Part 9 out of 9
"But the rale dimonstrashin," said Mulvaney, "was in B Comp'ny barrick; we
three headin' it."
Mulvaney climbed on to the refreshment-bar, settled himself comfortably by
the beer, and went on, "Whin the row was at ut's foinest an' B Comp'ny was
fur goin' out to murther this man Thrigg on the p'rade-groun', Learoyd
here takes up his helmut an' sez--fwhat was ut ye said?"
"Ah said," said Learoyd, "gie us t' brass. Tak oop a subscripshun, lads,
for to put off t' p'rade, an' if t' p'rade's not put off, ah'll gie t'
brass back agean. Thot's wot ah said. All B Coomp'ny knawed me. Ah took
oop a big subscripshun--fower rupees eight annas 'twas--an' ah went oot to
turn t' job over. Mulvaney an' Orth'ris coom with me."
"We three raises the Divil In couples gin'rally," explained Mulvaney.
Here Ortheris interrupted. "'Ave you read the papers?" said he.
"Sometimes," I said,
"We 'ad read the papers, an' we put hup a faked decoity, a--a sedukshun."
"_Ab_dukshin, ye cockney," said Mulvaney.
"_Ab_dukshin or _se_dukshun--no great odds. Any'ow, we arranged to taik
an' put Mister Benhira out o' the way till Thursday was hover, or 'e too
busy to rux 'isself about p'raids. _Hi_ was the man wot said, 'We'll make
a few rupees off o' the business.'"
"We hild a Council av War," continued Mulvaney, "walkin' roun' by the
Artill'ry Lines. I was Prisidint, Learoyd was Minister av Finance, an'
little Orth'ris here was"--
"A bloomin' Bismarck! _Hi_ made the 'ole show pay."
"This interferin' bit av a Benira man," said Mulvaney, "did the thrick for
us himself; for, on me sowl, we hadn't a notion av what was to come afther
the next minut. He was shoppin' in the bazar on fut. Twas dhrawin' dusk
thin, an' we stud watchin' the little man hoppin' in an' out av the shops,
thryin' to injuce the naygurs to _mallum_ his _bat_. Prisintly, he sthrols
up, his arrums full av thruck, an' he sez in a consiquinshal way,
shticking out his little belly, 'Me good men,' sez he, 'have ye seen the
Kernel's b'roosh?'--'B'roosh?' says Learoyd. 'There's no b'roosh
here--nobbut a _hekka_.'--'Fwhat's that?' sez Thrigg. Learoyd shows him
wan down the sthreet, an' he sez, 'How thruly Orientil! I will ride on a
_hekka_.' I saw thin that our Rigimintal Saint was for givin' Thrigg over
to us neck an' brisket. I purshued a _hekka_, an' I sez to the
dhriver-divil, I sez, 'Ye black limb, there's a _Sahib_ comin' for this
_hekka_. He wants to go _jildi_ to the Padsahi Jhil'--'twas about tu
moiles away--'to shoot snipe--_chirria_. You dhrive _Jehannum ke marfik,
mallum_--like Hell? 'Tis no manner av use _bukkin'_ to the _Sahib_, bekaze
he doesn't _samjao_ your talk. Av he _bolos_ anything, just you _choop_
and _chel_. _Dekker?_ Go _arsty_ for the first _arder_-mile from
cantonmints. Thin _chel, Shaitan ke marfik_, an' the _chooper_ you
_choops_ an' the _jildier_ you _chels_ the better _kooshy_ will that
_Sahib_ be; an' here's a rupee for ye?'
"The _hekka_-man knew there was somethin' out av the common in the air. He
grinned an' sez, '_Bote achee!_ I goin' damn fast.' I prayed that the
Kernel's b'roosh wudn't arrive till me darlin' Benira by the grace av God
was undher weigh. The little man puts his thruck into the _hekka_ an'
scuttles in like a fat guinea-pig; niver offerin' us the price av a dhrink
for our services in helpin' him home, 'He's off to the Padsahi _jhil_,'
sez I to the others."
Ortheris took up the tale--
"Jist then, little Buldoo kim up, 'oo was the son of one of the Artillery
grooms--'e would 'av made a 'evinly newspaper-boy in London, bein' sharp
an' fly to all manner o' games, 'E 'ad bin watchin' us puttin' Mister
Benhira into 'is temporary baroush, an' 'e sez, 'What _'ave_ you been a
doin' of, _Sahibs?_' sez 'e. Learoyd 'e caught 'im by the ear an 'e sez"--
"Ah says,' went on Learoyd, 'Young mon, that mon's gooin' to have t' goons
out o' Thursday--to-morrow--an' thot's more work for you, young mon. Now,
sitha, tak' a _tat_ an' a _lookri,_ an' ride tha domdest to t' Padsahi
Jhil. Cotch thot there _hekka_, and tell t' driver iv your lingo thot
you've coorn to tak' his place. T' _Sahib_ doesn't speak t' _bat_, an'
he's a little mon. Drive t' _hekka_ into t' Padsahi Jhil into t' waiter.
Leave t' _Sahib_ theer an' roon hoam; an' here's a rupee for tha,'"
Then Mulvaney and Ortheris spoke together in alternate fragments: Mulvaney
leading [You must pick out the two speakers as best you can]:--"He was a
knowin' little divil was Bhuldoo,--'e sez _bote achee_ an' cuts--wid a
wink in his oi--but _Hi_ sez there's money to be made--an' I wanted to see
the ind av the campaign--so _Hi_ says we'll double hout to the Padsahi
Jhil--an' save the little man from bein' dacoited by the murtherin'
Bhuldoo--an' turn hup like reskooers in a Vic'oria Melodrama-so we doubled
for the _jhil_, an' prisintly there was the divil av a hurroosh behind us
an' three bhoys on grasscuts' ponies come by, poundin' along for the dear
life--s'elp me Bob, hif Buldoo 'adn't raised a rig'lar _harmy_ of
decoits--to do the job in shtile. An' we ran, an' they ran, shplittin'
with laughin', till we gets near the _jhil_--and 'ears sounds of distress
floatin' molloncolly on the hevenin' hair." [Ortheris was growing poetical
under the influence of the beer. The duet recommenced: Mulvaney leading
"Thin we heard Bhuldoo, the dacoit, shoutin' to the _hekka_ man, an' wan
of the young divils brought his stick down on the top av the
_hekka_-cover, an' Benira Thrigg inside howled 'Murther an' Death.' Buldoo
takes the reins and dhrives like mad for the _jhil_, havin' dishpersed the
_hekka_-dhriver--'oo cum up to us an' 'e sez, sez 'e, 'That _Sahib's_ nigh
mad with funk! Wot devil's work 'ave you led me into?'--'Hall right,' sez
we, 'you catch that there pony an' come along. This _Sahib's_ been
decoited, an' we're going to resky 'im!' Says the driver, 'Decoits! Wot
decoits? That's Buldoo the _budmash_'--'Bhuldoo be shot!' sez we, ''Tis a
woild dissolute Pathan frum the hills. There's about eight av thim
coercin' the _Sahib_. You remimber that an you'll get another rupee!' Thin
we heard the _whop-whop-whop_ av the _hekka_ turnin' over, an' a splash av
water an' the voice av Benira Thrigg callin' upon God to forgive his
sins--an' Buldoo an' 'is friends squotterin' in the water like boys in the
Here the Three Musketeers retired simultaneously into the beer.
"Well? What came next?" said I.
"Fwhat nex'?" answered Mulvaney, wiping his mouth. "Wud ye let three bould
sodger-bhoys lave the ornamint av the House av Lords to be dhrowned an'
dacoited in a _jhil?_ We formed line av quarther-column an' we discinded
upon the inimy. For the better part av tin minutes you could not hear
yerself spake. The _tattoo_ was screamin' in chune wid Benira Thrigg an'
Bhuldoo's army, an' the shticks was whistlin' roun' the _hekka_, an'
Orth'ris was beatin' the _hekka_-cover wid his fistes, an' Learoyd
yellin', 'Look out for their knives!' an' me cuttin' into the dark, right
an' lef', dishpersin' arrmy corps av Pathans. Holy Mother av Moses! 'twas
more disp'rit than Ahmid Kheyl wid Maiwund thrown in. Afther a while
Bhuldoo an' his bhoys flees. Have ye iver seen a rale live Lord thryin' to
hide his nobility undher a fut an' a half av brown swamp-wather? Tis the
livin' image av a water-carrier's goatskin wid the shivers. It tuk toime
to pershuade me frind Benira he was not disimbowilled: an' more toime to
get out the _hekka_. The dhriver come up afther the battle, swearin' he
tuk a hand in repulsin' the inimy. Benira was sick wid the fear. We
escorted him back, very slow, to cantonmints, for that an' the chill to
soak into him. It suk! Glory be to the Rigimintil Saint, but it suk to the
marrow av Lord Benira Thrigg!"
