Part 4 out of 7
which ... He shrugged his shoulders. Nothing was served by going into
them, but he ventured to say that, had those painful circumstances only
been known earlier, his client would--again 'of course'--never have
dreamed--A gesture concluded the sentence, and the ensnared Bench looked
at Sir Thomas with new and withdrawing eyes. Frankly, as they could see,
it would be nothing less than cruelty to proceed further with
this--er-unfortunate affair. He asked leave, therefore, to withdraw the
charge _in toto_, and at the same time to express his client's deepest
sympathy with all who had been in any way distressed, as his client had
been, by the fact and the publicity of proceedings which he could, of
course, again assure them that his client would never have dreamed of
instituting if, as he hoped he had made plain, certain facts had been
before his client at the time when.... But he had said enough. For his
fee it seemed to me that he had.
Heaven inspired Sir Thomas's lawyer--all of a sweat lest his client's
language should come out--to rise up and thank him. Then, Sir
Thomas--not yet aware what leprosy had been laid upon him, but grateful
to escape on any terms--followed suit. He was heard in interested
silence, and people drew back a pace as Gehazi passed forth.
'You hit hard,' said Bat to Woodhouse afterwards. 'His own people think
'You don't say so? I'll show you some of his letters to-night at
dinner,' he replied.
He brought them to the Red Amber Room of the Chop Suey. We forgot to be
amazed, as till then we had been amazed, over the Song or 'The Gubby,'
or the full tide of Fate that seemed to run only for our sakes. It did
not even interest Ollyett that the verb 'to huckle' had passed into the
English leader-writers' language. We were studying the interior of a
soul, flash-lighted to its grimiest corners by the dread of 'losing its
'And then it thanked you, didn't it, for dropping the case?' said
'Yes, and it sent me a telegram to confirm.' Woodhouse turned to Bat.
'Now d'you think I hit too hard?' he asked.
'No-o!' said Bat. 'After all--I'm talking of every one's business
now--one can't ever do anything in Art that comes up to Nature in any
game in life. Just think how this thing has--'
'Just let me run through that little case of yours again,' said Pallant,
and picked up _The Bun_ which had it set out in full.
'Any chance of 'Dal looking in on us to-night?' Ollyett began.
'She's occupied with her Art too,' Bat answered bitterly. 'What's the
use of Art? Tell me, some one!' A barrel-organ outside promptly pointed
out that the _Earth_ was flat. 'The gramophone's killing street organs,
but I let loose a hundred-and-seventy-four of those hurdygurdys twelve
hours after The Song,' said Bat. 'Not counting the Provinces.' His face
brightened a little.
'Look here!' said Pallant over the paper. 'I don't suppose you or those
asinine J.P.'s knew it--but your lawyer ought to have known that you've
all put your foot in it most confoundedly over this assault case.'
'What's the matter?' said Woodhouse.
'It's ludicrous. It's insane. There isn't two penn'orth of legality in
the whole thing. Of course, you could have withdrawn the charge, but the
way you went about it is childish--besides being illegal. What on earth
was the Chief Constable thinking of?'
'Oh, he was a friend of Sir Thomas's. They all were for that matter,' I
'He ought to be hanged. So ought the Chairman of the Bench. I'm talking
as a lawyer now.'
'Why, what have we been guilty of? Misprision of treason or compounding
a felony--or what?' said Ollyett.
'I'll tell you later.' Pallant went back to the paper with knitted
brows, smiling unpleasantly from time to time. At last he laughed.
'Thank you!' he said to Woodhouse. 'It ought to be pretty useful--for
'What d'you mean?' said Ollyett.
'For our side. They are all Rads who are mixed up in this--from the
Chief Constable down. There must be a Question. There must be a
'Yes, but I wanted the charge withdrawn in my own way,' Woodhouse
'That's nothing to do with the case. It's the legality of your silly
methods. You wouldn't understand if I talked till morning,' He began to
pace the room, his hands behind him. 'I wonder if I can get it through
our Whip's thick head that it's a chance.... That comes of stuffing the
Bench with radical tinkers,' he muttered.
'Oh, sit down!' said Woodhouse.
'Where's your lawyer to be found now?' he jerked out.
'At the Trefoil,' said Bat promptly. 'I gave him the stage-box for
to-night. He's an artist too.'
'Then I'm going to see him,' said Pallant. 'Properly handled this ought
to be a godsend for our side.' He withdrew without apology.
'Certainly, this thing keeps on opening up, and up,' I remarked inanely.
'It's beyond me!' said Bat. 'I don't think if I'd known I'd have
ever ... Yes, I would, though. He said my home address was--'
'It was his tone--his tone!' Ollyett almost shouted. Woodhouse said
nothing, but his face whitened as he brooded.
'Well, any way,' Bat went on, 'I'm glad I always believed in God and
Providence and all those things. Else I should lose my nerve. We've put
it over the whole world--the full extent of the geographical globe. We
couldn't stop it if we wanted to now. It's got to burn itself out. I'm
not in charge any more. What d'you expect'll happen next. Angels?'
I expected nothing. Nothing that I expected approached what I got.
Politics are not my concern, but, for the moment, since it seemed that
they were going to 'huckle' with the rest, I took an interest in them.
They impressed me as a dog's life without a dog's decencies, and I was
confirmed in this when an unshaven and unwashen Pallant called on me at
ten o'clock one morning, begging for a bath and a couch.
'Bail too?' I asked. He was in evening dress and his eyes were sunk feet
in his head.
'No,' he said hoarsely. 'All night sitting. Fifteen divisions. 'Nother
to-night. Your place was nearer than mine, so--' He began to undress
in the hall.
When he awoke at one o'clock he gave me lurid accounts of what he said
was history, but which was obviously collective hysteria. There had been
a political crisis. He and his fellow M.P.'s had 'done things'--I never
quite got at the things--for eighteen hours on end, and the pitiless
Whips were even then at the telephones to herd 'em up to another
dog-fight. So he snorted and grew hot all over again while he might have
'I'm going to pitch in my question about that miscarriage of justice at
Huckley this afternoon, if you care to listen to it,' he said. 'It'll be
absolutely thrown away--in our present state. I told 'em so; but it's my
only chance for weeks. P'raps Woodhouse would like to come.'
'I'm sure he would. Anything to do with Huckley interests us,' I said.
'It'll miss fire, I'm afraid. Both sides are absolutely cooked. The
present situation has been working up for some time. You see the row was
bound to come, etc. etc.,' and he flew off the handle once more.
I telephoned to Woodhouse, and we went to the House together. It was a
dull, sticky afternoon with thunder in the air. For some reason or
other, each side was determined to prove its virtue and endurance to the
utmost. I heard men snarling about it all round me. 'If they won't spare
us, we'll show 'em no mercy,' 'Break the brutes up from the start. They
can't stand late hours.' 'Come on! No shirking! I know _you've_ had a
Turkish bath,' were some of the sentences I caught on our way. The House
was packed already, and one could feel the negative electricity of a
jaded crowd wrenching at one's own nerves, and depressing the
'This is bad!' Woodhouse whispered. 'There'll be a row before they've
finished. Look at the Front Benches!' And he pointed out little personal
signs by which I was to know that each man was on edge. He might have
spared himself. The House was ready to snap before a bone had been
thrown. A sullen minister rose to reply to a staccato question. His
supporters cheered defiantly. 'None o' that! None o' that!' came from
the Back Benches. I saw the Speaker's face stiffen like the face of a
helmsman as he humours a hard-mouthed yacht after a sudden following
sea. The trouble was barely met in time. There came a fresh, apparently
causeless gust a few minutes later--savage, threatening, but futile. It
died out--one could hear the sigh--in sudden wrathful realisation of
the dreary hours ahead, and the ship of state drifted on.
Then Pallant--and the raw House winced at the torture of his
voice--rose. It was a twenty-line question, studded with legal
technicalities. The gist of it was that he wished to know whether the
appropriate Minister was aware that there had been a grave miscarriage
of justice on such and such a date, at such and such a place, before
such and such justices of the peace, in regard to a case which arose--
I heard one desperate, weary 'damn!' float up from the pit of that
torment. Pallant sawed on--'out of certain events which occurred at the
village of Huckley.'
The House came to attention with a parting of the lips like a hiccough,
and it flashed through my mind.... Pallant repeated, 'Huckley. The
'That voted the _Earth_ was flat.' A single voice from a back Bench sang
it once like a lone frog in a far pool.
'_Earth_ was flat,' croaked another voice opposite.
'_Earth_ was flat.' There were several. Then several more.
It was, you understand, the collective, overstrained nerve of the House,
snapping, strand by strand to various notes, as the hawser parts from
'The Village that voted the _Earth_ was flat.' The tune was beginning to
shape itself. More voices were raised and feet began to beat time. Even
so it did not occur to me that the thing would--
'The Village that voted the _Earth_ was flat!' It was easier now to see
who were not singing. There were still a few. Of a sudden (and this
proves the fundamental instability of the cross-bench mind) a
cross-bencher leaped on his seat and there played an imaginary
double-bass with tremendous maestro-like wagglings of the elbow.
The last strand parted. The ship of state drifted out helpless on the
rocking tide of melody.
'The Village that voted the _Earth_ was flat!
The Village that voted the _Earth_ was flat!'
The Irish first conceived the idea of using their order-papers as
funnels wherewith to reach the correct '_vroom--vroom_' on '_Earth_.'
Labour, always conservative and respectable at a crisis, stood out
longer than any other section, but when it came in it was howling
syndicalism. Then, without distinction of Party, fear of constituents,
desire for office, or hope of emolument, the House sang at the tops and
at the bottoms of their voices, swaying their stale bodies and
epileptically beating with their swelled feet. They sang 'The Village
that voted the _Earth_ was flat': first, because they wanted to, and
secondly--which is the terror of that song--because they could not stop.
For no consideration could they stop.
Pallant was still standing up. Some one pointed at him and they laughed.
