Part 2 out of 9
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;
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