Here Ortheris, slowly, with immense pride--"'E sez, 'You har my noble
preservers,' sez 'e. 'You har a _h_onor to the British Harmy,' sez 'e.
With that e' describes the hawful band of dacoits wot set on 'im. There
was about forty of 'em an' 'e was hoverpowered by numbers, so 'e was; but
'e never lorst 'is presence of mind, so 'e didn't. 'E guv the
_hekka_-driver five rupees for 'is noble assistance, an' 'e said 'e would
see to us after 'e 'ad spoken to the Kernul. For we was a _h_onor to the
Regiment, we was."
"An' we three," said Mulvaney, with a seraphic smile, "have dhrawn the
par-ti-cu-lar attinshin av Bobs Bahadur more than wanst. But he's a rale
good little man is Bobs. Go on, Orth'ris, my son."
"Then we leaves 'im at the Kernul's 'ouse, werry sick, an' we cuts hover
to B Comp'ny barrick an' we sez we 'ave saved Benira from a bloody doom,
an' the chances was agin there bein' p'raid on Thursday. About ten minutes
later come three envelicks, one for each of us. S'elp me Bob, if the old
bloke 'adn't guv us a fiver apiece--sixty-four rupees in the bazar! On
Thursday 'e was in 'orspital recoverin' from 'is sanguinary encounter with
a gang of Pathans, an' B Comp'ny was drinkin' 'emselves into Clink by
squads. So there never was no Thursday p'raid. But the Kernal, when 'e
'eard of our galliant conduct, 'e sez, 'Hi know there's been some devilry
somewheres,' sez 'e, 'but I can't bring it 'ome to you three.'"
"An' my privit imprisshin is," said Mulvaney, getting off the bar and
turning his glass upside down, "that, av they had known they wudn't have
brought ut home. 'Tis flyin' in the face, firstly av Nature, secon' av the
Rig'lations, an' third the will av Terence Mulvaney, to hold p'rades av
"Good, ma son!" said Learoyd; "but, young mon, what's t' notebook for?"
"'Let be," said Mulvaney; "this time next month we're in the _Sherapis_.
'Tis immortial fame the gentleman's goin' to give us. But kape it dhark
till we're out av the range av me little frind Bobs Bahadur."
And I have obeyed Mulvaney's order.
BEYOND THE PALE
Love heeds not caste nor sleep a broken bed. I went in search of love and
lost myself.--_Hindu Proverb_.
A man should, whatever happens, keep to his own caste, race and breed. Let
the White go to the White and the Black to the Black. Then, whatever
trouble falls is in the ordinary course of things--neither sudden, alien
This is the story of a man who wilfully stepped beyond the safe limits of
decent everyday society, and paid for it heavily.
He knew too much in the first instance; and he saw too much in the second.
He took too deep an interest in native life; but he will never do so
Deep away in the heart of the City, behind Jitha Megji's _bustee_, lies
Amir Nath's Gully, which ends in a dead-wall pierced by one grated window.
At the head of the Gully is a big cow-byre, and the walls on either side
of the Gully are without windows. Neither Suchet Singh nor Gaur Chand
approve of their womenfolk looking into the world. If Durga Charan had
been of their opinion, he would have been a happier man to-day, and little
Bisesa would have been able to knead her own bread. Her room looked out
through the grated window into the narrow dark Gully where the sun never
came and where the buffaloes wallowed in the blue slime. She was a widow,
about fifteen years old, and she prayed the Gods, day and night, to send
her a lover; for she did not approve of living alone.
One day, the man--Trejago his name was--came into Amir Nath's Gully on an
aimless wandering; and, after he had passed the buffaloes, stumbled over a
big heap of cattle-food.
Then he saw that the Gully ended in a trap, and heard a little laugh from
behind the grated window. It was a pretty little laugh, and Trejago,
knowing that, for all practical purposes, the old _Arabian Nights_ are
good guides, went forward to the window, and whispered that verse of "The
Love Song of Har Dyal" which begins:
Can a man stand upright in the face of the naked Sun;
or a Lover in the Presence of his Beloved?
If my feet fail me, O Heart of my Heart, am I to blame,
being blinded by the glimpse of your beauty?
There came the faint _tchink_ of a woman's bracelets from behind the
grating, and a little voice went on with the song at the fifth verse:
Alas! alas! Can the Moon tell the Lotus of her love
when the Gate of Heaven is shut and the clouds gather for the rains?
They have taken my Beloved, and driven her
with the pack-horses to the North.
There are iron chains on the feet that were set on my heart.
Call to the bowmen to make ready--
The voice stopped suddenly, and Trejago walked out of Amir Nath's Gully,
wondering who in the world could have capped "The Love Song of Har Dyal"
Next morning, as he was driving to office, an old woman threw a packet
into his dog-cart. In the packet was the half of a broken glass-bangle,
one flower of the blood-red _dhak_, a pinch of _bhusa_ or cattle-food, and
eleven cardamoms. That packet was a letter--not a clumsy compromising
letter, but an innocent unintelligible lover's epistle.
Trejago knew far too much about these things, as I have said. No
Englishman should be able to translate object-letters. But Trejago spread
all the trifles on the lid of his office-box and began to puzzle them out.
A broken glass-bangle stands for a Hindu widow all India over; because,
when her husband dies, a woman's bracelets are broken on her wrists.
Trejago saw the meaning of the little bit of the glass. The flower of the
_dhak_ means diversely "desire," "come," "write," or "danger," according
to the other things with it. One cardamom means "jealousy"; but when any
article is duplicated in an object-letter, it loses its symbolic meaning
and stands merely for one of a number indicating time, or, if incense,
curds, or saffron be sent also, place. The message ran then--"A
widow--_dhak_ flower and _bhusa_,--at eleven o'clock." The pinch of
_bhusa_ enlightened Trejago. He saw--this kind of letter leaves much to
instinctive knowledge--that the _bhusa_ referred to the big heap of
cattle-food over which he had fallen in Amir Nath's Gully, and that the
message must come from the person behind the grating; she being a widow.
So the message ran then--"A widow, in the Gully in which is the heap of
_bhusa_, desires you to come at eleven o'clock."
Trejago threw all the rubbish into the fireplace and laughed. He knew that
men in the East do not make love under windows at eleven in the forenoon,
nor do women fix appointments a week in advance. So he went, that very
night at eleven, into Amir Nath's Gully, clad in a _boorka_, which cloaks
a man as well as a woman. Directly the gongs of the City made the hour,
the little voice behind the grating took up "The Love Song of Har Dyal" at
the verse where the Panthan girl calls upon Har Dyal to return. The song
is really pretty in the Vernacular. In English you miss the wail of it. It
runs something like this--
Alone upon the housetops, to the North
I turn and watch the lightning in the sky,--
The glamour of thy footsteps in the North,
_Come back to me, Beloved, or I die!_
Below my feet the still bazar is laid
Far, far, below the weary camels lie,--
The camels and the captives of thy raid.
_Come back to me, Beloved, or I die!_
My father's wife is old and harsh with years,
And drudge of all my father's house am I.--
My bread is sorrow and my drink is tears,
_Come back to me, Beloved, or I die!_
As the song stopped, Trejago stepped up under the grating and
whispered--"I am here."
Bisesa was good to look upon.
That night was the beginning of many strange things, and of a double life
so wild that Trejago to-day sometimes wonders if it were not all a dream.
Bisesa, or her old handmaiden who had thrown the object-letter, had
detached the heavy grating from the brick-work of the wall; so that the
window slid inside, leaving only a square of raw masonry into which an
active man might climb.
