Imágenes de páginas

The curio man wanted ten off idea of giving a hint on the me, and I paid it like a bird, quiet to anybody likely to be Then you can fancy I studied concerned. It would interpret the flags the Roebuck flew closely itself to the finder of the boat, enough. Araby had said the or to Araby if he was alive. figures was on the house-flag, I was so eager in my thought and it was plain to see that I drank up the Yank's coffee there had been writing in ink as well as my own without on that flag and on both sides thinking. When he laughed as Araby said. But it was clean and called me some silly shortfaded off—just bits of yellow cut name, I said, “The man's and smudge left.

name's Pramaster.' “I felt proper hoaxed. Be

“'No,' says he, you're sides, it gave me a kind of turn wrong, it isn't; it’s Gabbis, for every time I looked at this ship, I've been there twice.' so I put it away in the bottom Then I got a description of of a box of properties I use for the man from him, and I was another turn I seldom do— quite fixed in my idea that it Hawaian with ukelele. It hap- was Pramaster, whatever he pened quite by chance that I chose to call himself. But I was talking to a man in the couldn't help smiling at the tinned pineapple trade. He notion of his swank creating was a Yank, but a great one himself captain. Two days for going about to seaside after I made a special trip resorts in this country, and I down to Perifordyce with my

telling him about my bottled Roebuck and my roarer, roarer, and how I had my bills and as soon as I clapped eyes worded, and we started in on on him I knew I was right. the subject of advertising, and I thought he'd have known me he told me that he considered in spite of the long time that one of the most wonderful ad- had gone by and in spite of vertising catches of all his ex- my moustache, which I didn't perience in publicity was a use to wear. It comes of being riddle signboard at Perifordyce. a born actor that I didn't beThat's how I got to hear of the have a little nervous or foolish bottled Roebuck. Well, I put in front of him. But I was cool two and two together like as a garden of cucumbers, and lightning, and made Pramaster. I looked him in the eyes as I thought of how Araby had bold as Jumbo. I claimed his said Pram would advertise in reward. But my voice troubled the papers if the bottle was him. I bet it shook his conlost. But since he'd said that, science up like a dice-box. He I argued, he'd had a murder to wasn't so disappointed at the his credit. An advert in the ink on the house-flag having papers wouldn't be quite the faded as I had expected. When sort of thing he'd go in for. you come to think what a big So he had no doubt hit on this fortune depended on that being



clear you'd expect him very But a powerful spirit not of near to drop down, but I sup- this world was with me when pose he'd made plenty of boodle I leaned from the masthead with his old riddle, and the in the dark and started. I ghosts that guarded the trea- hardly knew I swung my arm. sure in the Pacific were grown I could see the faces of those stronger in his imagination than who were dead and gone lookwhat the treasure was worth to ing from heaven solemn on me, him. Still, he was a good bit and I felt my accusation driving vexed. It was my voice, red-hot into that murderer's though, that was

that was the chief heart. First, he lights up. thing as upset him. He let Then he shoots out of the off some steam he'd better window wild into the dark. have kept to himself, and then Then I hear him crash downhe was a bit sorry and tried stairs, and my arm finishes to put me off with the reward. Swinging. I know those faces But I knew by then, I'd already are avenged. made up my mind that I'd be “Now, your worships, you can playing him a tune in the night, commit me to the assizes if and if there was any truth in it's your wish, but there's God's justice he'd be going the nothing in the law to convict same way as Araby, so I couldn't me of more than trespass. take his dirty cash, and I Yet if you managed to twist walked off while he went for it. the facts so that you got me

“ But I came back again some to the gallows, I think I'd die time after midnight, and I as happy that way as in a shinned up that silly flagstaff bed.” he'd had stuck up in his garden to help make him more Having so spoken, the accused of a captain.

remained standing with a sus“Your worships, I don't want picion of forced pose like the to din it in what an artist I hero in that melodrama called am on my instrument; I could “The Only Way.” do it well enough, and I'd The deaf magistrate, who done it well enough before had during the latter part of when I'd wanted to shake the Hubbard's defence been puzzconscience of those murderers. ling over notes on the subject But that night I think I was handed him by a brother jushelped. I won't say it was tice, exclaimed, “What a cockthe spirit of that dead girl, nor and-bull story! Besides, I I won't say it was the spirit of never heard of one man comthat falsely accused brave old mitting so many murders. Let's man Captain Mavis, nor I commit him to assizes and get won't say it was God Almighty. on with the licensing."



“But they'll hear it again in a grand refrain

When Gabriel sounds the last rally.”

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

THE habit of story-telling is Army, who has not a white a vice that grows, and the moustache in a red face, and stories come from many sources. who does not frequent French They may be things that one watering-places, but perhaps has seen oneself and borne a lives in old tweeds in a country hand in, they may be extracted bungalow, while his sons are by gin and cocktail at the bar being educated, who digs in counter, and they may be told his garden, and runs the local in all solemnity by the man scouts or any other unpaid who knew to the man who job of service that his hand can write. This is a story of finds to do, waiting for the the last category. It explains eventual call to “Pile your one or two incidents that have arms. And many of them puzzled those in authority. are the salt of the earth.