Others began to point, lunging, as it were, in time with the tune. At
this moment two persons came in practically abreast from behind the
Speaker's chair, and halted appalled. One happened to be the Prime
Minister and the other a messenger. The House, with tears running down
their cheeks, transferred their attention to the paralysed couple. They
pointed six hundred forefingers at them. They rocked, they waved, and
they rolled while they pointed, but still they sang. When they weakened
for an instant, Ireland would yell: 'Are ye _with_ me, bhoys?' and they
all renewed their strength like Antaeus. No man could say afterwards
what happened in the Press or the Strangers' Gallery. It was the House,
the hysterical and abandoned House of Commons that held all eyes, as it
deafened all ears. I saw both Front Benches bend forward, some with
their foreheads on their despatch-boxes, the rest with their faces in
their hands; and their moving shoulders jolted the House out of its last
rag of decency. Only the Speaker remained unmoved. The entire press of
Great Britain bore witness next day that he had not even bowed his head.
The Angel of the Constitution, for vain was the help of man, foretold
him the exact moment at which the House would have broken into 'The
Gubby.' He is reported to have said: 'I heard the Irish beginning to
shuffle it. So I adjourned.' Pallant's version is that he added: 'And I
was never so grateful to a private member in all my life as I was to
He made no explanation. He did not refer to orders or disorders. He
simply adjourned the House till six that evening. And the House
adjourned--some of it nearly on all fours.
I was not correct when I said that the Speaker was the only man who did
not laugh. Woodhouse was beside me all the time. His face was set and
quite white--as white, they told me, as Sir Thomas Ingell's when he
went, by request, to a private interview with his Chief Whip.
The Soldier may forget his sword
The Sailorman the sea,
The Mason may forget the Word
And the Priest his litany:
The maid may forget both jewel and gem,
And the bride her wedding-dress--
But the Jew shall forget Jerusalem
Ere we forget the Press!
Who once hath stood through the loaded hour
Ere, roaring like the gale,
The Harrild and the Hoe devour
Their league-long paper bale,
And has lit his pipe in the morning calm
That follows the midnight stress--
He hath sold his heart to the old Black Art
We call the daily Press.
Who once hath dealt in the widest game
That all of a man can play,
No later love, no larger fame
Will lure him long away.
As the war-horse smelleth the battle afar,
The entered Soul, no less,
He saith: 'Ha! Ha!' where the trumpets are
And the thunders of the Press.
Canst thou number the days that we fulfil,
Or the _Times_ that we bring forth?
Canst thou send the lightnings to do thy will,
And cause them reign on earth?
Hast thou given a peacock goodly wings
To please his foolishness?
Sit down at the heart of men and things,
Companion of the Press!
The Pope may launch his Interdict,
The Union its decree,
But the bubble is blown and the bubble is pricked
By Us and such as We.
Remember the battle and stand aside
While Thrones and Powers confess
That King over all the children of pride
Is the Press--the Press--the Press!
In The Presence
'So the matter,' the Regimental Chaplain concluded, 'was correct; in
every way correct. I am well pleased with Rutton Singh and Attar Singh.
They have gathered the fruit of their lives.'
He folded his arms and sat down on the verandah. The hot day had ended,
and there was a pleasant smell of cooking along the regimental lines,
where half-clad men went back and forth with leaf platters and
water-goglets. The Subadar-Major, in extreme undress, sat on a chair, as
befitted his rank; the Havildar-Major, his nephew, leaning respectfully
against the wall. The Regiment was at home and at ease in its own
quarters in its own district which takes its name from the great
Muhammadan saint Mian Mir, revered by Jehangir and beloved by Guru Har
Gobind, sixth of the great Sikh Gurus.
'Quite correct,' the Regimental Chaplain repeated.
No Sikh contradicts his Regimental Chaplain who expounds to him the Holy
Book of the Grunth Sahib and who knows the lives and legends of all
The Subadar-Major bowed his grey head. The Havildar-Major coughed
respectfully to attract attention and to ask leave to speak. Though he
was the Subadar-Major's nephew, and though his father held twice as
much land as his uncle, he knew his place in the scheme of things. The
Subadar-Major shifted one hand with an iron bracelet on the wrist.
'Was there by any chance any woman at the back of it?' the
Havildar-Major murmured. 'I was not here when the thing happened.'
'Yes! Yes! Yes! We all know that thou wast in England eating and
drinking with the Sahibs. We are all surprised that thou canst still
speak Punjabi.' The Subadar-Major's carefully-tended beard bristled.
'There was no woman,' the Regimental Chaplain growled. 'It was land.
Hear, you! Rutton Singh and Attar Singh were the elder of four brothers.
These four held land in--what was the village's name?--oh, Pishapur,
near Thori, in the Banalu Tehsil of Patiala State, where men can still
recognise right behaviour when they see it. The two younger brothers
tilled the land, while Rutton Singh and Attar Singh took service with
the Regiment, according to the custom of the family.'
'True, true,' said the Havildar-Major. 'There is the same arrangement in
all good families.'
'Then, listen again,' the Regimental Chaplain went on. 'Their kin on
their mother's side put great oppression and injustice upon the two
younger brothers who stayed with the land in Patiala State. Their
mother's kin loosened beasts into the four brothers' crops when the
crops were green; they cut the corn by force when it was ripe; they
broke down the water-courses; they defiled the wells; and they brought
false charges in the law-courts against all four brothers. They did not
spare even the cotton-seed, as the saying is.
'Their mother's kin trusted that the young men would thus be forced by
weight of trouble, and further trouble and perpetual trouble, to quit
their lands in Pishapur village in Banalu Tehsil in Patiala State. If
the young men ran away, the land would come whole to their mother's kin.
I am not a regimental school-master, but is it understood, child?'
'Understood,' said the Havildar-Major grimly. 'Pishapur is not the only
place where the fence eats the field instead of protecting it. But
perhaps there was a woman among their mother's kin?'
'God knows!' said the Regimental Chaplain. 'Woman, or man, or
law-courts, the young men would _not_ be driven off the land which was
their own by inheritance. They made appeal to Rutton Singh and Attar
Singh, their brethren who had taken service with _us_ in the Regiment,
and so knew the world, to help them in their long war against their
mother's kin in Pishapur. For that reason, because their own land and
the honour of their house was dear to them, Rutton Singh and Attar Singh
needs must very often ask for leave to go to Patiala and attend to the
lawsuits and cattle-poundings there.
'It was not, look you, as though they went back to their own village and
sat, garlanded with jasmine, in honour, upon chairs before the elders
under the trees. They went back always to perpetual trouble, either of
lawsuits, or theft, or strayed cattle; and they sat on thorns.'
'I knew it,' said the Subadar-Major. 'Life was bitter for them both. But
they were well-conducted men. It was not hard to get them their leave
from the Colonel Sahib.'
'They spoke to me also,' said the Chaplain. '_"Let him who desires the
four great gifts apply himself to the words of holy men."_ That is
written. Often they showed me the papers of the false lawsuits brought
against them. Often they wept on account of the persecution put upon
them by their mother's kin. Men thought it was drugs when their eyes
'They wept in my presence too,' said the Subadar-Major. 'Well-conducted
men of nine years' service apiece. Rutton Singh was drill-Naik, too.'
'They did all things correctly as Sikhs should,' said the Regimental
Chaplain. 'When the persecution had endured seven years, Attar Singh
took leave to Pishapur once again (that was the fourth time in that year
only) and he called his persecutors together before the village elders,
and he cast his turban at their feet and besought them by his mother's
blood to cease from their persecutions. For he told them earnestly that
he had marched to the boundaries of his patience, and that there could
be but one end to the matter.
'They gave him abuse. They mocked him and his tears, which was the same
as though they had mocked the Regiment. Then Attar Singh returned to the
Regiment, and laid this last trouble before Rutton Singh, the eldest
brother. But Rutton Singh could not get leave all at once.'
'Because he was drill-Naik and the recruits were to be drilled. I myself
told him so,' said the Subadar-Major. 'He was a well-conducted man. He
said he could wait.'
'But when permission was granted, those two took four days' leave,' the
Chaplain went on.
'I do not think Attar Singh should have taken Baynes Sahib's revolver.
He was Baynes Sahib's orderly, and all that Sahib's things were open to
him. It was, therefore, as I count it, shame to Attar Singh,' said the
'All the words had been said. There was need of arms, and how could
soldiers use Government rifles upon mere cultivators in the fields?' the
Regimental Chaplain replied. 'Moreover, the revolver was sent back,
together with a money-order for the cartridges expended. _"Borrow not;
but if thou borrowest, pay back soon!"_ That is written in the Hymns.
Rutton Singh took a sword, and he and Attar Singh went to Pishapur and,
after word given, the four brethren fell upon their persecutors in
Pishapur village and slew seventeen, wounding ten. A revolver is better
than a lawsuit. I say that these four brethren, the two with _us_, and
the two mere cultivators, slew and wounded twenty-seven--all their
mother's kin, male and female.
'Then the four mounted to their housetop, and Attar Singh, who was
always one of the impetuous, said "My work is done," and he made
_shinan_ (purification) in all men's sight, and he lent Rutton Singh
Baynes Sahib's revolver, and Rutton Singh shot him in the head.
'So Attar Singh abandoned his body, as an insect abandons a blade of
grass. But Rutton Singh, having more work to do, went down from the
housetop and sought an enemy whom he had forgotten--a Patiala man of
this regiment who had sided with the persecutors. When he overtook the
man, Rutton Singh hit him twice with bullets and once with the sword.'
'But the man escaped and is now in the hospital here,' said the
Subadar-Major. 'The doctor says he will live in spite of all.'
'Not Rutton Singh's fault. Rutton Singh left him for dead. Then Rutton
Singh returned to the housetop, and the three brothers together, Attar
Singh being dead, sent word by a lad to the police station for an army
to be dispatched against them that they might die with honours. But none
came. And yet Patiala State is not under English law and they should
know virtue there when they see it!
'So, on the third day, Rutton Singh also made _shinan_, and the youngest
of the brethren shot him also in the head, and _he_ abandoned his body.