In the daytime, Trejago drove through his routine of office-work, or put
on his calling-clothes and called on the ladies of the Station; wondering
how long they would know him if they knew of poor little Bisesa. At night,
when all the City was still, came the walk under the evil-smelling
_boorka_, the patrol through Jitha Megji's _bustee_, the quick turn into
Amir Nath's Gully between the sleeping cattle and the dead walls, and
then, last of all, Bisesa, and the deep, even breathing of the old woman
who slept outside the door of the bare little room that Durga Charan
allotted to his sister's daughter. Who or what Durga Charan was, Trejago
never inquired; and why in the world he was not discovered and knifed
never occurred to him till his madness was over, and Bisesa ... But this
Bisesa was an endless delight to Trejago. She was as ignorant as a bird;
and her distorted versions of the rumors from the outside world that had
reached her in her room, amused Trejago almost as much as her lisping
attempts to pronounce his name--"Christopher." The first syllable was
always more than she could manage, and she made funny little gestures with
her roseleaf hands, as one throwing the name away, and then, kneeling
before Trejago, asked him, exactly as an Englishwoman would do, if he were
sure he loved her. Trejago swore that he loved her more than any one else
in the world. Which was true.
After a month of this folly, the exigencies of his other life compelled
Trejago to be especially attentive to a lady of his acquaintance. You may
take it for a fact that anything of this kind is not only noticed and
discussed by a man's own race but by some hundred and fifty natives as
well. Trejago had to walk with this lady and talk to her at the
Band-stand, and once or twice to drive with her; never for an instant
dreaming that this would affect his dearer, out-of-the-way life. But the
news flew, in the usual mysterious fashion, from mouth to mouth, till
Bisesa's duenna heard of it and told Bisesa. The child was so troubled
that she did the household work evilly, and was beaten by Durga Charan's
wife in consequence.
A week later, Bisesa taxed Trejago with the flirtation. She understood no
gradations and spoke openly. Trejago laughed and Bisesa stamped her little
feet--little feet, light as marigold flowers, that could lie in the palm
of a man's one hand.
Much that is written about Oriental passion and impulsiveness is
exaggerated and compiled at second-hand, but a little of it is true; and
when an Englishman finds that little, it is quite as startling as any
passion in his own proper life. Bisesa raged and stormed, and finally
threatened to kill herself if Trejago did not at once drop the alien
_Memsahib_ who had come between them. Trejago tried to explain, and to
show her that she did not understand these things from a Western
standpoint. Bisesa drew herself up, and said simply--
"I do not. I know only this--it is not good that I should have made you
dearer than my own heart to me, _Sahib_. You are an Englishman. I am only
a black girl"--she was fairer than bar-gold in the Mint,--"and the widow
of a black man."
Then she sobbed and said--"But on my soul and my Mother's soul, I love
you. There shall no harm come to you, whatever happens to me."
Trejago argued with the child, and tried to soothe her, but she seemed
quite unreasonably disturbed. Nothing would satisfy her save that all
relations between them should end. He was to go away at once. And he went.
As he dropped out of the window, she kissed his forehead twice, and he
walked home wondering.
A week, and then three weeks, passed without a sign from Bisesa. Trejago,
thinking that the rupture had lasted quite long enough, went down to Amir
Nath's Gully for the fifth time in the three weeks, hoping that his rap at
the sill of the shifting grating would be answered. He was not
There was a young moon, and one stream of light fell down into Amir Nath's
Gully, and struck the grating which was drawn away as he knocked. From the
black dark, Bisesa held out her arms into the moonlight. Both hands had
been cut off at the wrists, and the stumps were nearly healed.
Then, as Bisesa bowed her head between her arms and sobbed, some one in
the room grunted like a wild beast, and something sharp--knife, sword, or
spear,--thrust at Trejago in his _boorka_. The stroke missed his body, but
cut into one of the muscles of the groin, and he limped slightly from the
wound for the rest of his days.
The grating went into its place. There was no sign whatever from inside
the house,--nothing but the moonlight strip on the high wall, and the
blackness of Amir Nath's Gully behind.
The next thing Trejago remembers, after raging and shouting like a madman
between those pitiless walls, is that he found himself near the river as
the dawn was breaking, threw away his _boorka_ and went home bareheaded.
What was the tragedy--whether Bisesa had, in a fit of causeless despair,
told everything, or the intrigue had been discovered and she tortured to
tell; whether Durga Charan knew his name and what became of
Bisesa--Trejago does not know to this day. Something horrible had
happened, and the thought of what it must have been, comes upon Trejago in
the night now and again, and keeps him company till the morning. One
special feature of the case is that he does not know where lies the front
of Durga Charan's house. It may open on to a courtyard common to two or
more houses, or it may lie behind any one of the gates of Jitha Megji's
_bustee_. Trejago cannot tell. He cannot get Bisesa--poor little
Bisesa--back again. He has lost her in the City where each man's house is
as guarded and as unknowable as the grave; and the grating that opens into
Amir Nath's Gully has been walled up.
But Trejago pays his calls regularly, and is reckoned a very decent sort
There is nothing peculiar about him, except a slight stiffness, caused by
a riding-strain, in the right leg.
THE GOD FROM THE MACHINE
Hit a man an' help a woman, an' ye can't be far wrong anyways.--_Maxims of
The Inexpressibles gave a ball. They borrowed a seven-pounder from the
Gunners, and wreathed it with laurels, and made the dancing-floor
plate-glass and provided a supper, the like of which had never been eaten
before, and set two sentries at the door of the room to hold the trays of
programme-cards. My friend, Private Mulvaney, was one of the sentries,
because he was the tallest man in the regiment. When the dance was fairly
started the sentries were released, and Private Mulvaney went to curry
favor with the Mess Sergeant in charge of the supper. Whether the Mess
Sergeant gave or Mulvaney took, I cannot say. All that I am certain of is
that, at supper-time, I found Mulvaney with Private Ortheris, two-thirds
of a ham, a loaf of bread, half a _pate-de-foie-gras_, and two magnums of
champagne, sitting on the roof of my carriage. As I came up I heard him
"Praise be a danst doesn't come as often as Ord'ly-room, or, by this an'
that, Orth'ris, me son, I wud be the dishgrace av the rig'mint instid av
the brightest jool in uts crown."
"_Hand_ the Colonel's pet noosance," said Ortheris, "But wot makes you
curse your rations? This 'ere fizzy stuff's good enough."
"Stuff, ye oncivilized pagin! 'Tis champagne we're dhrinkin' now. 'Tisn't
that I am set ag'in. 'Tis this quare stuff wid the little bits av black
leather in it. I misdoubt I will be distressin'ly sick wid it in the
mornin'. Fwhat is ut?"
"Goose liver," I said, climbing on the top of the carriage, for I knew
that it was better to sit out with Mulvaney than to dance many dances.
"Goose liver is ut?" said Mulvaney. "Faith, I'm thinkin' thim that makes
it wud do betther to cut up the Colonel. He carries a power av liver
undher his right arrum whin the days are warm an' the nights chill. He wud
give thim tons an' tons av liver. 'Tis he sez so. 'I'm all liver to-day,'
sez he; an' wid that he ordhers me ten days C.B. for as moild a dhrink as
iver a good sodger took betune his teeth."
"That was when 'e wanted for to wash 'isself in the Fort Ditch," Ortheris
explained. "Said there was too much beer in the Barrack water-butts for a
God-fearing man. You was lucky in gettin' orf with wot you did, Mulvaney."
"Say you so? Now I'm pershuaded I was cruel hard trated, seein' fwhat I've
done for the likes av him in the days whin my eyes were wider opin than
they are now. Man alive, for the Colonel to whip _me_ on the peg in that
way! Me that have saved the repitation av a ten times better man than him!
Twas ne-farious--an' that manes a power av evil!"
"Never mind the nefariousness," I said. "Whose reputation did you save?"
"More's the pity, 'twasn't my own, but I tuk more trouble wid ut than av
ut was. 'Twas just my way, messin' wid fwhat was no business av mine. Hear
now!" He settled himself at ease on the top of the carriage. "I'll tell
you all about ut. Av coorse I will name no names, for there's wan that's
an orf'cer's lady now, that was in ut, and no more will I name places, for
a man is thracked by a place."
"Eyah!" said Ortheris, lazily, "but this is a mixed story wot's comin'."
"Wanst upon a time, as the childer-books say, I was a recruity."
"Was you though?" said Ortheris; "now that's extryordinary!"
"Orth'ris," said Mulvaney, "av you opin thim lips av yours again, I will,
savin' your presince, sorr, take you by the slack av your trousers an'
"I'm mum," said Ortheris. "Wot 'appened when you was a recruity?"
