker Kelley went into clink nakid as
Phoebus Apollonius, wid the shirts av the Corp'ril an' file undher his
arrum? An' "he" was a moild man! But I'm digreshin'. 'Tis a shame both to
the rig'mints and the Arrmy sendin' down little orf'cer bhoys wid a draf'
av strong men mad wid liquor an' the chanst av gettin' shut av India, an'
"niver a punishment that's fit to be given right down an' away from
cantonmints to the dock!" 'Tis this nonsince. Whin I am servin' my time,
I'm undher the Articles av War, an' can be whipped on the peg for "thim".
But whin I've "served" my time, I'm a Reserve man, an' the Articles av War
haven't any hould on me. An orf'cer "can't" do anythin' to a time-expired
savin' confinin' him to barricks. 'Tis a wise rig'lation bekaze a
time-expired does not have any barricks; bein' on the move all the time.
'Tis a Solomon av a rig'lation, is that. I wud like to be inthroduced to
the man that made ut. 'Tis easier to get colts from a Kibbereen horse-fair
into Galway than to take a bad draf' over ten miles av country.
Consiquintly that rig'lation--for fear that the men wud be hurt by the
little orf'cer bhoy. No matther. The nearer my throlly came to the
rest-camp, the woilder was the shine, an' the louder was the voice av Peg
Barney. ''Tis good I am here,' thinks I to myself, 'for Peg alone is
employment for two or three.' He bein', I well knew, as copped as a
"Faith, that rest-camp was a sight! The tent-ropes was all skew-nosed, an'
the pegs looked as dhrunk as the men--fifty av thim--the scourin's, an'
rinsin's, an' Divil's lavin's av the Ould Rig'mint. I tell you, sorr, they
were dhrunker than any men you've ever seen in your mortial life. "How"
does a draf' get dhrunk? How does a frog get fat? They suk ut in through
"There was Peg Barney sittin' on the groun' in his shirt--wan shoe off an'
wan shoe on--whackin' a tent-peg over the head wid his boot, an' singin'
fit to wake the dead. 'Twas no clane song that he sung, though. 'Twas the
"What's that?" I asked.
"Whin a bad egg is shut av the Army, he sings the Divil's Mass for a good
riddance; an' that manes swearin' at ivrything from the
Commandher-in-Chief down to the Room-Corp'ril, such as you niver in your
days heard. Some men can swear so as to make green turf crack! Have you
iver heard the Curse in an Orange Lodge? The Divil's Mass is ten times
worse, an' Peg Barney was singin' ut, whackin' the tent-peg on the head
wid his boot for each man that he cursed. A powerful big voice had Peg
Barney, an' a hard swearer he was whin sober. I stood forninst him, an'
'twas not me oi alone that cud tell Peg was dhrunk as a coot.
"'Good mornin', Peg,' I sez, whin he dhrew breath afther cursin' the
Adj'tint Gen'ral; 'I've put on my best coat to see you, Peg Barney,' sez
"'Thin take ut off again,' sez Peg Barney, latherin' away wid the boot;
'take ut off an' dance, ye lousy civilian!'
"Wid that he begins cursin' ould Dhrumshticks, being so full he clean
disremimbers the Brigade-Major an' the Judge Advokit Gen'ral.
"'Do you not know me, Peg?' sez I, though me blood was hot in me wid being
called a civilian."
"An' him a decent married man!" wailed Dinah Shadd.
"'I do not,' sez Peg, 'but dhrunk or sober I'll tear the hide off your
back wid a shovel whin I've stopped singin'.'
"'Say you so, Peg Barney?' sez I. 'Tis clear as mud you've forgotten me.
I'll assist your autobiography.' Wid that I stretched Peg Barney, boot an'
all, an' wint into the camp. An awful sight ut was!
"'Where's the orf'cer in charge av the detachment?' sez I to Scrub
Greene--the manest little worm that ever walked.
"'There's no orf'cer, ye ould cook,' sez Scrub; 'we're a bloomin'
"'Are you that?' sez I; 'thin I'm O'Connell the Dictator, an' by this you
will larn to kape a civil tongue in your rag-box.'
"Wid that I stretched Scrub Greene an' wint to the orf'cer's tent. 'Twas a
new little bhoy--not wan I'd iver seen before. He was sittin' in his tent,
purtendin' not to 'ave ear av the racket.