'Thus was all correct. There was neither heat, nor haste, nor abuse in
the matter from end to end. There remained alive not one man or woman of
their mother's kin which had oppressed them. Of the other villagers of
Pishapur, who had taken no part in the persecutions, not one was slain.
Indeed, the villagers sent them food on the housetop for those three
days while they waited for the police who would not dispatch that army.
'Listen again! I know that Attar Singh and Rutton Singh omitted no
ceremony of the purifications, and when all was done Baynes Sahib's
revolver was thrown down from the housetop, together with three rupees
twelve annas; and order was given for its return by post.'
'And what befell the two younger brethren who were not in the service?'
the Havildar-Major asked.
'Doubtless they too are dead, but since they were not in the Regiment
their honour concerns themselves only. So far as _we_ were touched, see
how correctly we came out of the matter! I think the King should be
told; for where could you match such a tale except among us Sikhs? _Sri
wah guru ji ki Khalsa! Sri wah guru ji ki futteh!_' said the
'Would three rupees twelve annas pay for the used cartridges?' said the
'Attar Singh knew the just price. All Baynes Sahib's gear was in his
charge. They expended one tin box of fifty cartouches, lacking two which
were returned. As I said--as I say--the arrangement was made not with
heat nor blasphemies as a Mussulman would have made it; not with cries
nor caperings as an idolater would have made it; but conformably to the
ritual and doctrine of the Sikhs. Hear you! _"Though hundreds of
amusements are offered to a child it cannot live without milk. If a man
be divorced from his soul and his soul's desire he certainly will not
stop to play upon the road, but he will make haste with his
pilgrimage_." That is written. I rejoice in my disciples.'
'True! True! Correct! Correct!' said the Subadar-Major. There was a
long, easy silence. One heard a water-wheel creaking somewhere and the
nearer sound of meal being ground in a quern.
'But he--' the Chaplain pointed a scornful chin at the
Havildar-Major--'_he_ has been so long in England that--'
'Let the lad alone,' said his uncle. 'He was but two months there, and
he was chosen for good cause.'
Theoretically, all Sikhs are equal. Practically, there are differences,
as none know better than well-born, land-owning folk, or long-descended
chaplains from Amritsar.
'Hast thou heard anything in England to match my tale?' the Chaplain
'I saw more than I could understand, so I have locked up my stories in
my own mouth,' the Havildar-Major replied meekly.
'Stories? What stories? I know all the stories about England,' said the
Chaplain. 'I know that _terains_ run underneath their bazaars there, and
as for their streets stinking with _mota kahars_, only this morning I
was nearly killed by Duggan Sahib's _mota-kahar_. That young man is
'I expect Grunthi-jee,' said the Subadar-Major, 'you and I grow too old
to care for the Kahar-ki-nautch--the Bearer's dance.' He named one of
the sauciest of the old-time nautches, and smiled at his own pun. Then
he turned to his nephew. 'When I was a lad and came back to my village
on leave, I waited the convenient hour, and, the elders giving
permission, I spoke of what I had seen elsewhere.'
'Ay, my father,' said the Havildar-Major, softly and affectionately. He
sat himself down with respect, as behoved a mere lad of thirty with a
bare half-dozen campaigns to his credit.
'There were four men in this affair also,' he began, 'and it was an
affair that touched the honour, not of one regiment, nor two, but of all
the Army in Hind. Some part of it I saw; some I heard; but _all_ the
tale is true. My father's brother knows, and my priest knows, that I was
in England on business with my Colonel, when the King--the Great Queen's
son--completed his life.
'First, there was a rumour that sickness was upon him. Next, we knew
that he lay sick in the Palace. A very great multitude stood outside the
Palace by night and by day, in the rain as well as the sun, waiting
'Then came out one with a written paper, and set it upon a
gate-side--the word of the King's death--and they read, and groaned.
This I saw with my own eyes, because the office where my Colonel Sahib
went daily to talk with Colonel Forsyth Sahib was at the east end of the
very gardens where the Palace stood. They are larger gardens than
Shalimar here'--he pointed with his chin up the lines--'or Shahdera
across the river.
'Next day there was a darkness in the streets, because all the city's
multitude were clad in black garments, and they spoke as a man speaks in
the presence of his dead--all those multitudes. In the eyes, in the air,
and in the heart, there was blackness. I saw it. But that is not
'After ceremonies had been accomplished, and word had gone out to the
Kings of the Earth that they should come and mourn, the new King--the
dead King's son--gave commandment that his father's body should be laid,
coffined, in a certain Temple which is near the river. There are no
idols in that Temple; neither any carvings, nor paintings, nor gildings.
It is all grey stone, of one colour as though it were cut out of the
live rock. It is larger than--yes, than the Durbar Sahib at Amritsar,
even though the Akal Bunga and the Baba-Atal were added. How old it may
be God knows. It is the Sahibs' most sacred Temple.
'In that place, by the new King's commandment, they made, as it were, a
shrine for a saint, with lighted candles at the head and the feet of the
Dead, and duly appointed watchers for every hour of the day and the
night, until the dead King should be taken to the place of his fathers,
which is at Wanidza.
'When all was in order, the new King said, "Give entrance to all
people," and the doors were opened, and O my uncle! O my teacher! all
the world entered, walking through that Temple to take farewell of the
Dead. There was neither distinction, nor price, nor ranking in the host,
except an order that they should walk by fours.
'As they gathered in the streets without--very, very far off--so they
entered the Temple, walking by fours: the child, the old man; mother,
virgin, harlot, trader, priest; of all colours and faiths and customs
under the firmament of God, from dawn till late at night. I saw it. My
Colonel gave me leave to go. I stood in the line, many hours, one
_koss_, two _koss_, distant from the temple.'
'Then why did the multitude not sit down under the trees?' asked the
'Because we were still between houses. The city is many _koss_ wide,'
the Havildar-Major resumed. 'I submitted myself to that slow-moving
river and thus--thus--a pace at a time--I made pilgrimage. There were in
my rank a woman, a cripple, and a lascar from the ships.
'When we entered the Temple, the coffin itself was as a shoal in the
Ravi River, splitting the stream into two branches, one on either side
of the Dead; and the watchers of the Dead, who were soldiers, stood
about It, moving no more than the still flame of the candles. Their
heads were bowed; their hands were clasped; their eyes were cast upon
the ground--thus. They were not men, but images, and the multitude went
past them in fours by day, and, except for a little while, by
'No, there was no order that the people should come to pay respect. It
was a free-will pilgrimage. Eight kings had been commanded to come--who
obeyed--but upon his own Sahibs the new King laid no commandment. Of
themselves they came.
'I made pilgrimage twice: once for my Salt's sake, and once again for
wonder and terror and worship. But my mouth cannot declare one thing of
a hundred thousand things in this matter. There were _lakhs_ of _lakhs_,
_crores_ of _crores_ of people. I saw them.'
'More than at our great pilgrimages?' the Regimental Chaplain demanded.
'Yes. Those are only cities and districts coming out to pray. This was
the world walking in grief. And now, hear you! It is the King's custom
that four swords of Our Armies in Hind should stand always before the
Presence in case of need.'
'The King's custom, our right,' said the Subadar-Major curtly.
'Also our right. These honoured ones are changed after certain months or
years, that the honour may be fairly spread. Now it chanced that when
the old King--the Queen's son--completed his days, the four that stood
in the Presence were Goorkhas. Neither Sikhs alas, nor Pathans, Rajputs,
nor Jats. Goorkhas, my father.'
'Idolaters,' said the Chaplain.
'But soldiers; for I remember in the Tirah--' the Havildar-Major began.
'_But_ soldiers, for I remember fifteen campaigns. Go on,' said the
'And it was their honour and right to furnish one who should stand in
the Presence by day and by night till It went out to burial. There were
no more than four all told--four old men to furnish that guard.'
'Old? Old? What talk is this of old men?' said the Subadar-Major.
'Nay. My fault! Your pardon!' The Havildar-Major spread a deprecating
hand. 'They were strong, hot, valiant men, and the youngest was a lad of
'That is better,' the Subadar-Major laughed.
'But for all their strength and heat they could not eat strange food
from the Sahibs' hands. There was no cooking place in the Temple; but a
certain Colonel Forsyth Sahib, who had understanding, made arrangement
whereby they should receive at least a little caste-clean parched grain;
also cold rice maybe, and water which was pure. Yet, at best, this was
no more than a hen's mouthful, snatched as each came off his guard. They
lived on grain and were thankful, as the saying is.
'One hour's guard in every four was each man's burden, for, as I have
shown, they were but four all told; and the honour of Our Armies in Hind
was on their heads. The Sahibs could draw upon all the armies in England
for the other watchers--thousands upon thousands of fresh men--if they
needed; but these four were but four.
'The Sahibs drew upon the Granadeers for the other watchers. Granadeers
be very tall men under very tall bearskins, such as Fusilier regiments
wear in cold weather. Thus, when a Granadeer bowed his head but a very
little over his stock, the bearskin sloped and showed as though he
grieved exceedingly. Now the Goorkhas wear flat, green caps--'
'I see, I see,' said the Subadar-Major impatiently.
'They are bull-necked, too; and their stocks are hard, and when they
bend deeply--deeply--to match the Granadeers--they come nigh to choking
themselves. That was a handicap against them, when it came to the
observance of ritual.
'Yet even with their tall, grief-declaring bearskins, the Granadeers
could not endure the full hour's guard in the Presence. There was good
cause, as I will show, why no man could endure that terrible hour. So
for them the hour's guard was cut to one-half. What did it matter to the
Sahibs? They could draw on ten thousand Granadeers. Forsyth Sahib, who
had comprehension, put this choice also before the four, and they said,
"No, ours is the Honour of the Armies of Hind. Whatever the Sahibs do,
we will suffer the full hour."
'Forsyth Sahib, seeing that they were--knowing that they could neither
sleep long nor eat much, said, "Is it great suffering?" They said, "It
is great honour. We will endure."
'Forsyth Sahib, who loves us, said then to the eldest, "Ho, father, tell
me truly what manner of burden it is; for the full hour's watch breaks
up our men like water."