"I was a betther recruity than you iver was or will be, but that's neither
here nor there. Thin I became a man, an' the divil of a man I was fifteen
years ago. They called me Buck Mulvaney in thim days, an', begad, I tuk a
woman's eye. I did that! Ortheris, ye scrub, fwhat are ye sniggerin' at?
Do you misdoubt me?"
"Devil a doubt!" said Ortheris; "but I've 'eard summat like that before!"
Mulvaney dismissed the impertinence with a lofty wave of his hand and
"An' the orf'cers av the rig'mint I was in in thim days _was_
orfcers--gran' men, wid a manner on 'em, an' a way wid 'em such as is not
made these days--all but wan--wan o' the capt'ns. A bad dhrill, a wake
voice, an' a limp leg--thim three things are the signs av a bad man. You
bear that in your mind, Orth'ris, me son.
"An' the Colonel av the rig'mint had a daughter--wan av thim lamblike,
bleatin', pick-me-up-an'-carry-me-or-I'll-die gurls such as was made for
the natural prey av men like the Capt'n, who was iverlastin' payin' coort
to her, though the Colonel he said time an' over, 'Kape out av the brute's
way, my dear.' But he niver had the heart for to send her away from the
throuble, bein' as he was a widower, an' she their wan child."
"Stop a minute, Mulvaney," said I; "how in the world did you come to know
"How did I come?" said Mulvaney, with a scornful grunt; "bekaze I'm turned
durin' the Quane's pleasure to a lump av wood, lookin' out straight
forninst me, wid a--a--candelabbrum in my hand, for you to pick your cards
out av, must I not see nor feel? Av coorse I du! Up my back, an' in my
boots, an' in the short hair av the neck--that's where I kape my eyes whim
I'm on duty an' the reg'lar wans are fixed. Know! Take my word for it,
sorr, ivrything an' a great dale more is known in a rig'mint; or fwhat wud
be the use av a Mess Sargint, or a Sargint's wife doin' wet-nurse to the
Major's baby? To reshume. He was a bad dhrill was this Capt'n--a rotten
bad dhrill--an' whin first I ran me eye over him, I sez to myself: 'My
Militia bantam!' I sez, 'My cock av a Gosport dunghill'--'twas from
Portsmouth he came to us--'there's combs to be cut,' sez I, 'an' by the
grace av God, 'tis Terence Mulvaney will cut thim.'
"So he wint menowderin', and minanderin', an' blandandhering roun' an'
about the Colonel's daughter, an' she, poor innocint, lookin' at him like
a Comm'ssariat bullock looks at the Comp'ny cook. He'd a dhirty little
scrub av a black moustache, an' he twisted an' turned ivry wurrd he used
as av he found ut too sweet for to spit out.
"Eyah! He was a tricky man an' a liar by natur'. Some are born so. He was
wan. I knew he was over his belt in money borrowed from natives; besides a
lot av other matthers which, in regard for your presince, sorr, I will
oblitherate. A little av fwhat I knew, the Colonel knew, for he wud have
none av him, an' that, I'm thinkin', by fwhat happened aftherward, the
"Wan day, bein' mortial idle, or they wud never ha' thried ut, the
rig'mint gave amsure theatricals--orf'cers an' orfcers' ladies. You've
seen the likes time an' again, sorr, an' poor fun 'tis for them that sit
in the back row an' stamp wid their boots for the honor av the rig'mint. I
was told off for to shif' the scenes, haulin' up this an' draggin' down
that. Light work ut was, wid lashins av beer and the gurl that dhressed
the orf'cers' ladies--but she died in Aggra twelve years gone, an' my
tongue's gettin' the betther av me. They was actin' a play thing called
_Sweethearts_, which you may ha' heard av, an' the Colonel's daughter she
was a lady's maid. The Capt'n was a boy called Broom--Spread Broom was his
name in the play. Thin I saw--ut come out in the actin'--fwhat I niver saw
before, an' that was that he was no gentleman. They was too much together,
thim two, a-whishperin' behind the scenes I shifted, an' some av what they
said I heard; for I was death--blue death an' ivy--on the comb-cuttin'. He
was iverlastin'ly oppressing her to fall in wid some sneakin' schame av
his, an' she was thryin' to stand out against him, but not as though she
was set in her will. I wonder now in thim days that my ears did not grow a
yard on me head wid list'nin'. But I looked straight forninst me an'
hauled up this an' dragged down that, such as was my duty, an' the
orf'cers' ladies sez one to another, thinkin' I was out av listen-reach:
'Fwhat an obligin' young man is this Corp'ril Mulvaney!' I was a Corp'ril
then. I was rejuced aftherward, but, no matther, I was a Corp'ril wanst.
"Well, this _Sweethearts'_ business wint on like most amshure theatricals,
an' barrin' fwhat I suspicioned, 'twasn't till the dhress-rehearsal that I
saw for certain that thim two--he the blackguard, an' she no wiser than
she should ha' been--had put up an evasion."
"A what?" said I.
"E-vasion! Fwhat you call an elopemint. E-vasion I calls it, bekaze,
exceptin' whin 'tis right an' natural an' proper, 'tis wrong an' dhirty to
steal a man's wan child, she not knowin' her own mind. There was a Sargint
in the Comm'ssariat who set my face upon e-vasions. I'll tell you about
"Stick to the bloomin' Captains, Mulvaney," said Ortheris; "Comm'ssariat
Sargints is low."
Mulvaney accepted the amendment and went on:--
"Now I knew that the Colonel was no fool, any more than me, for I was hild
the smartest man in the rig'mint, an' the Colonel was the best orf'cer
commandin' in Asia; so fwhat he said an' _I_ said was a mortial truth. We
knew that the Capt'n was bad, but, for reasons which I have already
oblitherated, I knew more than me Colonel. I wud ha' rolled out his face
wid the butt av my gun before permittin' av him to steal the gurl. Saints
knew av he wud ha' married her, and av he didn't she wud be in great
tormint, an' the divil av a 'scandal.' But I niver sthruck, niver raised
me hand on my shuperior orf'cer; an' that was a merricle now I come to
"Mulvaney, the dawn's risin'," said Ortheris, "an' we're no nearer 'ome
than we was at the beginnin'. Lend me your pouch. Mine's all dust."
Mulvaney pitched his pouch over, and filled his pipe afresh.
"So the dhress-rehearsal came to an end, an', bekaze I was curious, I
stayed behind whin the scene-shiftin' was ended, an' I shud ha' been in
barricks, lyin' as flat as a toad under a painted cottage thing. They was
talkin' in whispers, an' she was shiverin' an' gaspin' like a fresh-hukked
fish. 'Are you sure you've got the hang av the manewvers?' sez he, or
wurrds to that effec', as the coort-martial sez. 'Sure as death,' sez she,
'but I misdoubt 'tis cruel hard on my father.' 'Damn your father,' sez he,
or anyways 'twas fwhat he thought, 'the arrangement is as clear as mud.
Jungi will drive the carri'ge afther all's over, an' you come to the
station, cool an' aisy, in time for the two o'clock thrain, where I'll be
wid your kit.' 'Faith,' thinks I to myself, 'thin there's a ayah in the
"A powerful bad thing is a ayah. Don't you niver have any thruck wid wan.
Thin he began sootherin' her, an' all the orfcers an' orfcers' ladies
left, an' they put out the lights. To explain the theory av the flight, as
they say at Muskthry, you must understand that afther this _Sweethearts'_
nonsinse was ended, there was another little bit av a play called
_Couples_--some kind av couple or another. The gurl was actin' in this,
but not the man. I suspicioned he'd go to the station wid the gurl's kit
at the end av the first piece. Twas the kit that flusthered me, for I knew
for a Capt'n to go trapesing about the impire wid the Lord knew what av a
_truso_ on his arrum was nefarious, an' wud be worse than easin' the flag,
so far as the talk aftherward wint."
'"Old on, Mulvaney. Wot's _truso_?" said Ortheris.