"I saluted--but for the life av me! mint to shake hands whin I went in.
Twas the sword hangin' on the tent-pole changed my will.
"'Can't I help, sorr?' sez I; ''tis a strong man's job they've given you,
an' you'll be wantin' help by sundown.' He was a bhoy wid bowils, that
child, an' a rale gintleman.
"'Sit down,' sez he.
"'Not before my orf'cer,' sez I; an' I tould him fwhat my service was.
"'I've heard av you,' sez he. 'You tuk the town av Lungtungpen nakid.'
"'Faith,' thinks I, 'that's Honor an' Glory, for 'twas Lift'nint Brazenose
did that job. 'I'm wid ye, sorr,' sez I, 'if I'm av use. They shud niver
ha' sent you down wid the draf'. Savin' your presince, sorr,' I sez, 'tis
only Lift'nint Hackerston in the Ould Rig'mint can manage a Home draf'.'
"'I've niver had charge of men like this before,' sez he, playin' wid the
pens on the table; 'an' I see by the Rig'lations'--
"'Shut your oi to the Rig'lations, sorr,' I sez, 'till the throoper's into
blue wather. By the Rig'lations you've got to tuck thim up for the night,
or they'll be runnin' foul av my coolies an' makin' a shiverarium half
through the country. Can you trust your noncoms, sorr?'
"'Yes,' sez he.
"'Good,' sez I; 'there'll be throuble before the night. Are you marchin',
"'To the next station,' sez he.
"'Better still,' sez I; 'there'll be big throuble.'
"'Can't be too hard on a Home draf',' sez he; 'the great thing is to get
"'Faith you've larnt the half av your lesson, sorr,' sez I, 'but av you
shtick to the Rig'lations you'll niver get thim in-ship at all, at all. Or
there won't be a rag av kit betune thim whin you do.'
"'Twas a dear little orf'cer bhoy, an' by way av kapin' his heart up, I
tould him fwhat I saw wanst in a draf' in Egypt."
"What was that, Mulvaney?" said I.
"Sivin an' fifty men sittin' on the bank av a canal, laughin' at a poor
little squidgereen av an orf'cer that they'd made wade into the slush an'
pitch the things out av the boats for their Lord High Mightinesses. That
made me orf'cer bhoy woild wid indignation.
"'Soft an' aisy, sorr,' sez I; 'you've niver had your draf' in hand since
you left cantonmints. Wait till the night, an' your work will be ready to
you. Wid your permission, sorr, I will investigate the camp, an' talk to
my ould friends. Tis no manner av use thryin' to shtop the divilmint
"Wid that I wint out into the camp an' inthrojuced mysilf to ivry man
sober enough to remimber me. I was some wan in the ould days, an' the
bhoys was glad to see me--all excipt Peg Barney wid a eye like a tomata
five days in the bazar, an' a nose to match. They come round me an' shuk
me, an' I tould thim I was in privit employ wid an income av me own, an' a
drrrawin'-room fit to bate the Quane's; an' wid me lies an' me shtories
an' nonsinse gin'rally, I kept 'em quiet in wan way an' another, knockin'
roun' the camp. Twas "bad" even thin whin I was the Angil av Peace.
"I talked to me ould non-coms--"they" was sober--an' betune me an' thim we
wore the draf' over into their tents at the proper time. The little
orf'cer bhoy he comes round, decint an' civil-spoken as might be.
"'Rough quarters, men,' sez he, 'but you can't look to be as comfortable
as in barricks. We must make the best av things. I've shut my eyes to a
dale av dog's tricks to-day, an' now there must be no more av ut.'
"'No more we will. Come an' have a dhrink, me son,' sez Peg Barney,
staggerin' where he stud. Me little orf'cer bhoy kep' his timper.
"'You're a sulky swine, you are,' sez Peg Barney, an' at that the men in
the tent began to laugh.
"I tould you me orf'cer bhoy had bowils. He cut Peg Barney as near as
might be on the oi that I'd squshed whin we first met. Peg wint spinnin'
acrost the tent.
"'Peg him out, sorr,' sez I, in a whishper.
"'Peg him out!' sez me orf'cer bhoy, up loud, just as if 'twas
battalion-p'rade an' he pickin' his wurrds from the Sargint.