The story is the story of a This is the story of such an colonel, of a colonel as they one, whose nickname in the are, and not a colonel of carica- Indian Army, to which he ture. There are certain jokes belonged, was the Kana Burha, that go on for ever, and always which is Hindustani for a raise ,

a laugh, such as the one-eyed old man," and he had mother-in-law of fable; the borne it for many a year, War Office, even since it created because he wore an eye-glass the army that won the war; which never left his eye, or so and the colonel as depicted in men said, which, however, did the pages of Punch '—that not prevent him from being colonel who kneels. by the one of the finest colonels that sacrificial pile of golf sticks, or ever made nine hundred sepoys who plays round with the serve an alien crown with joy bishop to his edification ; and and gladness. The Kana Burha the like. Then, too, since the —that will be name enough war there is the colonel turned for him—had served all his life commissionaire, whose foot in the one regiment, had comcloses on the half-crown his manded it for seven years, and late subaltern has dropped in had left with a heart that was his fright as the cab door almost broken to bring up his closed. That is the story and boys, and nurse a slippery the pathos of the British Legion. kneecap that made him feel he This story, however, is of the was past his best work. real colonel of the Regular Now to spend all your life

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

in one regiment is often a thought no thoughts but the narrowing thing, despite the happiness, the efficiency, and peace and glory of it. But the the military reputation of the Kana Burha had once left it beloved battalion for thirty for four years to be private years and more.

And every secretary to a governor, and man knew it, and mourned him had saved his sense of propor- long when he left for home tion thereby; but the regi- and the pension list. He had ment was almost his only love, taken first a company and then and the reputation of that the battalion through several regiment was as dear to him small wars, the fevers of Burma, as the honour of the delightful the burning suns of Africa ; lady that was his wife. From and the Indian Frontier from the early years of his joining Sikkim to Zhob had seen them he was one of those who at all together, father and children times held the regiment, or and also husband and wife. rather the battalion, in the Three years had passed, and hollow of his hand. Those who the sorrow grew less poignant know the Indian Army well in the colonel's bungalow in know that certain men, one or

the heart of the English two or even three, in a bat countryside. The regiment still talion hold it entirely. They talked of the wise ways and have the gift of casting a spell doings of the Kana Burha, over their Indian soldiers. It and letters still flowed reguis magic, it is delusion; but larly. The subahdar major, the for all that it is very real. senior Indian officer of the It explains that anomaly of battalion, wrote twice a year. the great Indian Mutiny, when The Kana Burha when adjuit was said with wonder that tant had enlisted him. They

sepoys when mutinying had slept under the same always seemed to kill the offi- blanket on the top of Torsappa cers they loved best. The real in Afridiland, when they held story was that the leaven of the ridge for three days and conspirators, the small desper- nights, and such things could ate clique who were running not be forgotten. A row of the mutiny, knew that when medals in the silver-table in they had succeeded in engineer- the drawing-room, placed by ing an outbreak in the lines, the wife under protest from these particular officers could the colonel, who after probably recall it to its alle- strange way of the English giance. They therefore made seem to consider such things it their business to shoot them a disgrace, was one of the at the outset, and leave the memories. A sword in a case regiment rudderless.

/ with a silver-mounted pouch Of such as these was the belt and his father's regimental Kana Burha, a man who had sash, for these colonels come never spared himself, and of a long line that goes from


father to son, each generation hand of organisation had the poorer, was another. And brought modern ways to a 80 the years of pain and regret primitive country, A large were slipping by, when the army was fighting three huncall to arms came. War with dred miles from its base, and a very big W, the Indian Army no roads behind it nor rail, to come to France, and oh! and a tenth of the number the ache in the colonel's heart of steamers that were wanted that he could not take the to justify such extended action. battalion.

No wharves or cranes or labour “The grizzled drafts of years to clear the steamers that gone by" were stirring in brought supplies and munitions, every village in the kingdom, no dry spots to store them on, and falling into any place that very few hospitals, no nurses, was vacant, and the colonel no hospital steamers; it was concealed his slippery kneecap, a hard bitter campaign, and and volunteered to do any

any failure was to be its guerdon duty, however humble, that in those earlier phases. he could usefully do, and found The colonel's transport sailed himself on his way back to up the Shatt El Arab, along India for general duty. The the miles and miles of date. battalion had not gone to palm orchards, and at length France or Egypt, but was in anchored off Ashar, which is Mesopotamia, and the Kana the river port of Basra ; and Burha settled down to quiet here a lucky thing happened, work in India to release more for the steering-gear of the active men. India, too, was vessel had fouled a cable, seething with war zeal, the and it would take three weeks grizzled drafts, as well as the in that unfitted port to repair young men, were coming from the damage. Eagerly the Kana the villages, and the re-enforcing Burha went to the general, and drafts were being turned out made petition that he might go from the depots. Then it up the Tigris to see his old came about that the Kana regiment. . The general Saw Burha was ordered to go and the eager wistful look on the take command of the troops petitioner's face, and knew the on a troopship that was carry- call that called him. Sighting drafts to Basra, and eagerly seers and visitors were not he went, in the glorious hope welcome ; but this was another that he might see something story, and next day the Kana of the battalion. Those were Burha found himself sitting in the days when Kut was yet the cabin of what was once a besieged, and Aylmer was fight- Thames steamer chunking her ing mud and floods and rain way up the Tigris against a as well as Turk in the endeavour flood stream. The steamer was to get his force up the Tigris. the Christopher Wren, and had Those were days before the come out in charge of ad

« AnteriorContinuar »