'The eldest answered, "Sahib, the burden is the feet of the multitude
that pass us on either side. Our eyes being lowered and fixed, we see
those feet only from the knee down--a river of feet, Sahib, that
never--never--never stops. It is not the standing without any motion; it
is not hunger; nor is it the dead part before the dawn when maybe a
single one comes here to weep. It is the burden of the unendurable
procession of feet from the knee down, that never--never--never stops!"
'Forsyth Sahib said, "By God, I had not considered that! Now I know why
our men come trembling and twitching off that guard. But at least, my
father, ease the stock a little beneath the bent chin for that
'The eldest said, "We are in the Presence. Moreover _He_ knew every
button and braid and hook of every uniform in all His armies."
'Then Forsyth Sahib said no more, except to speak about their parched
grain, but indeed they could not eat much after their hour, nor could
they sleep much because of eye-twitchings and the renewed procession of
the feet before the eyes. Yet they endured each his full hour--not half
an hour--his one full hour in each four hours.'
'Correct! correct!' said the Subadar-Major and the Chaplain together.
'We come well out of this affair.'
'But seeing that they were old men,' said the Subadar-Major
reflectively, 'very old men, worn out by lack of food and sleep, could
not arrangements have been made, or influence have been secured, or a
petition presented, whereby a well-born Sikh might have eased them of
some portion of their great burden, even though his substantive rank--'
'Then they would most certainly have slain me,' said the Havildar-Major
with a smile.
'And they would have done correctly,' said the Chaplain. 'What befell
the honourable ones later?'
'This. The Kings of the earth and all the Armies sent flowers and
such-like to the dead King's palace at Wanidza, where the funeral
offerings were accepted. There was no order given, but all the world
made oblation. So the four took counsel--three at a time--and either
they asked Forsyth Sahib to choose flowers, or themselves they went
forth and bought flowers--I do not know; but, however it was arranged,
the flowers were bought and made in the shape of a great drum-like
circle weighing half a _maund_.
'Forsyth Sahib had said, "Let the flowers be sent to Wanidza with the
other flowers which all the world is sending." But they said among
themselves, "It is not fit that these flowers, which are the offerings
of His Armies in Hind, should come to the Palace of the Presence by the
hands of hirelings or messengers, or of any man not in His service."
'Hearing this, Forsyth Sahib, though he was much occupied with
office-work, said, "Give me the flowers, and I will steal a time and
myself take them to Wanidza."
'The eldest said, "Since when has Forsyth Sahib worn sword?"
'Forsyth Sahib said, "But always. And I wear it in the Presence when I
put on uniform. I am a Colonel in the Armies of Hind." The eldest said,
"Of what regiment?" And Forsyth Sahib looked on the carpet and pulled
the hair of his lip. He saw the trap.'
'Forsyth Sahib's regiment was once the old Forty-sixth Pathans which
was called--' the Subadar-Major gave the almost forgotten title, adding
that he had met them in such and such campaigns, when Forsyth Sahib was
a young captain.
The Havildar-Major took up the tale, saying, 'The eldest knew that also,
my father. He laughed, and presently Forsyth Sahib laughed.
'"It is true," said Forsyth Sahib. "I have no regiment. For twenty years
I have been a clerk tied to a thick pen. Therefore I am the more fit to
be your orderly and messenger in this business."
'The eldest then said, "If it were a matter of my life or the honour of
_any_ of my household, it would be easy." And Forsyth Sahib joined his
hands together, half laughing, though he was ready to weep, and he said,
"Enough! I ask pardon. Which one of you goes with the offering?"
'The eldest said, feigning not to have heard, "Nor must they be
delivered by a single sword--as though we were pressed for men in His
service," and they saluted and went out.'
'Were these things seen, or were they told thee?' said the
'I both saw and heard in the office full of books and papers where my
Colonel Sahib consulted Forsyth Sahib upon the business that had brought
my Colonel Sahib to England.'
'And what was that business?' the Regimental Chaplain asked of a sudden,
looking full at the Havildar-Major, who returned the look without
'That was not revealed to me,' said the Havildar-Major.
'I heard it might have been some matter touching the integrity of
certain regiments,' the Chaplain insisted.
'The matter was not in any way open to my ears,' said the
'Humph!' The Chaplain drew his hard road-worn feet under his robe. 'Let
us hear the tale that it is permitted thee to tell,' he said, and the
Havildar-Major went on:
'So then the three, having returned to the Temple, called the fourth,
who had only forty-five years, when he came off guard, and said, "We go
to the Palace at Wanidza with the offerings. Remain thou in the
Presence, and take all our guards, one after the other, till we return."
'Within that next hour they hired a large and strong _mota-kahar_ for
the journey from the Temple to Wanidza, which is twenty _koss_ or more,
and they promised expedition. But he who took their guards said, "It is
not seemly that we should for any cause appear to be in haste. There are
eighteen medals with eleven clasps and three Orders to consider. Go at
leisure. I can endure."
'So the three with the offerings were absent three hours and a half, and
having delivered the offering at Wanidza in the correct manner they
returned and found the lad on guard, and they did not break his guard
till his full hour was ended. So _he_ endured four hours in the
Presence, not stirring one hair, his eyes abased, and the river of
feet, from the knee down, passing continually before his eyes. When he
was relieved, it was seen that his eyeballs worked like
'And so it was done--not in hot blood, not for a little while, nor yet
with the smell of slaughter and the noise of shouting to sustain, but in
silence, for a very long time, rooted to one place before the Presence
among the most terrible feet of the multitude.'
'Correct!' the Chaplain chuckled.
'But the Goorkhas had the honour,' said the Subadar-Major sadly.
'Theirs was the Honour of His Armies in Hind, and that was Our Honour,'
the nephew replied.
'Yet I would one Sikh had been concerned in it--even one low-caste Sikh.
'They endured the burden until the end--until It went out of the Temple
to be laid among the older kings at Wanidza. When all was accomplished
and It was withdrawn under the earth, Forsyth Sahib said to the four,
"The King gives command that you be fed here on meat cooked by your own
cooks. Eat and take ease, my fathers."
'So they loosed their belts and ate. They had not eaten food except by
snatches for some long time; and when the meat had given them strength
they slept for very many hours; and it was told me that the procession
of the unendurable feet ceased to pass before their eyes any more.'
He threw out one hand palm upward to show that the tale was ended.
'We came well and cleanly out of it,' said the Subadar-Major.
'Correct! Correct! Correct!' said the Regimental Chaplain. 'In an evil
age it is good to hear such things, and there is certainly no doubt that
this is a very evil age.'
'Blessed be the English and all their ways and works.
Cursed be the Infidels, Hereticks, and Turks!'
'Amen,' quo' Jobson, 'but where I used to lie
Was neither Candle, Bell nor Book to curse my brethren by:
'But a palm-tree in full bearing, bowing down, bowing down,
To a surf that drove unsparing at the brown-walled town--
Conches in a temple, oil-lamps in a dome--
And a low moon out of Africa said: "This way home!"'
'Blessed be the English and all that they profess.
Cursed be the Savages that prance in nakedness!'
'Amen,' quo' Jobson, 'but where I used to lie
Was neither shirt nor pantaloons to catch my brethren by:
'But a well-wheel slowly creaking, going round, going round,
By a water-channel leaking over drowned, warm ground--
Parrots very busy in the trellised pepper-vine--
And a high sun over Asia shouting: "Rise and shine!"'
'Blessed be the English and everything they own.
Cursed be the Infidels that bow to wood and stone!'
'Amen,' quo' Jobson, 'but where I used to lie
Was neither pew nor Gospelleer to save my brethren by:
'But a desert stretched and stricken, left and right, left
Where the piled mirages thicken under white-hot light--
A skull beneath a sand-hill and a viper coiled inside--
And a red wind out of Libya roaring: "Run and hide!"'
'Blessed be the English and all they make or do.
Cursed be the Hereticks who doubt that this is true!'
'Amen,' quo' Jobson, 'but where I mean to die
Is neither rule nor calliper to judge the matter by:
'But Himalaya heavenward-heading, sheer and vast, sheer and vast,
In a million summits bedding on the last world's past;
A certain sacred mountain where the scented cedars climb,
And--the feet of my Beloved hurrying back through Time!'
_Regulus, a Roman general, defeated the Carthaginians 256 B.C., but was
next year defeated and taken prisoner by the Carthaginians, who sent him
to Rome with an embassy to ask for peace or an exchange of prisoners.
Regulus strongly advised the Roman Senate to make no terms with the
enemy. He then returned to Carthage and was put to death._
The Fifth Form had been dragged several times in its collective life,
from one end of the school Horace to the other. Those were the years
when Army examiners gave thousands of marks for Latin, and it was Mr.
King's hated business to defeat them.
Hear him, then, on a raw November morning at second lesson.
'Aha!' he began, rubbing his hands. '_Cras ingens iterabimus aequor._
Our portion to-day is the Fifth Ode of the Third Book, I
believe--concerning one Regulus, a gentleman. And how often have we been
'Twice, sir,' said Malpass, head of the Form.
Mr. King shuddered. 'Yes, twice, quite literally,' he said. 'To-day,
with an eye to your Army _viva-voce_ examinations--ugh!--I shall exact
somewhat freer and more florid renditions. With feeling and
comprehension if that be possible. I except'--here his eye swept the
back benches--'our friend and companion Beetle, from whom, now as
always, I demand an absolutely literal translation.' The form laughed
'Spare his blushes! Beetle charms us first.'
Beetle stood up, confident in the possession of a guaranteed construe,
left behind by M'Turk, who had that day gone into the sick-house with a
cold. Yet he was too wary a hand to show confidence.
'_Credidimus_, we--believe--we have believed,' he opened in
hesitating slow time, '_tonantem Joven_, thundering Jove--_regnare_,
to reign--_caelo_, in heaven. _Augustus_, Augustus--_habebitur_,
will be held or considered--_praesens divus_, a present
God--_adjectis Britannis_, the Britons being added--_imperio_, to the
Empire--_gravibusque Persis_, with the heavy--er, stern Persians.'