"The non-coms tuk Peg Barney--a howlin' handful he was--an' in three
minuts he was pegged out--chin down, tight-dhrawn--on his stummick, a
tent-peg to each arm an' leg, swearin' fit to turn a naygur white.
"I tuk a peg an' jammed ut into his ugly jaw.--'Bite on that, Peg Barney,'
I sez; 'the night is settin' frosty, an' you'll be wantin' divarsion
before the mornin'. But for the Rig'lations you'd be bitin' on a bullet
now at the thriangles, Peg Barney,' sez I.
"All the draf' was out av their tents watchin' Barney bein' pegged.
"''Tis agin the Rig'lations! He strook him!' screeches out Scrub Greene,
who was always a lawyer; an' some of the men tuk up the shoutin'.
"'Peg out that man!' sez my orf'cer bhoy, niver losin' his timper; an' the
non-coms wint in and pegged out Scrub Greene by the side av Peg Barney.
"I cud see that the draf' was comin' roun'. The men stud not knowin' fwhat
"'Get to your tents!' sez me orf'cer bhoy. 'Sargint, put a sintry over
these two men.'
"The men wint back into the tents like jackals, an' the rest av the night
there was no noise at all excipt the stip av the sintry over the two, an'
Scrub Greene blubberin' like a child. 'Twas a chilly night, an' faith, ut
sobered Peg Barney.
"Just before Revelly, my orf'cer bhoy comes out an' sez: 'Loose those men
an' send thim to their tents!' Scrub Greene wint away widout a word, but
Peg Barney, stiff wid the cowld, stud like a sheep, thryin' to make his
orf'cer understhand he was sorry for playin' the goat.
"There was no tucker in the draf' whin ut fell in for the march, an' divil
a wurrd about 'illegality' cud I hear.
"I wint to the ould Color Sargint and I sez:--'Let me die in glory,' sez
I. 'I've seen a man this day!'
"'A man he is,' sez ould Hother; 'the draf's as sick as a herrin'. They'll
all go down to the sea like lambs. That bhoy has the bowils av a
cantonmint av Gin'rals.'
"'Amin,' sez I, 'an' good luck go wid him, wheriver he be, by land or by
sea. Let me know how the draf' gets clear.'
"An' do you know how they "did"? That bhoy, so I was tould by letter from
Bombay, bullydamned 'em down to the dock, till they cudn't call their
sowls their own. From the time they left me oi till they was 'tween decks,
not wan av thim was more than dacintly dhrunk. An', by the Holy Articles
av War, whin they wint aboard they cheered him till they cudn't spake, an'
"that", mark you, has not come about wid a draf' in the mim'ry av livin'
man! You look to that little orf'cer bhoy. He has bowils. 'Tis not ivry
child that wud chuck the Rig'lations to Flanders an' stretch Peg Barney on
a wink from a brokin an' dilapidated ould carkiss like mesilf. I'd be
proud to serve"--
"Terrence, you're a civilian," said Dinah Shadd, warningly.
"So I am--so I am. Is ut likely I wud forget ut? But he was a gran' bhoy
all the same, an' I'm only a mudtipper wid a hod on my shoulthers. The
whiskey's in the heel av your hand, sorr. Wid your good lave we'll dhrink
to the Ould Rig'mint--three fingers--standin' up!"
And we drank.
BY WORD OF MOUTH
Not though you die to-night, O Sweet, and wail,
A spectre at my door,
Shall mortal Fear make Love immortal fail--
I shall but love you more,
Who, from Death's house returning, give me still
One moment's comfort in my matchless ill.
This tale may be explained by those who know how souls are made, and where
the bounds of the Possible are put down. I have lived long enough in this
India to know that it is best to know nothing, and can only write the
story as it happened.
Dumoise was our Civil Surgeon at Meridki, and we called him "Dormouse,"
because he was a round little, sleepy little man. He was a good Doctor and
never quarreled with any one, not even with our Deputy Commissioner who
had the manners of a bargee and the tact of a horse. He married a girl as
round and as sleepy-looking as himself. She was a Miss Hillardyce,
daughter of "Squash" Hillardyce of the Berars, who married his Chief's
daughter by mistake. But that is another story.
A honeymoon in India is seldom more than a week long; but there is nothing
to hinder a couple from extending it over two or three years. India is a
delightful country for married folk who are wrapped up in one another.