"You're an oncivilized man, me son. Whin a gurl's married, all her kit an'
'coutrements are _truso_, which manes weddin'-portion. An' 'tis the same
whin she's runnin' away, even wid the biggest blackguard on the Arrmy
"So I made my plan av campaign. The Colonel's house was a good two miles
away. 'Dennis,' sez I to my color-sargint, 'av you love me lend me your
kyart, for me heart is bruk an' me feet is sore wid trampin' to and from
this foolishness at the Gaff.' An' Dennis lent ut, wid a rampin', stampin'
red stallion in the shafts. Whin they was all settled down to their
_Sweethearts_ for the first scene, which was a long wan, I slips outside
and into the kyart. Mother av Hivin! but I made that horse walk, an' we
came into the Colonel's compound as the divil wint through Athlone--in
standin' leps. There was no one there excipt the sarvints, an' I wint
round to the back an' found the girl's ayah.
"'Ye black brazen Jezebel,' sez I, 'sellin' your masther's honor for five
rupees--pack up all the Miss Sahib's kit an' look slippy! _Capt'n Sahib's_
order,' sez I, 'Going to the station we are,' I sez, an' wid that I laid
my finger to my nose an' looked the schamin' sinner I was.
"'_Bote acchy,_' says she; so I knew she was in the business, an' I piled
up all the sweet talk I'd iver learned in the bazars on to this
she-bullock, an' prayed av her to put all the quick she knew into the
thing. While she packed, I stud outside an' sweated, for I was wanted for
to shif' the second scene. I tell you, a young gurl's e-vasion manes as
much baggage as a rig'mint on the line av march! 'Saints help Dennis's
springs,' thinks I, as I bundled the stuff into the thrap, 'for I'll have
"'I'm comin' too,' says the ayah.
"'No, you don't,' sez I, 'later--_pechy_! You _baito_ where you are. I'll
_pechy_ come an' bring you _sart_, along with me, you maraudin''--niver
mind fwhat I called her.
"Thin I wint for the Gaff, an' by the special ordher av Providence, for I
was doin' a good work you will ondersthand, Dennis's springs hild toight.
'Now, whin the Capt'n goes for that kit,' thinks I, 'he'll be throubled.'
At the end av _Sweethearts_ off the Capt'n runs in his kyart to the
Colonel's house, an' I sits down on the steps and laughs. Wanst an' again
I slipped in to see how the little piece was goin', an' whin ut was near
endin' I stepped out all among the carriages an' sings out very softly,
'Jungi!' Wid that a carr'ge began to move, an' I waved to the dhriver.
'_Hitherao!_' sez I, an' he _hitheraoed_ till I judged he was at proper
distance, an' thin I tuk him, fair an' square betune the eyes, all I knew
for good or bad, an' he dhropped wid a guggle like the canteen beer-engine
whin ut's runnin' low, Thin I ran to the kyart an' tuk out all the kit an'
piled it into the carr'ge, the sweat runnin' down my face in dhrops, 'Go
home,' sez I, to the _sais;_ 'you'll find a man close here. Very sick he
is. Take him away, an' av you iver say wan wurrd about fwhat you've
_dekkoed,_ I'll _marrow_ you till your own wife won't _sumjao_ who you
are!' Thin I heard the stampin' av feet at the ind av the play, an' I ran
in to let down the curtain. Whin they all came out the gurl thried to hide
herself behind wan av the pillars, an' sez 'Jungi' in a voice that
wouldn't ha' scared a hare. I run over to Jungi's carr'ge an' tuk up the
lousy old horse-blanket on the box, wrapped my head an' the rest av me in
ut, an' dhrove up to where she was.
"'Miss Sahib,' sez I; 'going to the station? _Captain Sahib's_ order!' an'
widout a sign she jumped in all among her own kit.
"I laid to an' dhruv like steam to the Colonel's house before the Colonel
was there, an' she screamed an' I thought she was goin' off. Out comes the
ayah, saying all sorts av things about the Capt'n havin' come for the kit
an' gone to the station.
"'Take out the luggage, you divil,' sez I, 'or I'll murther you!'
"The lights av the thraps people comin' from the Gaff was showin' across
the parade ground, an', by this an' that, the way thim two women worked at
the bundles an' thrunks was a caution! I was dyin' to help, but, seein' I
didn't want to be known, I sat wid the blanket roun' me an' coughed an'
thanked the Saints there was no moon that night.
"Whin all was in the house again, I niver asked for _bukshish_ but dhruv
tremenjus in the opp'site way from the other carr'ge an' put out my
lights. Presintly, I saw a naygur-man wallowin' in the road. I slipped
down before I got to him, for I suspicioned Providence was wid me all
through that night. 'Twas Jungi, his nose smashed in flat, all dumb sick
as you please. Dennis's man must have tilted him out av the thrap. Whin he
came to, 'Hutt!' sez I, but he began to howl.
"'You black lump av dirt,' I sez, 'is this the way you dhrive your
_gharri_? That _tikka_ has been _owin'_ an' _fere-owin'_ all over the
bloomin' country this whole bloomin' night, an' you as _mut-walla_ as
Davey's sow. Get up, you hog!' sez I, louder, for I heard the wheels av a
thrap in the dark; 'get up an' light your lamps, or you'll be run into!'
This was on the road to the Railway Station.
"'Fwhat the divil's this?' sez the Capt'n's voice in the dhark, an' I
could judge he was in a lather av rage.
"'_Gharri_ dhriver here, dhrunk, sorr,' sez I; 'I've found his _gharri_
sthrayin' about cantonmints, an' now I've found him.'
"'Oh!' sez the Capt'n; 'fwhat's his name?' I stooped down an' pretended to
"'He sez his name's Jungi, sorr,' sez I.
"'Hould my harse,' sez the Capt'n to his man, an' wid that he gets down
wid the whip an' lays into Jungi, just mad wid rage an' swearin' like the
scutt he was.
"I thought, afther a while, he wud kill the man, so I sez:--'Stop, sorr,
or you'll murdher him!' That dhrew all his fire on me, an' he cursed me
into Blazes, an' out again. I stud to attenshin an' saluted:--'Sorr,' sez
I, 'av ivry man in this wurruld had his rights, I'm thinkin' that more
than wan wud be beaten to a jelly for this night's work--that niver came
off at all, sorr, as you see?' 'Now,' thinks I to myself, 'Terence
Mulvaney, you've cut your own throat, for he'll sthrike, an' you'll knock
him down for the good av his sowl an' your own iverlastin' dishgrace!'
"But the Capt'n never said a single wurrd. He choked where he stud, an'
thin he went into his thrap widout sayin' good-night, an' I wint back to
"And then?" said Ortheris and I together.
"That was all," said Mulvaney, "niver another word did I hear av the whole
thing. All I know was that there was no e-vasion, an' that was fwhat I
wanted. Now, I put ut to you, sorr, Is ten days' C.B. a fit an' a proper
tratement for a man who has behaved as me?"
"Well, any'ow," said Ortheris, "tweren't this 'ere Colonel's daughter, an'
you _was_ blazin' copped when you tried to wash in the Fort Ditch."
"That," said Mulvaney, finishing the champagne, "is a shuparfluous an'
THE DAUGHTER OF THE REGIMENT
Jain 'Ardin' was a Sarjint's wife,
A Sarjint's wife wus she,
She married of 'im in Orldershort
An' comed across the sea.
'Ave you never 'eard tell o' Jain 'Ardin'?
'Ave you never 'eard tell o' Jain 'Ardin'?
The pride o' the Companee?
_Old Barrack Room Ballad._
"A gentleman who doesn't know the Circasian Circle ought not to stand up
for it--puttin' everybody out." That was what Miss McKenna said, and the
Sergeant who was my _vis-a-vis_ looked the same thing. I was afraid of
Miss McKenna. She was six feet high, all yellow freckles and red hair, and
was simply clad in white satin shoes, a pink muslin dress, an apple-green
stuff sash, and black silk gloves, with yellow roses in her hair.
Wherefore I fled from Miss McKenna and sought my friend Private Mulvaney,
who was at the cant--refreshment-table.
"So you've been dancin' with little Jhansi McKenna, sorr--she that's goin'
to marry Corp'ril Slane? Whin you next conversh wid your lorruds an' your
ladies, tell thim you've danced wid little Jhansi. 'Tis a thing to be
But I wasn't proud. I was humble. I saw a story in Private Mulvaney's eye;
and besides, if he stayed too long at the bar, he would, I knew, qualify
for more pack-drill. Now to meet an esteemed friend doing pack-drill
outside the guardroom is embarrassing, especially if you happen to be
walking with his Commanding Officer.