'The grave or stern Persians.' Beetle pulled up with the
'Thank-God-I-have-done-my-duty' air of Nelson in the cockpit.
'I am quite aware,' said King, 'that the first stanza is about the
extent of your knowledge, but continue, sweet one, continue. _Gravibus_,
by the way, is usually translated as "troublesome."'
Beetle drew a long and tortured breath. The second stanza (which carries
over to the third) of that Ode is what is technically called a
'stinker.' But M'Turk had done him handsomely.
'_Milesne Crassi_, had--has the soldier of Crassus--_vixit_,
lived--_turpis maritus_, a disgraceful husband--'
'You slurred the quantity of the word after _turpis_,' said King. 'Let's
Beetle guessed again, and for a wonder hit the correct quantity. 'Er--a
disgraceful husband--_conjuge barbara_, with a barbarous spouse.'
'Why do you select _that_ disgustful equivalent out of all the
dictionary?' King snapped. 'Isn't "wife" good enough for you?'
'Yes, sir. But what do I do about this bracket, sir? Shall I take it
'Confine yourself at present to the soldier of Crassus.'
'Yes, sir. _Et_, and--_consenuit_, has he grown old--_in armis_, in
the--er--arms--_hositum socerorum_, of his father-in-law's enemies.'
'Who? How? Which?'
'Arms of his enemies' fathers-in-law, sir.'
'Tha-anks. By the way, what meaning might you attach to _in armis_?'
'Oh, weapons--weapons of war, sir.' There was a virginal note in
Beetle's voice as though he had been falsely accused of uttering
indecencies. 'Shall I take the bracket now, sir?'
'Since it seems to be troubling you.'
'_Pro Curia_, O for the Senate House--_inversique mores_, and manners
'Ve-ry like your translation. Meantime, the soldier of Crassus?'
'_Sub rege Medo_, under a Median King--_Marsus et Apulus_, he being a
Marsian and an Apulian.'
'Who? The Median King?'
'No, sir. The soldier of Crassus. _Oblittus_ agrees with _milesne
Crassi_, sir,' volunteered too-hasty Beetle.
'Does it? It doesn't with _me_.'
'_Oh-blight-us_,' Beetle corrected hastily, 'forgetful--_anciliorum_, of
the shields, or trophies--_et nominis_, and the--his name--_et togae_,
and the toga--_eternaeque Vestae_, and eternal Vesta--_incolumi Jove_,
Jove being safe--_et urbe Roma_, and the Roman city.' With an air of
hardly restrained zeal--'Shall I go on, sir?'
Mr. King winced. 'No, thank you. You have indeed given us a translation!
May I ask if it conveys any meaning whatever to your so-called mind?'
'Oh, I think so, sir.' This with gentle toleration for Horace and all
'We envy you. Sit down.'
Beetle sat down relieved, well knowing that a reef of uncharted
genitives stretched ahead of him, on which in spite of M'Turk's
sailing-directions he would infallibly have been wrecked.
Rattray, who took up the task, steered neatly through them and came
unscathed to port.
'Here we require drama,' said King. 'Regulus himself is speaking now.
Who shall represent the provident-minded Regulus? Winton, will you
Winton of King's House, a long, heavy, tow-headed Second Fifteen
forward, overdue for his First Fifteen colours, and in aspect like an
earnest, elderly horse, rose up, and announced, among other things,
that he had seen 'signs affixed to Punic deluges.' Half the Form shouted
for joy, and the other half for joy that there was something to
Mr. King opened and shut his eyes with great swiftness. '_Signa adfixa
delubris_,' he gasped. 'So _delubris_ is "deluges" is it? Winton, in all
our dealings, have I ever suspected you of a jest?'
'No, sir,' said the rigid and angular Winton, while the Form rocked
'And yet you assert _delubris_ means "deluges." Whether I am a fit
subject for such a jape is, of course, a matter of opinion, but....
Winton, you are normally conscientious. May we assume you looked out
'No, sir.' Winton was privileged to speak that truth dangerous to all
who stand before Kings.
''Made a shot at it then?'
Every line of Winton's body showed he had done nothing of the sort.
Indeed, the very idea that 'Pater' Winton (and a boy is not called
'Pater' by companions for his frivolity) would make a shot at anything
was beyond belief. But he replied, 'Yes,' and all the while worked with
his right heel as though he were heeling a ball at punt-about.
Though none dared to boast of being a favourite with King, the taciturn,
three-cornered Winton stood high in his House-Master's opinion. It
seemed to save him neither rebuke nor punishment, but the two were in
some fashion sympathetic.
'Hm!' said King drily. 'I was going to say--_Flagito additis damnum_,
but I think--I think I see the process. Beetle, the translation of
Beetle raised his head from his shaking arm long enough to answer:
There was an impressive pause while King checked off crimes on his
fingers. Then to Beetle the much-enduring man addressed winged words:
'Guessing,' said he. 'Guessing, Beetle, as usual, from the look of
_delubris_ that it bore some relation to _diluvium_ or deluge, you
imparted the result of your half-baked lucubrations to Winton who seems
to have been lost enough to have accepted it. Observing next, your
companion's fall, from the presumed security of your undistinguished
position in the rear-guard, you took another pot-shot. The turbid chaos
of your mind threw up some memory of the word "dilapidations" which you
have pitifully attempted to disguise under the synonym of "ruins."'
As this was precisely what Beetle had done he looked hurt but forgiving.
'We will attend to this later,' said King. 'Go on, Winton, and retrieve
_Delubris_ happened to be the one word which Winton had not looked out
and had asked Beetle for, when they were settling into their places. He
forged ahead with no further trouble. Only when he rendered _scilicet_
as 'forsooth,' King erupted.
'Regulus,' he said, 'was not a leader-writer for the penny press, nor,
for that matter, was Horace. Regulus says: "The soldier ransomed by gold
will come keener for the fight--will he by--by gum!" _That's_ the
meaning of _scilicet_. It indicates contempt--bitter contempt.
"Forsooth," forsooth! You'll be talking about "speckled beauties" and
"eventually transpire" next. Howell, what do you make of that doubled
"Vidi ego--ego vidi"? It wasn't put in to fill up the metre, you know.'
'Isn't it intensive, sir?' said Howell, afflicted by a genuine interest
in what he read. 'Regulus was a bit in earnest about Rome making no
terms with Carthage--and he wanted to let the Romans understand it,
didn't he, sir?'
'Less than your usual grace, but the fact. Regulus _was_ in earnest. He
was also engaged at the same time in cutting his own throat with every
word he uttered. He knew Carthage which (your examiners won't ask you
this so you needn't take notes) was a sort of God-forsaken nigger
Manchester. Regulus was not thinking about his own life. He was telling
Rome the truth. He was playing for his side. Those lines from the
eighteenth to the fortieth ought to be written in blood. Yet there are
things in human garments which will tell you that Horace was a
flaneur--a man about town. Avoid such beings. Horace knew a very great
deal. _He_ knew! _Erit ille fortis_--"will he be brave who once to
faithless foes has knelt?" And again (stop pawing with your hooves,
Thornton!) _hic unde vitam sumeret inscius_. That means roughly--but I
perceive I am ahead of my translators. Begin at _hic unde_, Vernon, and
let us see if you have the spirit of Regulus.'
Now no one expected fireworks from gentle Paddy Vernon, sub-prefect of
Hartopp's House, but, as must often be the case with growing boys, his
mind was in abeyance for the time being, and he said, all in a rush, on
behalf of Regulus: '_O magna Carthago probrosis altior Italiae ruinis_,
O Carthage, thou wilt stand forth higher than the ruins of Italy.'
Even Beetle, most lenient of critics, was interested at this point,
though he did not join the half-groan of reprobation from the wiser
heads of the Form.
'_Please_ don't mind me,' said King, and Vernon very kindly did not. He
ploughed on thus: 'He (Regulus) is related to have removed from himself
the kiss of the shameful wife and of his small children as less by the
head, and, being stern, to have placed his virile visage on the ground.'
Since King loved 'virile' about as much as he did 'spouse' or 'forsooth'
the Form looked up hopefully. But Jove thundered not.
'Until,' Vernon continued, 'he should have confirmed the sliding fathers
as being the author of counsel never given under an alias.'
He stopped, conscious of stillness round him like the dread calm of the
typhoon's centre. King's opening voice was sweeter than honey.
'I am painfully aware by bitter experience that I cannot give you any
idea of the passion, the power, the--the essential guts of the lines
which you have so foully outraged in our presence. But--' the note
changed, 'so far as in me lies, I will strive to bring home to you,
Vernon, the fact that there exist in Latin a few pitiful rules of
grammar, of syntax, nay, even of declension, which were not created for
your incult sport--your Boeotian diversion. You will, therefore, Vernon,
write out and bring to me to-morrow a word-for-word English-Latin
translation of the Ode, together with a full list of all adjectives--an
adjective is not a verb, Vernon, as the Lower Third will tell you--all
adjectives, their number, case, and gender. Even now I haven't begun to
deal with you faithfully.'
'I--I'm very sorry, sir,' Vernon stammered.
'You mistake the symptoms, Vernon. You are possibly discomfited by the
imposition, but sorrow postulates some sort of mind, intellect, _nous_.
Your rendering of _probrosis_ alone stamps you as lower than the beasts
of the field. Will some one take the taste out of our mouths?
And--talking of tastes--' He coughed. There was a distinct flavour of
chlorine gas in the air. Up went an eyebrow, though King knew perfectly
well what it meant.
'Mr. Hartopp's st--science class next door,' said Malpass.
'Oh yes. I had forgotten. Our newly established Modern Side, of course.
Perowne, open the windows; and Winton, go on once more from _interque
'And hastened away,' said Winton, 'surrounded by his mourning friends,
into--into illustrious banishment. But I got that out of Conington,
sir,' he added in one conscientious breath.
'I am aware. The master generally knows his ass's crib, though I acquit
_you_ of any intention that way. Can you suggest anything for _egregius
exul_? Only "egregious exile"? I fear "egregious" is a good word ruined.