They can live absolutely alone and without interruption--just as the
Dormice did. Those two little people retired from the world after their
marriage, and were very happy. They were forced, of course, to give
occasional dinners, but they made no friends thereby, and the Station went
its own way and forgot them; only saying, occasionally, that Dormouse was
the best of good fellows though dull. A Civil Surgeon who never quarrels
is a rarity, appreciated as such.
Few people can afford to play Robinson Crusoe anywhere--least of all in
India, where we are few in the land and very much dependent on each
other's kind offices. Dumoise was wrong in shutting himself from the world
for a year, and he discovered his mistake when an epidemic of typhoid
broke out in the Station in the heart of the cold weather, and his wife
went down. He was a shy little man, and five days were wasted before he
realized that Mrs. Dumoise was burning with something worse than simple
fever, and three days more passed before he ventured to call on Mrs.
Shute, the Engineer's wife, and timidly speak about his trouble.
Nearly every household in India knows that Doctors are very helpless in
typhoid. The battle must be fought out between Death and the Nurses minute
by minute and degree by degree. Mrs. Shute almost boxed Dumoise's ears for
what she called his "criminal delay," and went off at once to look after
the poor girl. We had seven cases of typhoid in the Station that winter
and, as the average of death is about one in every five cases, we felt
certain that we should have to lose somebody. But all did their best. The
women sat up nursing the women, and the men turned to and tended the
bachelors who were down, and we wrestled with those typhoid cases for
fifty-six days, and brought them through the Valley of the Shadow in
triumph. But, just when we thought all was over, and were going to give a
dance to celebrate the victory, little Mrs. Dumoise got a relapse and died
in a week and the Station went to the funeral. Dumoise broke down utterly
at the brink of the grave, and had to be taken away.
After the death, Dumoise crept into his own house and refused to be
comforted. He did his duties perfectly, but we all felt that he should go
on leave, and the other men of his own Service told him so. Dumoise was
very thankful for the suggestion--he was thankful for anything in those
days--and went to Chini on a walking-tour. Chini is some twenty marches
from Simla, in the heart of the Hills, and the scenery is good if you are
in trouble. You pass through big, still deodar-forests, and under big,
still cliffs, and over big, still grass-downs swelling like a woman's
breasts; and the wind across the grass, and the rain among the deodars
says--"Hush--hush--hush." So little Dumoise was packed off to Chini, to
wear down his grief with a full-plate camera and a rifle. He took also a
useless bearer, because the man had been his wife's favorite servant. He
was idle and a thief, but Dumoise trusted everything to him.
On his way back from Chini, Dumoise turned aside to Bagi, through the
Forest Reserve which is on the spur of Mount Huttoo. Some men who have
traveled more than a little say that the march from Kotegarh to Bagi is
one of the finest in creation. It runs through dark wet forest, and ends
suddenly in bleak, nipped hillside and black rocks. Bagi dak-bungalow is
open to all the winds and is bitterly cold. Few people go to Bagi. Perhaps
that was the reason why Dumoise went there. He halted at seven in the
evening, and his bearer went down the hillside to the village to engage
coolies for the next day's march. The sun had set, and the night-winds
were beginning to croon among the rocks. Dumoise leaned on the railing of
the veranda, waiting for his bearer to return. The man came back almost
immediately after he had disappeared, and at such a rate that Dumoise
fancied he must have crossed a bear. He was running as hard as he could up
the face of the hill.
But there was no bear to account for his terror. He raced to the veranda
and fell down, the blood spurting from his nose and his face iron-grey.
Then he gurgled--"I have seen the "Memsahib"! I have seen the "Memsahib"!"
"Where?" said Dumoise.
"Down there, walking on the road to the village. She was in a blue dress,
and she lifted the veil of her bonnet and said--'Ram Dass, give my
"salaams" to the "Sahib", and tell him that I shall meet him next month at
Nuddea.' Then I ran away, because I was afraid."
What Dumoise said or did I do not know. Ram Dass declares that he said
nothing, but walked up and down the veranda all the cold night, waiting
for the "Memsahib" to come up the hill and stretching out his arms into
the dark like a madman. But no "Memsahib" came, and, next day, he went on
to Simla cross-questioning the bearer every hour.