"Come on to the parade-ground, Mulvaney, it's cooler there, and tell me
about Miss McKenna. What is she, and who is she, and why is she called
"D'ye mane to say you've niver heard av Ould Pummeloe's daughter? An' you
thinkin' you know things! I'm wid ye in a minut whin me poipe's lit."
We came out under the stars. Mulvaney sat down on one of the artillery
bridges, and began in the usual way: his pipe between his teeth, his big
hands clasped and dropped between his knees, and his cap well on the back
of his head--
"Whin Mrs. Mulvaney, that is, was Miss Shadd that was, you were a dale
younger than you are now, an' the Army was dif'rint in sev'ril e-senshuls.
Bhoys have no call for to marry nowadays, an' that's why the Army has so
few rale good, honust, swearin', strapagin', tinder-hearted, heavy-futted
wives as ut used to have whin I was a Corp'ril. I was rejuced
aftherward--but no matther--I was a Corp'ril wanst. In thim times, a man
lived _an'_ died wid his regiment; an' by natur', he married whin he was a
_man_. Whin I was Corp'ril--Mother av Hivin, how the rigimint has died an'
been borrun since that day!--my Color-Sar'jint was Ould McKenna--an' a
married man tu. An' his woife--his first woife, for he married three times
did McKenna--was Bridget McKenna, from Portarlington, like mesilf. I've
misremembered fwhat her first name was; but in B Comp'ny we called her
'Ould Pummeloe,' by reason av her figure, which was entirely
cir-cum-fe-renshill. Like the big dhrum! Now that woman--God rock her sowl
to rest in glory!--was for everlastin' havin' childher; an' McKenna, whin
the fifth or sixth come squallin' on to the musther-roll, swore he wud
number thim off in future. But Ould Pummeloe she prayed av him to christen
them after the names av the stations they was borrun in. So there was
Colaba McKenna, an' Muttra McKenna, an' a whole Presidincy av other
McKennas, an' little Jhansi, dancin' over yonder. Whin the childher wasn't
bornin', they was dying; for, av our childher die like sheep in these
days, they died like flies thin, I lost me own little Shadd--but no
matther. 'Tis long ago, and Mrs. Mulvaney niver had another.
"I'm digresshin. Wan divil's hot summer, there come an order from some mad
ijjit, whose name I misremember, for the rigimint to go up-country. Maybe
they wanted to know how the new rail carried throops. They knew! On me
sowl, they knew before they was done! Old Pummeloe had just buried Muttra
McKenna; an', the season bein' onwholesim, only little Jhansi McKenna, who
was four year ould thin, was left on hand.
"Five children gone in fourteen months. 'Twas harrd, wasn't ut?
"So we wint up to our new station in that blazin' heat--may the curse av
Saint Lawrence conshume the man who gave the ordher! Will I iver forget
that move? They gave us two wake thrains to the rigimint; an' we was eight
hundher' and sivinty strong. There was A, B, C, an' D Companies in the
secon' thrain, wid twelve women, no orficers' ladies, an' thirteen
childher. We was to go six hundher' miles, an' railways was new in thim
days. Whin we had been a night in the belly av the thrain--the men ragin'
in their shirts an' dhrinkin' anything they cud find, an' eatin' bad
fruit-stuff whin they cud, for we cudn't stop 'em--I was a Corp'ril
thin--the cholera bruk out wid the dawnin' av the day.
"Pray to the Saints, you may niver see cholera in a throop-thrain! 'Tis
like the judgmint av God hittin' down from the nakid sky! We run into a
rest-camp--as ut might have been Ludianny, but not by any means so
comfortable. The Orficer Commandin' sent a telegrapt up the line, three
hundher' mile up, askin' for help. Faith, we wanted ut, for ivry sowl av
the followers ran for the dear life as soon as the thrain stopped; an' by
the time that telegrapt was writ, there wasn't a naygur in the station
exceptin' the telegrapt-clerk--an' he only bekaze he was held down to his
chair by the scruff av his sneakin' black neck. Thin the day began wid the
noise in the carr'ges, an' the rattle av the men on the platform fallin'
over, arms an' all, as they stud for to answer the Comp'ny muster-roll
before goin' over to the camp. 'Tisn't for me to say what like the cholera
was like. Maybe the Doctor cud ha' tould, av he hadn't dropped on to the
platform from the door av a carriage where we was takin' out the dead. He
died wid the rest. Some bhoys had died in the night. We tuk out siven, and
twenty more was sickenin' as we tuk thim. The women was huddled up
anyways, screamin' wid fear.
"Sez the Commandin' Orficer whose name I misremember, 'Take the women over
to that tope av trees yonder. Get thim out av the camp. 'Tis no place for
"Ould Pummeloe was sittin' on her beddin'-rowl, thryin' to kape little
Jhansi quiet. 'Go off to that tope!' sez the Orficer. 'Go out av the men's
"'Be damned av I do!' sez Ould Pummeloe, an' little Jhansi, squattin' by
her mother's side, squeaks out, 'Be damned av I do,' tu. Thin Ould
Pummeloe turns to the women an' she sez, 'Are ye goin' to let the bhoys
die while you're picnickin', ye sluts?' sez she. 'Tis wather they want.
Come on an' help.'
"Wid that, she turns up her sleeves an' steps out for a well behind the
rest-camp--little Jhansi trottin' behind wid a _lotah_ an' string, an' the
other women followin' like lambs, wid horse-buckets and cookin' pots. Whin
all the things was full, Ould Pummeloe marches back into camp--'twas like
a battlefield wid all the glory missin'--at the hid av the rigimint av
"'McKenna, me man!' she sez, wid a voice on her like grand-roun's
challenge, 'tell the bhoys to be quiet. Ould Pummeloe's comin' to look
afther thim--wid free dhrinks.'
"Thin we cheered, an' the cheerin' in the lines was louder than the noise
av the poor divils wid the sickness on thim. But not much.
"You see, we was a new an' raw rigimint in those days, an' we cud make
neither head nor tail av the sickness; an' so we was useless. The men was
goin' roun' an' about like dumb sheep, waitin' for the nex' man to fall
over, an' sayin' undher their spache, 'Fwhat is ut? In the name av God,
_fwhat_ is ut?' 'Twas horrible. But through ut all, up an' down, an' down
an' up, wint Ould Pummeloe an' little Jhansi--all we cud see av the baby,
undher a dead man's helmut wid the chin-strap swingin' about her little
stummick--up an' down wid the wather an' fwhat brandy there was.
"Now an' thin Ould Pummeloe, the tears runnin' down her fat, red face,
sez, 'Me bhoys, me poor, dead, darlin' bhoys!' But, for the most, she was
thryin' to put heart into the men an' kape thim stiddy; and little Jhansi
was tellin' thim all they wud be 'betther in the mornin'.' 'Twas a thrick
she'd picked up from hearin' Ould Pummeloe whin Muttra was burnin' out wid
fever. In the mornin'! 'Twas the iverlastin' mornin' at St. Pether's Gate
was the mornin' for seven-an'-twenty good men; and twenty more was sick to
the death in that bitter, burnin' sun. But the women worked like angils as
I've said, an' the men like divils, till two doctors come down from above,
and we was rescued.
"But, just before that, Ould Pummeloe, on her knees over a bhoy in my
squad--right-cot man to me he was in the barrick--tellin' him the worrud
av the Church that niver failed a man yet, sez, 'Hould me up, bhoys! I'm
feelin' bloody sick!' 'Twas the sun, not the cholera, did ut. She
mis-remembered she was only wearin' her ould black bonnet, an' she died
wid 'McKenna, me man,' houldin' her up, an' the bhoys howled whin they
"That night, a big wind blew, an' blew, an' blew, an' blew the tents flat.
But it blew the cholera away an' niver another case there was all the
while we was waitin'--ten days in quarintin'. Av you will belave me, the
thrack av the sickness in the camp was for all the wurruld the thrack av a
man walkin' four times in a figur-av-eight through the tents. They say
'tis the Wandherin' Jew takes the cholera wid him. I believe ut.
"An' _that_," said Mulvaney, illogically, "is the cause why little Jhansi
McKenna is fwhat she is. She was brought up by the Quartermaster
Sergeant's wife whin McKenna died, but she b'longs to B Comp'ny; and this
tale I'm tellin' you-_wid_ a proper appreciashin av Jhansi McKenna--I've
belted into ivry recruity av the Comp'ny as he was drafted. 'Faith, 'twas
me belted Corp'ril Slane into askin' the girl!"