No! You can't in this case improve on Conington. Now then for _atqui
sciebat quae sibi barbarus tortor pararet_. The whole force of it lies
in the _atqui_.'
'Although he knew,' Winton suggested.
'Stronger than that, I think.'
'He who knew well,' Malpass interpolated.
'Ye-es. "Well though he knew." I don't like Conington's "well-witting."
It's Wardour Street.'
'Well though he knew what the savage torturer was--was getting ready for
him,' said Winton.
'Ye-es. Had in store for him.'
'Yet he brushed aside his kinsmen and the people delaying his return.'
'Ye-es; but then how do you render _obstantes_?'
'If it's a free translation mightn't _obstantes_ and _morantem_ come to
about the same thing, sir?'
'Nothing comes to "about the same thing" with Horace, Winton. As I have
said, Horace was not a journalist. No, I take it that his kinsmen bodily
withstood his departure, whereas the crowd--_populumque_--the democracy
stood about futilely pitying him and getting in the way. Now for that
noblest of endings--_quam si clientum_,' and King ran off into the
'As though some tedious business o'er
Of clients' court, his journey lay
Towards Venafrum's grassy floor
Or Sparta-built Tarentum's bay.
All right, Winton. Beetle, when you've quite finished dodging the fresh
air yonder, give me the meaning of _tendens_--and turn down
'Me, sir? _Tendens_, sir? Oh! Stretching away in the direction of, sir.'
'Idiot! Regulus was not a feature of the landscape. He was a man,
self-doomed to death by torture. _Atqui, sciebat_--knowing it--having
achieved it for his country's sake--can't you hear that _atqui_ cut like
a knife?--he moved off with some dignity. That is why Horace out of the
whole golden Latin tongue chose the one word "tendens"--which is utterly
The gross injustice of being asked to translate it, converted Beetle
into a young Christian martyr, till King buried his nose in his
'I think they've broken another gas-bottle next door, sir,' said Howell.
'They're always doing it.' The Form coughed as more chlorine came in.
'Well, I suppose we must be patient with the Modern Side,' said King.
'But it is almost insupportable for this Side. Vernon, what are you
Vernon's mind had returned to him glowing and inspired. He chuckled as
he underlined his Horace.
'It appears to amuse you,' said King. 'Let us participate. What is it?'
'The last two lines of the Tenth Ode, in this book, sir,' was Vernon's
'What? Oh, I see. _Non hoc semper erit liminis aut aquae caelestis
patiens latus_.' King's mouth twitched to hide a grin. 'Was that
done with intention?'
[Footnote 2: 'This side will not always be patient of rain and waiting
on the threshold.']
'I--I thought it fitted, sir.'
'It does. It's distinctly happy. What put it into your thick head,
'I don't know, sir, except we did the Ode last term.'
'And you remembered? The same head that minted _probrosis_ as a verb!
Vernon, you are an enigma. No! This Side will _not_ always be patient of
unheavenly gases and waters. I will make representations to our
so-called Moderns. Meantime (who shall say I am not just?) I remit you
your accrued pains and penalties in regard to _probrosim, probrosis,
probrosit_ and other enormities. I oughtn't to do it, but this Side is
occasionally human. By no means bad, Paddy.'
'Thank you, sir,' said Vernon, wondering how inspiration had visited
Then King, with a few brisk remarks about Science, headed them back to
Regulus, of whom and of Horace and Rome and evil-minded commercial
Carthage and of the democracy eternally futile, he explained, in all
ages and climes, he spoke for ten minutes; passing thence to the next
Ode--_Delicta Majorum_--where he fetched up, full-voiced, upon--'_Dis te
minorem quod geris imperas_' (Thou rulest because thou bearest thyself
as lower than the Gods)--making it a text for a discourse on manners,
morals, and respect for authority as distinct from bottled gases, which
lasted till the bell rang. Then Beetle, concertinaing his books,
observed to Winton, 'When King's really on tap he's an interestin' dog.
Hartopp's chlorine uncorked him.'
'Yes; but why did you tell me _delubris_ was "deluges," you silly ass?'
'Well, that uncorked him too. Look out, you hoof-handed old owl!' Winton
had cleared for action as the Form poured out like puppies at play and
was scragging Beetle. Stalky from behind collared Winton low. The three
fell in confusion.
'_Dis te minorem quod geris imperas_,' quoth Stalky, ruffling Winton's
lint-white locks. 'Mustn't jape with Number Five study. Don't be too
virtuous. Don't brood over it. 'Twon't count against you in your future
caree-ah. Cheer up, Pater.'
'Pull him off my--er--essential guts, will you?' said Beetle from
beneath. 'He's squashin' 'em.'
They dispersed to their studies.
* * * * *
No one, the owner least of all, can explain what is in a growing boy's
mind. It might have been the blind ferment of adolescence; Stalky's
random remarks about virtue might have stirred him; like his betters he
might have sought popularity by way of clowning; or, as the Head
asserted years later, the only known jest of his serious life might have
worked on him, as a sober-sided man's one love colours and dislocates
all his after days. But, at the next lesson, mechanical drawing with Mr.
Lidgett who as drawing-master had very limited powers of punishment,
Winton fell suddenly from grace and let loose a live mouse in the
form-room. The whole form, shrieking and leaping high, threw at it all
the plaster cones, pyramids, and fruit in high relief--not to mention
ink-pots--that they could lay hands on. Mr. Lidgett reported at once to
the Head; Winton owned up to his crime, which, venial in the Upper
Third, pardonable at a price in the Lower Fourth, was, of course, rank
ruffianism on the part of a Fifth Form boy; and so, by graduated stages,
he arrived at the Head's study just before lunch, penitent, perturbed,
annoyed with himself and--as the Head said to King in the corridor after
the meal--more human than he had known him in seven years.
'You see,' the Head drawled on, 'Winton's only fault is a certain
costive and unaccommodating virtue. So this comes very happily.'
'I've never noticed any sign of it,' said King. Winton was in King's
House, and though King as pro-consul might, and did, infernally oppress
his own Province, once a black and yellow cap was in trouble at the
hands of the Imperial authority King fought for him to the very last
steps of Caesar's throne.
'Well, you yourself admitted just now that a mouse was beneath the
occasion,' the Head answered.
'It was.' Mr. King did not love Mr. Lidgett. 'It should have been a rat.
But--but--I hate to plead it--it's the lad's first offence.'
'Could you have damned him more completely, King?'
'Hm. What is the penalty?' said King, in retreat, but keeping up a
'Only my usual few lines of Virgil to be shown up by tea-time.'
The Head's eyes turned slightly to that end of the corridor where
Mullins, Captain of the Games ('Pot,' 'old Pot,' or 'Potiphar' Mullins),
was pinning up the usual Wednesday notice--'Big, Middle, and Little Side
Football--A to K, L to Z, 3 to 4.45 P.M.'
You cannot write out the Head's usual few (which means five hundred)
Latin lines and play football for one hour and three-quarters between
the hours of 1.30 and 5 P.M. Winton had evidently no intention of trying
to do so, for he hung about the corridor with a set face and an uneasy
foot. Yet it was law in the school, compared with which that of the
Medes and Persians was no more than a non-committal resolution, that any
boy, outside the First Fifteen, who missed his football for any reason
whatever, and had not a written excuse, duly signed by competent
authority to explain his absence, would receive not less than three
strokes with a ground-ash from the Captain of the Games, generally a
youth between seventeen and eighteen years, rarely under eleven stone
('Pot' was nearer thirteen), and always in hard condition.
King knew without inquiry that the Head had given Winton no such excuse.
'But he is practically a member of the First Fifteen. He has played for
it all this term,' said King. 'I believe his Cap should have arrived
'His Cap has not been given him. Officially, therefore, he is naught. I
rely on old Pot.'
'But Mullins is Winton's study-mate,' King persisted.
Pot Mullins and Pater Winton were cousins and rather close friends.
'That will make no difference to Mullins--or Winton, if I know 'em,'
said the Head.
'But--but,' King played his last card desperately, 'I was going to
recommend Winton for extra sub-prefect in my House, now Carton
'Certainly,' said the Head. 'Why not? He will be excellent by tea-time,
At that moment they saw Mr. Lidgett, tripping down the corridor, waylaid
'It's about that mouse-business at mechanical drawing,' Winton opened,
swinging across his path.
'Yes, yes, highly disgraceful,' Mr. Lidgett panted.
'I know it was,' said Winton. 'It--it was a cad's trick because--'
'Because you knew I couldn't give you more than fifty lines,' said Mr.
'Well, anyhow I've come to apologise for it.'
'Certainly,' said Mr. Lidgett, and added, for he was a kindly man, 'I
think that shows quite right feeling. I'll tell the Head at once I'm
'No--no!' The boy's still unmended voice jumped from the growl to the
squeak. 'I didn't mean _that_! I--I did it on principle. Please
don't--er--do anything of that kind.'
Mr. Lidgett looked him up and down and, being an artist, understood.
'Thank you, Winton,' he said. 'This shall be between ourselves.'
'You heard?' said King, indecent pride in his voice.
'Of course. You thought he was going to get Lidgett to beg him off the
King denied this with so much warmth that the Head laughed and King went
away in a huff.
'By the way,' said the Head, 'I've told Winton to do his lines in your
form-room--not in his study.'
'Thanks,' said King over his shoulder, for the Head's orders had saved
Winton and Mullins, who was doing extra Army work in the study, from an
embarrassing afternoon together.
An hour later, King wandered into his still form-room as though by
accident. Winton was hard at work.
'Aha!' said King, rubbing his hands. 'This does not look like games,
Winton. Don't let me arrest your facile pen. Whence this sudden love
'Impot from the Head, sir, for that mouse-business this morning.'
'Rumours thereof have reached us. That was a lapse on your part into
Lower Thirdery which I don't quite understand.'
The 'tump-tump' of the puntabouts before the sides settled to games came
through the open window. Winton, like his House-Master, loved fresh air.