Ram Dass could only say that he had met Mrs. Dumoise and that she had
lifted up her veil and given him the message which he had faithfully
repeated to Dumoise. To this statement Ram Dass adhered. He did not know
where Nuddea was, had no friends at Nuddea, and would most certainly never
go to Nuddea; even though his pay were doubled,
Nuddea is in Bengal and has nothing whatever to do with a Doctor serving
in the Punjab. It must be more than twelve hundred miles south of Meridki.
Dumoise went through Simla without halting, and returned to Meridki, there
to take over charge from the man who had been officiating for him during
his tour. There were some Dispensary accounts to be explained, and some
recent orders of the Surgeon-General to be noted, and, altogether, the
taking-over was a full day's work, In the evening, Dumoise told his "locum
tenens", who was an old friend of his bachelor days, what had happened at
Bagi; and the man said that Ram Dass might as well have chosen Tuticorin
while he was about it.
At that moment, a telegraph-peon came in with a telegram from Simla,
ordering Dumoise not to take over charge at Meridki, but to go at once to
Nuddea on special duty. There was a nasty outbreak of cholera at Nuddea,
and the Bengal Government, being short-handed, as usual, had borrowed a
Surgeon from the Punjab.
Dumoise threw the telegram across the table and said--"Well?"
The other Doctor said nothing. It was all that he could say.
Then he remembered that Dumoise had passed through Simla on his way from
Bagi; and thus might, possibly, have heard first news of the impending
He tried to put the question, and the implied suspicion into words, but
Dumoise stopped him with--"If I had desired "that", I should never have
come back from Chini. I was shooting there. I wish to live, for I have
things to do ... but I shall not be sorry."
The other man bowed his head, and helped, in the twilight, to pack up
Dumoise's just opened trunks. Ram Dass entered with the lamps.
"Where is the "Sahib" going?" he asked.
"To Nuddea," said Dumoise, softly.
Ram Dass clawed Dumoise's knees and boots and begged him not to go. Ram
Dass wept and howled till he was turned out of the room. Then he wrapped
up all his belongings and came back to ask for a character. He was not
going to Nuddea to see his "Sahib" die and, perhaps, to die himself.
So Dumoise gave the man his wages and went down to Nuddea alone; the other
Doctor bidding him good-bye as one under sentence of death.
Eleven days later he had joined his "Memsahib"; and the Bengal Government
had to borrow a fresh Doctor to cope with that epidemic at Nuddea, The
first importation lay dead in Chooadanga Dak Bungalow.
THE DRUMS OF THE FORE AND AFT
"And a little child shall lead them."
In the Army List they still stand as "The Fore and Fit Princess
Hohenzollern-Sigmaringen-Auspach's Merther-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 honorable, 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
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
shoveled 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 afterward--"pour encourager les autres"; 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 sight 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 "Pocketbook" says so.
Unfortunately, to attain this virtue, he has to pass through the phase of
thinking of himself, and that is misdirected genius. A blackguard may be
slow to think for himself, but he is genuinely anxious to kill, and a
little punishment teaches him how to guard his own skin and perforate
another's. A powerfully prayerful Highland Regiment, officered by rank
Presbyterians, is, perhaps, one degree more terrible in action than a
hard-bitten thousand of irresponsible Irish ruffians led by most improper
young unbelievers. But these things prove the rule--which is that the
midway men are not to be trusted alone. They have ideas about the value of
life and an upbringing that has not taught them to go on and take the
chances. They are carefully unprovided with a backing of comrades who have
been shot over, and until that backing is re-introduced, as a great many
Regimental Commanders intend it shall be, they are more liable to disgrace
themselves than the size of the Empire or the dignity of the Army allows.
Their officers are as good as good can be, because their training begins
early, and God has arranged that a clean-run youth of the British middle
classes shall, in the matter of backbone, brains, and bowels, surpass all
other youths. For this reason a child of eighteen will stand up, doing
nothing, with a tin sword in his hand and joy in his heart until he is
dropped. If he dies, he dies like a gentleman. If he lives, he writes Home
that he has been "potted," "sniped," "chipped" or "cut over," and sits
down to besiege Government for a wound-gratuity until the next little war
breaks out, when he perjures himself before a Medical Board, blarneys his
Colonel, burns incense round his Adjutant, and is allowed to go to the
Front once more.