"Man, I did! She's no beauty to look at, but she's Ould Pummeloe's
daughter, an' 'tis my juty to provide for her. Just before Slane got his
promotion I sez to him, 'Slane,' sez I, 'to-morrow 'twill be
insubordinashin av me to chastise you; but, by the sowl av Ould Pummeloe,
who is now in glory, av you don't give me your wurrud to ask Jhansi
McKenna at wanst, I'll peel the flesh off yer bones wid a brass huk
to-night, 'Tis a dishgrace to B Comp'ny she's been single so long!' sez I.
Was I goin' to let a three-year-ould preshume to discoorse wid me--my will
bein' set? No! Slane wint an' asked her. He's a good bhoy is Slane. Wan av
these days he'll get into the Com'ssariat an' dhrive a buggy wid
his--savin's. So I provided for Ould Pummeloe's daughter; an' now you go
along an' dance agin wid her."
And I did.
I felt a respect for Miss Jhansi McKenna; and I went to her wedding later
Perhaps I will tell you about that one of these days.
THE MADNESS OF PRIVATE ORTHERIS
Oh! Where would I be when my froat was dry?
Oh! Where would I be when the bullets fly?
Oh! Where would I be when I come to die?
Somewheres anigh my chum.
If 'e's liquor 'e'll give me some,
If I'm dyin' 'e'll 'old my 'ead,
An' 'e'll write 'em 'Ome when I'm dead.--
Gawd send us a trusty chum!
_Barrack Room Ballad._
My friends Mulvaney and Ortheris had gone on a shooting-expedition for one
day. Learoyd was still in hospital, recovering from fever picked up in
Burma. They sent me an invitation to join them, and were genuinely pained
when I brought beer--almost enough beer to satisfy two Privates of the
Line ... and Me.
"'Twasn't for that we bid you welkim, sorr," said Mulvaney, sulkily. "Twas
for the pleasure av your comp'ny."
Ortheris came to the rescue with--"Well, 'e won't be none the worse for
bringin' liquor with 'im. We ain't a file o' Dooks. We're bloomin'
Tommies, ye cantankris Hirishman; an' 'eres your very good 'ealth!"
We shot all the forenoon, and killed two pariah-dogs, four green parrots,
sitting, one kite by the burning-ghaut, one snake flying, one mud-turtle,
and eight crows. Game was plentiful. Then we sat down to
tiffin--"bull-mate an' bran-bread," Mulvaney called it--by the side of the
river, and took pot shots at the crocodiles in the intervals of cutting up
the food with our only pocket-knife. Then we drank up all the beer, and
threw the bottles into the water and fired at them. After that, we eased
belts and stretched ourselves on the warm sand and smoked. We were too
lazy to continue shooting.
Ortheris heaved a big sigh, as he lay on his stomach with his head between
his fists. Then he swore quietly into the blue sky.
"Fwhat's that for?" said Mulvaney, "Have ye not drunk enough?"
"Tott'nim Court Road, an' a gal I fancied there. Wot's the good of
"Orth'ris, me son," said Mulvaney, hastily, "'tis more than likely you've
got throuble in your inside wid the beer. I feel that way mesilf whin my
liver gets rusty."
Ortheris went on slowly, not heeding the interruption--
"I'm a Tommy--a bloomin', eight-anna, dog-stealin' Tommy, with a number
instead of a decent name. Wot's the good o' me? If I 'ad a stayed at 'Ome,
I might a married that gal and a kep' a little shorp in the 'Ammersmith
'Igh.--'S. Orth'ris, Prac-ti-cal Taxi-der-mist.' With a stuff' fox, like
they 'as in the Haylesbury Dairies, in the winder, an' a little case of
blue and yaller glass-heyes, an' a little wife to call 'shorp!' 'shorp!'
when the door-bell rung. As it _his_, I'm on'y a Tommy--a Bloomin',
Gawd-forsaken, Beer-swillin' Tommy. 'Rest on your harms--_'versed_, Stan'
at--_hease; 'Shun_. 'Verse--_harms_. Right an' lef--_tarrn_.
Slow--_march_. 'Alt--_front_. Rest on your harms--_'versed_. With
blank-cartridge--_load_.' An' that's the end o' me." He was quoting
fragments from Funeral Parties' Orders.
"Stop ut!" shouted Mulvaney. "Whin you've fired into nothin' as often as
me, over a better man than yoursilf, you will not make a mock av thim
orders. 'Tis worse than whistlin' the _Dead March_ in barricks. An' you
full as a tick, an' the sun cool, an' all an' all! I take shame for you.
You're no better than a Pagin--you an' your firin'-parties an' your
glass-eyes. Won't _you_ stop ut, sorr?"
What could I do? Could I tell Ortheris anything that he did not know of
the pleasures of his life? I was not a Chaplain nor a Subaltern, and
Ortheris had a right to speak as he thought fit.
"Let him run, Mulvaney," I said. "It's the beer."
"'No! 'Tisn't the beer," said Mulvaney. "I know fwhat's comin'. He's tuk
this way now an' agin, an' it's bad--it's bad--for I'm fond av the bhoy."
Indeed, Mulvaney seemed needlessly anxious; but I knew that he looked
after Ortheris in a fatherly way.
"Let me talk, let me talk," said Ortheris, dreamily. "D'you stop your
parrit screamin' of a 'ot day, when the cage is a-cookin' 'is pore little
pink toes orf, Mulvaney?"
"Pink toes! D'ye mane to say you've pink toes undher your bullswools, ye
blandanderin',"--Mulvaney gathered himself together for a terrific
denunciation--"school-misthress! Pink toes! How much Bass wid the label
did that ravin' child dhrink?"
"'Tain't Bass," said Ortheris, "It's a bitterer beer nor that. It's
"Hark to him! An' he goin' Home in the _Sherapis_ in the inside av four
"I don't care. It's all one to me. 'Ow d'you know I ain't 'fraid o' dyin'
'fore I gets my discharge paipers?" He recommenced, in a sing-song voice,
I had never seen this side of Ortheris' character before, but evidently
Mulvaney had, and attached serious importance to it. While Ortheris
babbled, with his head on his arms, Mulvaney whispered to me--
"He's always tuk this way whin he's been checked overmuch by the childher
they make Sarjints nowadays. That an' havin' nothin' to do. I can't make
ut out anyways."
"Well, what does it matter? Let him talk himself through."
Ortheris began singing a parody of "The Ramrod Corps," full of cheerful
allusions to battle, murder, and sudden death. He looked out across the
river as he sang; and his face was quite strange to me. Mulvaney caught me
by the elbow to ensure attention.
"Matther? It matthers everything! 'Tis some sort av fit that's on him.
I've seen ut. 'Twill hould him all this night, an' in the middle av it
he'll get out av his cot an' go rakin' in the rack for his 'coutremints.
Thin he'll come over to me an' say, 'I'm goin' to Bombay. Answer for me in
the mornin'.' Thin me an' him will fight as we've done before--him to go
an' me to hould him--an' so we'll both come on the books for disturbin' in
barricks. I've belted him, an' I've bruk his head, an' I've talked to him,
but 'tis no manner av use whin the fit's on him. He's as good a bhoy as
ever stepped whin his mind's clear. I know fwhat's comin', though, this
night in barricks. Lord send he doesn't loose on me whin I rise to knock
him down. 'Tis that that's in my mind day an' night."
This put the case in a much less pleasant light, and fully accounted for
Mulvaney's anxiety. He seemed to be trying to coax Ortheris out of the
fit; for he shouted down the bank where the boy was lying--
"Listen now, you wid the 'pore pink toes' an' the glass eyes! Did you
shwim the Irriwaddy at night, behin' me, as a bhoy shud; or were you
hidin' under a bed, as you was at Ahmid Kheyl?"
This was at once a gross insult and a direct lie, and Mulvaney meant it to
bring on a fight. But Ortheris seemed shut up in some sort of trance. He
answered slowly, without a sign of irritation, in the same cadenced voice
as he had used for his firing-party orders--
"_Hi_ swum the Irriwaddy in the night, as you know, for to take the town
of Lungtungpen, nakid an' without fear. _Hand_ where I was at Ahmed Kheyl
you know, and four bloomin' Pathans know too. But that was summat to do,
an' didn't think o' dyin'. Now I'm sick to go 'Ome--go 'Ome--go 'Ome! No,
I ain't mammy-sick, because my uncle brung me up, but I'm sick for London
again; sick for the sounds of 'er, an' the sights of 'er, and the stinks
of 'er; orange peel and hasphalte an' gas comin' in over Vaux'all Bridge.