Then they heard Paddy Vernon, sub-prefect on duty, calling the roll in
the field and marking defaulters. Winton wrote steadily. King curled
himself up on a desk, hands round knees. One would have said that the
man was gloating over the boy's misfortune, but the boy understood.
'_Dis te minorem quod geris imperas_,' King quoted presently. 'It is
necessary to bear oneself as lower than the local gods--even than
drawing-masters who are precluded from effective retaliation. I _do_
wish you'd tried that mouse-game with me, Pater.'
Winton grinned; then sobered 'It was a cad's trick, sir, to play on Mr.
Lidgett.' He peered forward at the page he was copying.
'Well, "the sin _I_ impute to each frustrate ghost"--' King stopped
himself. 'Why do you goggle like an owl? Hand me the Mantuan and I'll
dictate. No matter. Any rich Virgilian measures will serve. I may
peradventure recall a few.' He began:
'Tu regere imperio populos Romane memento
Hae tibi erunt artes pacisque imponere morem,
Parcere subjectis et debellare superbos.
There you have it all, Winton. Write that out twice and yet once again.'
For the next forty minutes, with never a glance at the book, King paid
out the glorious hexameters (and King could read Latin as though it were
alive), Winton hauling them in and coiling them away behind him as
trimmers in a telegraph-ship's hold coil away deep-sea cable. King broke
from the Aeneid to the Georgics and back again, pausing now and then to
translate some specially loved line or to dwell on the treble-shot
texture of the ancient fabric. He did not allude to the coming interview
with Mullins except at the last, when he said, 'I think at this
juncture, Pater, I need not ask you for the precise significance of
_atqui sciebat quae sibi barbarus tortor_.'
The ungrateful Winton flushed angrily, and King loafed out to take five
o'clock call-over, after which he invited little Hartopp to tea and a
talk on chlorine-gas. Hartopp accepted the challenge like a bantam, and
the two went up to King's study about the same time as Winton returned
to the form-room beneath it to finish his lines.
Then half a dozen of the Second Fifteen, who should have been washing,
strolled in to condole with 'Pater' Winton, whose misfortune and its
consequences were common talk. No one was more sincere than the long,
red-headed, knotty-knuckled 'Paddy' Vernon, but, being a careless
animal, he joggled Winton's desk.
'Curse you for a silly ass!' said Winton. 'Don't do that.'
No one is expected to be polite while under punishment, so Vernon,
sinking his sub-prefectship, replied peacefully enough:
'Well, don't be wrathy, Pater.'
'I'm not,' said Winton. 'Get out! This ain't your House form-room.'
''Form-room don't belong to you. Why don't you go to your own study?'
'Because Mullins is there waitin' for the victim,' said Stalky
delicately, and they all laughed. 'You ought to have shaken that mouse
out of your trouser-leg, Pater. That's the way _I_ did in my youth.
Pater's revertin' to his second childhood. Never mind, Pater, we all
respect you and your future caree-ah.'
Winton, still writhing, growled. Vernon leaning on the desk somehow
shook it again. Then he laughed.
'What are you grinning at?' Winton asked.
'I was only thinkin' of _you_ being sent up to take a lickin' from Pot.
I swear I don't think it's fair. You've never shirked a game in your
life, and you're as good as in the First Fifteen already. Your Cap ought
to have been delivered last week, oughtn't it?'
It was law in the school that no man could by any means enjoy the
privileges and immunities of the First Fifteen till the black velvet cap
with the gold tassel, made by dilatory Exeter outfitters, had been
actually set on his head. Ages ago, a large-built and unruly Second
Fifteen had attempted to change this law, but the prefects of that age
were still larger, and the lively experiment had never been repeated.
'Will you,' said Winton very slowly, 'kindly mind your own damned
business, you cursed, clumsy, fat-headed fool?'
The form-room was as silent as the empty field in the darkness outside.
Vernon shifted his feet uneasily.
'Well, _I_ shouldn't like to take a lickin' from Pot,' he said.
'Wouldn't you?' Winton asked, as he paged the sheets of lines with hands
'No, I shouldn't,' said Vernon, his freckles growing more distinct on
the bridge of his white nose.
'Well, I'm going to take it'--Winton moved clear of the desk as he
spoke. 'But _you're_ going to take a lickin' from me first.' Before any
one realised it, he had flung himself neighing against Vernon. No
decencies were observed on either side, and the rest looked on amazed.
The two met confusedly, Vernon trying to do what he could with his
longer reach; Winton, insensible to blows, only concerned to drive his
enemy into a corner and batter him to pulp. This he managed over against
the fire-place, where Vernon dropped half-stunned. 'Now I'm going to
give you your lickin',' said Winton. 'Lie there till I get a ground-ash
and I'll cut you to pieces. If you move, I'll chuck you out of the
window.' He wound his hands into the boy's collar and waistband, and had
actually heaved him half off the ground before the others with one
accord dropped on his head, shoulders, and legs. He fought them crazily
in an awful hissing silence. Stalky's sensitive nose was rubbed along
the floor; Beetle received a jolt in the wind that sent him whistling
and crowing against the wall; Perowne's forehead was cut, and Malpass
came out with an eye that explained itself like a dying rainbow through
a whole week.
'Mad! Quite mad!' said Stalky, and for the third time wriggled back to
Winton's throat. The door opened and King came in, Hartopp's little
figure just behind him. The mound on the floor panted and heaved but did
not rise, for Winton still squirmed vengefully. 'Only a little play,
sir,' said Perowne. ''Only hit my head against a form.' This was
'Oh,' said King. '_Dimovit obstantes propinquos._ You, I presume, are
the _populus_ delaying Winton's return to--Mullins, eh?'
'No, sir,' said Stalky behind his claret-coloured handkerchief. 'We're
the _maerentes amicos_.'
'Not bad! You see, some of it sticks after all,' King chuckled to
Hartopp, and the two masters left without further inquiries.
The boys sat still on the now-passive Winton.
'Well,' said Stalky at last, 'of all the putrid he-asses, Pater, you are
'I'm sorry. I'm awfully sorry,' Winton began, and they let him rise. He
held out his hand to the bruised and bewildered Vernon. 'Sorry, Paddy.
I--I must have lost my temper. I--I don't know what's the matter
''Fat lot of good that'll do my face at tea,' Vernon grunted. 'Why
couldn't you say there was something wrong with you instead of lamming
out like a lunatic? Is my lip puffy?'
'Just a trifle. Look at my beak! Well, we got all these pretty marks at
footer--owin' to the zeal with which we played the game,' said Stalky,
dusting himself. 'But d'you think you're fit to be let loose again,
Pater? 'Sure you don't want to kill another sub-prefect? I wish _I_ was
Pot. I'd cut your sprightly young soul out.'
'I s'pose I ought to go to Pot now,' said Winton.
'And let all the other asses see you lookin' like this! Not much. We'll
all come up to Number Five Study and wash off in hot water. Beetle, you
aren't damaged. Go along and light the gas-stove.'
'There's a tin of cocoa in my study somewhere,' Perowne shouted after
him. 'Rootle round till you find it, and take it up.'
Separately, by different roads, Vernon's jersey pulled half over his
head, the boys repaired to Number Five Study. Little Hartopp and King, I
am sorry to say, leaned over the banisters of King's landing
'Ve-ry human,' said little Hartopp. 'Your virtuous Winton, having got
himself into trouble, takes it out of my poor old Paddy. I wonder what
precise lie Paddy will tell about his face.'
'But surely you aren't going to embarrass him by asking?' said King.
'_Your_ boy won,' said Hartopp.
'To go back to what we were discussing,' said King quickly, 'do you
pretend that your modern system of inculcating unrelated facts about
chlorine, for instance, all of which may be proved fallacies by the time
the boys grow up, can have any real bearing on education--even the low
type of it that examiners expect?'
'I maintain nothing. But is it any worse than your Chinese reiteration
of uncomprehended syllables in a dead tongue?'
'Dead, forsooth!' King fairly danced. 'The only living tongue on earth!
Chinese! On my word, Hartopp!'
'And at the end of seven years--how often have I said it?' Hartopp went
on,--'seven years of two hundred and twenty days of six hours each, your
victims go away with nothing, absolutely nothing, except, perhaps, if
they've been very attentive, a dozen--no, I'll grant you twenty--one
score of totally unrelated Latin tags which any child of twelve could
have absorbed in two terms.'
'But--but can't you realise that if our system brings later--at any
rate--at a pinch--a simple understanding--grammar and Latinity apart--a
mere glimpse of the significance (foul word!) of, we'll say, one Ode of
Horace, one twenty lines of Virgil, we've got what we poor devils of
ushers are striving after?'
'And what might that be?' said Hartopp.
'Balance, proportion, perspective--life. Your scientific man is the
unrelated animal--the beast without background. Haven't you ever
realised _that_ in your atmosphere of stinks?'
'Meantime you make them lose life for the sake of living, eh?'
'Blind again, Hartopp! I told you about Paddy's quotation this morning.
(But he made _probrosis_ a verb, he did!) You yourself heard young
Corkran's reference to _maerentes amicos_. It sticks--a little of it
sticks among the barbarians.'
'Absolutely and essentially Chinese,' said little Hartopp, who, alone of
the common-room, refused to be outfaced by King. 'But I don't yet
understand how Paddy came to be licked by Winton. Paddy's supposed to be
something of a boxer.'
'Beware of vinegar made from honey,' King replied. 'Pater, like some
other people, is patient and long-suffering, but he has his limits. The
Head is oppressing him damnably, too. As I pointed out, the boy has
practically been in the First Fifteen since term began.'
'But, my dear fellow, I've known you give a boy an impot and refuse him
leave off games, again and again.'
'Ah, but that was when there was real need to get at some oaf who
couldn't be sensitised in any other way. Now, in our esteemed Head's
action I see nothing but--'
The conversation from this point does not concern us.
Meantime Winton, very penitent and especially polite towards Vernon, was
being cheered with cocoa in Number Five Study. They had some difficulty
in stemming the flood of his apologies. He himself pointed out to Vernon
that he had attacked a sub-prefect for no reason whatever, and,
therefore, deserved official punishment.