Which homily brings me directly to a brace of the most finished little
fiends that ever banged drum or tootled fife in the Band of a British
Regiment. They ended their sinful career by open and flagrant mutiny and
were shot for it. Their names were Jakin and Lew--Piggy Lew--and they were
bold, bad drummer-boys, both of them frequently birched by the Drum-Major
of the Fore and Aft.
Jakin was a stunted child of fourteen, and Lew was about the same age.
When not looked after, they smoked and drank. They swore habitually after
the manner of the Barrack-room, which is cold-swearing and comes from
between clinched teeth; and they fought religiously once a week. Jakin had
sprung from some London gutter and may or may not have passed through Dr.
Barnado'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' barricks," 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 Color-Sergeant."
"What's that to you?" said Jakin, with an unpleasant dilation of the
"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 differences with their
fistes you stick in your ugly nose where you aren't wanted. Run 'ome to
your 'arf-caste slut of a Ma--or we'll give you what-for," said Jakin.
The man attempted reprisals by knocking the boys' heads together. The
scheme would have succeeded had not Jakin punched him vehemently in the
stomach, or had Lew refrained from kicking his shins. They fought
together, bleeding and breathless, for half an hour, and after heavy
punishment, triumphantly pulled down their opponent as terriers pull down
"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 flogged again."
"Beg y' pardon, Sir. Can't we say nothin' in our own defence, Sir?"
"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'
flogged 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
"What sort of characters have these boys?" he asked of the Regimental
"Accordin' to the Bandmaster, Sir," returned that revered official--the
only soul in the regiment whom the boys feared--"they do everything "but"
"Is it like we'd go for that man for fun, Sir?" said Lew, pointing to the
"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 come 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
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 a privit. Then I'll be
a Lance in a year--knowin' what I know about the ins an' outs o' things.
In three years I'll be a bloomin' Sergeant. I won't marry then, not I!
I'll 'old on and learn the orf'cers' ways an' apply for exchange into a
reg'ment that doesn't know all about me. Then I'll be a bloomin' orf'cer.
Then I'll ask you to 'ave a glass o' sherry-wine, "Mister" Lew, an' you'll
bloomin' well 'ave to stay in the hanty-room while the Mess-Sergeant
brings it to your dirty 'ands."
"'S'pose "I"'m going to be a Bandmaster? Not I, quite. I'll be a orf'cer
too. There's nothin' like 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 with
exemplary piety for a week. That is to say, Lew started a flirtation with
the Color-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'
But neither love nor virtue would have held Lew long in the paths of
propriety had not the rumor 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 rumor 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 Colors--the New Colors that had
been formally blessed by an Archbishop in England ere the Regiment came
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 overscanty 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 rumor 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 council 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
"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 have 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
"You'll do," said Lew. "I've 'eard o' men dyin' when you 'it 'em fair on
"Don't bring us no nearer goin', though," said Jakin. "Do you know where
"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 organized 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, recognizing 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
"Beg y' pardon, Sir," began Jakin. "The Reg'ment's ordered on active
"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 Regiment anywheres--p'rade
an' anywhere else," said Jakin.
"If Tom Kidd goes 'ell shut up like a clasp-knife," said Lew, "Tom 'as
very close veins in both 'is legs, Sir."
"Very how much?"
"Very close veins, Sir. That's why they swells after long p'rade, Sir, If
'e can go, we can go, Sir."
Again the Colonel looked at them long and intently.
"Yes, the Band is going," he said, as gravely as though, he had been
addressing a brother officer. "Have you any parents, either of you two?"
"No, Sir," rejoicingly from Lew and Jakin. "We're both orphans, Sir.
There's no one to be considered of on our account, Sir."
"You poor little sprats, and you want to go up to the Front with the
Regiment, do you? Why?"
"I've wore the Queen's Uniform for two years," said Jakin. "It's very
'ard, Sir, that a man don't get no recompense for doin' '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 dare say you can go. I shouldn't smoke if I
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 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
'coutrements 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
"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
"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 forever."
"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
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
"'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
"Which we will," said Lew, looking tenderly at the ragged and ill-made
house-wife 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
Sergeant's tailor 'elp me. Keep it always, Piggy, an' remember I love you
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
"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
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-wagon 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
"Tisn't so much the bloomin' fighting," 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
realize 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 animalculae in water, and developed a few cases of dysentery in
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 p
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