Sick for the rail goin' down to Box'Ill, with your gal on your knee an' a
new clay pipe in your face. That, an' the Stran' lights where you knows
ev'ry one, an' the Copper that takes you up is a old friend that tuk you
up before, when you was a little, smitchy boy lying loose 'tween the
Temple an' the Dark Harches. No bloomin' guard-mountin', no bloomin'
rotten-stone, nor khaki, an' yourself your own master with a gal to take
an' see the Humaners practicin' a-hookin' dead corpses out of the
Serpentine o' Sundays. An' I lef' all that for to serve the Widder beyond
the seas, where there ain't no women and there ain't no liquor worth
'avin', and there ain't nothin' to see, nor do, nor say, nor feel, nor
think. Lord love you, Stanley Orth'ris, but you're a bigger bloomin' fool
than the rest o' the reg'ment and Mulvaney wired together! There's the
Widder sittin' at 'Ome with a gold crownd on 'er 'ead; and 'ere am Hi,
Stanley Orth'ris, the Widder's property, a rottin' FOOL!"
His voice rose at the end of the sentence, and he wound up with a six-shot
Anglo-Vernacular oath. Mulvaney said nothing, but looked at me as if he
expected that I could bring peace to poor Ortheris' troubled brain.
I remembered once at Rawal Pindi having seen a man, nearly mad with drink,
sobered by being made a fool of. Some regiments may know what I mean. I
hoped that we might slake off Ortheris in the same way, though he was
perfectly sober. So I said--
"What's the use of grousing there, and speaking against The Widow?"
"I didn't!" said Ortheris, "S'elp me, Gawd, I never said a word agin 'er,
an' I wouldn't--not if I was to desert this minute!"
Here was my opening. "Well, you meant to, anyhow. What's the use of
cracking-on for nothing? Would you slip it now if you got the chance?"
"On'y try me!" said Ortheris, jumping to his feet as if he had been stung.
Mulvaney jumped too. "Fwhat are you going to do?" said he.
"Help Ortheris down to Bombay or Karachi, whichever he likes. You can
report that he separated from you before tiffin, and left his gun on the
"I'm to report that--am I?" said Mulvaney, slowly. "Very well. If Orth'ris
manes to desert now, and will desert now, an' you, sorr, who have been a
frind to me an' to him, will help him to ut, I, Terence Mulvaney, on my
oath which I've never bruk yet, will report as you say, But"--here he
stepped up to Ortheris, and shook the stock of the fowling-piece in his
face--"your fists help you, Stanley Orth'ris, if ever I come across you
"I don't care!" said Ortheris. "I'm sick o' this dorg's life. Give me a
chanst. Don't play with me. Le' me go!"
"Strip," said I, "and change with me, and then I'll tell you what to do."
I hoped that the absurdity of this would check Ortheris; but he had kicked
off his ammunition-boots and got rid of his tunic almost before I had
loosed my shirt-collar. Mulvaney gripped me by the arm--
"The fit's on him: the fit's workin' on him still! By my Honor and Sowl,
we shall be accessiry to a desartion yet. Only, twenty-eight days, as you
say, sorr, or fifty-six, but think o' the shame--the black shame to him
an' me!" I had never seen Mulvaney so excited.
But Ortheris was quite calm, and, as soon as he had exchanged clothes with
me, and I stood up a Private of the Line, he said shortly, "Now! Come on.
What nex'? D'ye mean fair. What must I do to get out o' this 'ere a-Hell?"
I told him that, if he would wait for two or three hours near the river, I
would ride into the Station and come back with one hundred rupees. He
would, with that money in his pocket, walk to the nearest side-station on
the line, about five miles away, and would there take a first-class ticket
for Karachi. Knowing that he had no money on him when he went out
shooting, his regiment would not immediately wire to the seaports, but
would hunt for him in the native villages near the river. Further, no one
would think of seeking a deserter in a first-class carriage. At Karachi,
he was to buy white clothes and ship, if he could, on a cargo-steamer.
Here he broke in. If I helped him to Karachi, he would arrange all the
rest. Then I ordered him to wait where he was until it was dark enough for
me to ride into the station without my dress being noticed. Now God in His
wisdom has made the heart of the British Soldier, who is very often an
unlicked ruffian, as soft as the heart of a little child, in order that he
may believe in and follow his officers into tight and nasty places. He
does not so readily come to believe in a "civilian," but, when he does, he
believes implicitly and like a dog. I had had the honor of the friendship
of Private Ortheris, at intervals, for more than three years, and we had
dealt with each other as man by man, Consequently, he considered that all
my words were true, and not spoken lightly.
Mulvaney and I left him in the high grass near the river-bank, and went
away, still keeping to the high grass, toward my horse. The shirt
scratched me horribly.
We waited nearly two hours for the dusk to fall and allow me to ride off.
We spoke of Ortheris in whispers, and strained our ears to catch any sound
from the spot where we had left him. But we heard nothing except the wind
in the plume-grass.
"I've bruk his head," said Mulvaney, earnestly, "time an' agin. I've
nearly kilt him wid the belt, an' _yet_ I can't knock thim fits out av his
soft head. No! An' he's not soft, for he's reasonable an' likely by
natur'. Fwhat is ut? Is ut his breedin' which is nothin', or his edukashin
which he niver got? You that think ye know things, answer me that."
But I found no answer. I was wondering how long Ortheris, in the bank of
the river, would hold out, and whether I should be forced to help him to
desert, as I had given my word.
Just as the dusk shut down and, with a very heavy heart, I was beginning
to saddle up my horse, we heard wild shouts from the river.
The devils had departed from Private Stanley Ortheris, No. 22639, B
Company. The loneliness, the dusk, and the waiting had driven them out as
I had hoped. We set off at the double and found him plunging about wildly
through the grass, with his coat off--my coat off, I mean. He was calling
for us like a madman.
When we reached him he was dripping with perspiration, and trembling like
a startled horse. We had great difficulty in soothing him. He complained
that he was in civilian kit, and wanted to tear my clothes off his body. I
ordered him to strip, and we made a second exchange as quickly as
The rasp of his own "greyback" shirt and the squeak of his boots seemed to
bring him to himself. He put his hands before his eyes and said--
"Wot was it? I ain't mad, I ain't sunstrook, an' I've bin an' gone an'
said, an' bin an' gone an' done.... _Wot_ 'ave I bin an' done!"
"Fwhat have you done?" said Mulvaney. "You've dishgraced yourself--though
that's no matter. You've dishgraced B Comp'ny, an' worst av all, you've
dishgraced _Me!_ Me that taught you how for to walk abroad like a
man--whin you was a dhirty little, fish-backed little, whimperin' little
recruity. As you are now, Stanley Orth'ris!"
Ortheris said nothing for a while, Then he unslung his belt, heavy with
the badges of half a dozen regiments that his own had lain with, and
handed it over to Mulvaney.
"I'm too little for to mill you, Mulvaney," he, "an' you've strook me
before; but you can take an' cut me in two with this 'ere if you like."
Mulvaney turned to me.
"Lave me to talk to him, sorr," said Mulvaney.
I left, and on my way home thought a good deal over Ortheris in
particular, and my friend Private Thomas Atkins whom I love, in general.
But I could not come to any conclusion of any kind whatever.
And they were stronger hands than mine
That digged the Ruby from the earth--
More cunning brains that made it worth
The large desire of a King;
And bolder hearts that through the brine
Went down the Perfect Pearl to bring.
Lo, I have wrought in common clay
Rude figures of a rough-hewn race;
For Pearls strew not the market-place
In this my town of banishment,
Where with the shifting dust I play
And eat the bread of Discontent.
Yet is there life in that I make,--
Oh, Thou who knowest, turn and see.
As Thou hast power over me,
So have I power over these,
Because I wrought them for Thy sake,
And breathe in them mine agonies.
Small mirth was in the making. Now
I lift the cloth that cloaks the clay,
And, wearied, at Thy feet I lay
My wares ere I go forth to sell.
The long bazar will praise--but Thou--
Heart of my heart, have I done well?
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