'I can't think what was the matter with me to-day,' he mourned. 'Ever
since that blasted mouse-business--'
'Well, then, don't think,' said Stalky. 'Or do you want Paddy to make a
row about it before all the school?'
Here Vernon was understood to say that he would see Winton and all the
school somewhere else.
'And if you imagine Perowne and Malpass and me are goin' to give
evidence at a prefects' meeting just to soothe your beastly conscience,
you jolly well err,' said Beetle. 'I know what you did.'
'What?' croaked Pater, out of the valley of his humiliation.
'You went Berserk. I've read all about it in _Hypatia_.'
'What's "going Berserk"?' Winton asked.
'Never you mind,' was the reply. 'Now, don't you feel awfully weak and
'I _am_ rather tired,' said Winton, sighing.
'That's what you ought to be. You've gone Berserk and pretty soon you'll
go to sleep. But you'll probably be liable to fits of it all your life,'
Beetle concluded. ''Shouldn't wonder if you murdered some one some day.'
'Shut up--you and your Berserks!' said Stalky. 'Go to Mullins now and
get it over, Pater.'
'I call it filthy unjust of the Head,' said Vernon. 'Anyhow, you've
given me my lickin', old man. I hope Pot'll give you yours.'
'I'm awfully sorry--awfully sorry,' was Winton's last word.
It was the custom in that consulship to deal with games' defaulters
between five o'clock call-over and tea. Mullins, who was old enough to
pity, did not believe in letting boys wait through the night till the
chill of the next morning for their punishments. He was finishing off
the last of the small fry and their excuses when Winton arrived.
'But, please, Mullins'--this was Babcock tertius, a dear little
twelve-year-old mother's darling--'I had an awful hack on the knee. I've
been to the Matron about it and she gave me some iodine. I've been
rubbing it in all day. I thought that would be an excuse off.'
'Let's have a look at it,' said the impassive Mullins. 'That's a
shin-bruise--about a week old. Touch your toes. I'll give you
Babcock yelled loudly as he had many times before. The face of Jevons,
aged eleven, a new boy that dark wet term, low in the House, low in the
Lower School, and lowest of all in his home-sick little mind turned
white at the horror of the sight. They could hear his working lips part
stickily as Babcock wailed his way out of hearing.
'Hullo, Jevons! What brings you here?' said Mullins.
'Pl-ease, sir, I went for a walk with Babcock tertius.'
'Did you? Then I bet you went to the tuck-shop--and you paid, didn't
A nod. Jevons was too terrified to speak.
'Of course, and I bet Babcock told you that old Pot 'ud let you off
because it was the first time.'
Another nod with a ghost of a smile in it.
'All right.' Mullins picked Jevons up before he could guess what was
coming, laid him on the table with one hand, with the other gave him
three emphatic spanks, then held him high in air.
'Now you tell Babcock tertius that he's got you a licking from me, and
see you jolly well pay it back to him. And when you're prefect of games
don't you let any one shirk his footer without a written excuse. Where
d'you play in your game?'
'You can do better than that. I've seen you run like a young
buck-rabbit. Ask Dickson from me to try you as three-quarter next game,
will you? Cut along.'
Jevons left, warm for the first time that day, enormously set up in his
own esteem, and very hot against the deceitful Babcock.
Mullins turned to Winton. 'Your name's on the list, Pater.' Winton
'I know it. The Head landed me with an impot for that mouse-business at
mechanical drawing. No excuse.'
'He meant it then?' Mullins jerked his head delicately towards the
ground-ash on the table. 'I heard something about it.'
Winton nodded. 'A rotten thing to do,' he said. 'Can't think what I was
doing ever to do it. It counts against a fellow so; and there's some
'All right, Pater. Just stand clear of our photo-bracket, will you?'
The little formality over, there was a pause. Winton swung round, yawned
in Pot's astonished face and staggered towards the window-seat.
'What's the matter with you, Dick? Ill?'
'No. Perfectly all right, thanks. Only--only a little sleepy.' Winton
stretched himself out, and then and there fell deeply and
'It isn't a faint,' said the experienced Mullins, 'or his pulse wouldn't
act. 'Tisn't a fit or he'd snort and twitch. It can't be sunstroke, this
term, and he hasn't been over-training for anything.' He opened Winton's
collar, packed a cushion under his head, threw a rug over him and sat
down to listen to the regular breathing. Before long Stalky arrived, on
pretence of borrowing a book. He looked at the window-seat.
''Noticed anything wrong with Winton lately?' said Mullins.
''Notice anything wrong with my beak?' Stalky replied. 'Pater went
Berserk after call-over, and fell on a lot of us for jesting with him
about his impot. You ought to see Malpass's eye.'
'You mean that Pater fought?' said Mullins.
'Like a devil. Then he nearly went to sleep in our study just now. I
expect he'll be all right when he wakes up. Rummy business!
Conscientious old bargee. You ought to have heard his apologies.'
'But Pater can't fight one little bit,' Mullins repeated.
''Twasn't fighting. He just tried to murder every one.' Stalky described
the affair, and when he left Mullins went off to take counsel with the
Head, who, out of a cloud of blue smoke, told him that all would yet
'Winton,' said he, 'is a little stiff in his moral joints. He'll get
over that. If he asks you whether to-day's doings will count against
him in his--'
'But you know it's important to him, sir. His people aren't--very well
off,' said Mullins.
'That's why I'm taking all this trouble. You must reassure him, Pot. I
have overcrowded him with new experiences. Oh, by the way, has his
'It came at dinner, sir.' Mullins laughed.
Sure enough, when he waked at tea-time, Winton proposed to take Mullins
all through every one of his day's lapses from grace, and 'Do you think
it will count against me?' said he.
'Don't you fuss so much about yourself and your silly career,' said
Mullins. 'You're all right. And oh--here's your First Cap at last. Shove
it up on the bracket and come on to tea.'
They met King on their way, stepping statelily and rubbing his hands. 'I
have applied,' said he, 'for the services of an additional sub-prefect
in Carton's unlamented absence. Your name, Winton, seems to have found
favour with the powers that be, and--and all things considered--I am
disposed to give my support to the nomination. You are therefore a
'Then it didn't count against me,' Winton gasped as soon as they were
out of hearing.
A Captain of Games can jest with a sub-prefect publicly.
'You utter ass!' said Mullins, and caught him by the back of his stiff
neck and ran him down to the hall where the sub-prefects, who sit below
the salt, made him welcome with the economical bloater-paste
King and little Hartopp were sparring in the Reverend John Gillett's
study at 10 P.M.--classical _versus_ modern as usual.
'Character--proportion--background,' snarled King. 'That is the essence
of the Humanities.'
'Analects of Confucius,' little Hartopp answered.
'Time,' said the Reverend John behind the soda-water. 'You men oppress
me. Hartopp, what did you say to Paddy in your dormitories to-night?
Even _you_ couldn't have overlooked his face.'
'But I did,' said Hartopp calmly. 'I wasn't even humorous about it as
some clerics might have been. I went straight through and said naught.'
'Poor Paddy! Now, for my part,' said King, 'and you know I am not lavish
in my praises, I consider Winton a first-class type; absolutely
'Ha-ardly,' said the Reverend John. 'First-class of the second class, I
admit. The very best type of second class but'--he shook his head--'it
should have been a rat. Pater'll never be anything more than a Colonel
'What do you base that verdict on?' said King stiffly.
'He came to me after prayers--with all his conscience.'
'Poor old Pater. Was it the mouse?' said little Hartopp.
'That, and what he called his uncontrollable temper, and his
responsibilities as sub-prefect.'
'If we had had what is vulgarly called a pi-jaw he'd have had
hysterics. So I recommended a dose of Epsom salts. He'll take it,
too--conscientiously. Don't eat me, King. Perhaps, he'll be a K.C.B.'
Ten o'clock struck and the Army class boys in the further studies coming
to their houses after an hour's extra work passed along the gravel path
below. Some one was chanting, to the tune of 'White sand and grey sand,'
_Dis te minorem quod geris imperas_. He stopped outside Mullins' study.
They heard Mullins' window slide up and then Stalky's voice:
'Ah! Good-evening, Mullins, my _barbarus tortor_. We're the waits. We
have come to inquire after the local Berserk. Is he doin' as well as can
be expected in his new caree-ah?'
'Better than you will, in a sec, Stalky,' Mullins grunted.
'Glad of that. We thought he'd like to know that Paddy has been carried
to the sick-house in ravin' delirium. They think it's concussion of
'Why, he was all right at prayers,' Winton began earnestly, and they
heard a laugh in the background as Mullins slammed down the window.
''Night, Regulus,' Stalky sang out, and the light footsteps went on.
'You see. It sticks. A little of it sticks among the barbarians,' said
'Amen,' said the Reverend John. 'Go to bed.'
HORACE, Bk. V. _Ode 3_
There are whose study is of smells,
And to attentive schools rehearse
How something mixed with something else
Makes something worse.
Some cultivate in broths impure
The clients of our body--these,
Increasing without Venus, cure,
Or cause, disease.
Others the heated wheel extol,
And all its offspring, whose concern
Is how to make it farthest roll
And fastest turn.
Me, much incurious if the hour
Present, or to be paid for, brings
Me to Brundusium by the power
Of wheels or wings;
Me, in whose breast no flame hath burned
Life-long, save that by Pindar lit,
Such lore leaves cold: I am not turned
Aside to it
More than when, sunk in thought profound
Of what the unaltering Gods require,
My steward (friend but slave) brings round
Logs for my fire.
The Edge of the Evening
Ah! What avails the classic bent,
And what the chosen word,
Against the undoctored incident
That actually occurred?
And what is Art whereto we press
Through paint and prose and rhyme--
When Nature in her nakedness
Defeats us every time?
'Hi! Hi! Hold your horses! Stop!... Well! Well!' A lean man in a
sable-lined overcoat leaped from a private car and barred my way up Pall
Mall. 'You don't know me? You're excusable. I wasn't wearing much of
anything last time we met--in South Africa.'