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A FALSE impression had at ing by the side of the road. one time prevailed as to what The gunner held a sorry pony the meaning of a Provost- by a dilapidated bridle. The
a Marshal was.
His raison d'étre pony bore itself as though it had not been understood. He had just carried the sole surhad been pictured as a sinister vivor of an army into Jellalafigure fortified with rope to bad, and it was obviously in hang marauders, destitute of an advanced stage of physical the milk of human kindness, and moral decay. and insensible to every feel- The rencontre was so unexing of remorse. Nor had the peoted that the gunner actually Column-Commander at the out- forgot himself so far as to set been wholly uninfluenced salute, a practice which had by this mistaken view : he had, come to be more honoured in however, at an early stage of the breach than in the observthe campaign been undeceived ance. But the man was too by one of those touches of much under the influence of nature which even within an harrowing experiences just unarmy make the whole world dergone, to proffer apologies kin.
express himself His battery formed part of a in ornate phrase attuned to force of all arms pushing the a commanding officer's ear. remnants of the burgher host “Sir!” said he emphatically, into the uplands of the Eastern as he indicated the buildings Transvaal, and one day he was with a dramatic flourish of the ordered to ride on and select arm, “I risked my life to positions for his guns to guard be first man in that store. But the space which was to be the the Provost - Marshal got in camping-ground. The rattle before me, and he's looted of musketry sounded in front, everything. Everything, sir, and in due course he found except the kerosene!” that the mounted troops had When, therefore, the Piccanwrested some koppies dominat- niny, during the second phase ing the intended halting-place of the protracted war, joined out of the keeping of the the column and was nominated enemy. A group of buildings Provost - Marshal because no
A hard by the spot chosen for the body could think of any other force to pass the night made a post for him to fill, the Columnconspicuous feature in the Commander, whose convictions broken landscape. He had been unsettled by the cantering forward intent upon incident above narrated, forhis mission, when to his pro- bore from explanations to the found astonishment and speech- nominee. Convinced that mililess indignation he came upon tary efficiency is inseparably one of his own gunners stand- bound up with individual initi
ative, and that shackling a to affect at that particular time, subordinate with instructions and he seemed to have been reduces him to an automaton, poured into it as wine is poured he left it to the Piccanning into a funnel. He was a quiet himself to find out what his slip of a lad, with none of the duties were, and the new exuberance of early years, who arrival from the outset gave seldom contributed a remark evidence of a sound discretion. unless it was extorted from He was young, ridiculously him, and who in a cataclysm young-almost, if not quite, as would have remained unyoung as the Trumpeter; but moved. an old head was poised upon In moments of excitement he those youthful shoulders. With was imperturbable. Once the that instinctive recognition of commando made a rapid movethe dominating issues involved ment to the rear-a reculer in the situation which indicates pour mieux sauter sort of movethe master - mind, he realised ment, you will understand, the danger of exceeding powers and during its progress the with the scope of which he was staff felt called upon to gallop not fully acquainted, and of furiously from a position where overstepping the boundary of the fire was becoming hot to functions the limits to which another position farther rehad not been defined, and he moved from the enemy. On therefore adopted the judicious reaching their goal, dismountcourse of performing no duties ing hastily, and surveying the at all so as to secure himself field of battle from this fresh against the possibility of mak- point of view, their sense of the ing a mistake.
fitness of things was sorely Το
say that the Piocanniny outraged by the spectacle of looked the part would be per- the Piccanning on his conspicuhaps to go too far.
ous grey cob following at a not of imposing stature, nor leisurely jog-trot, midway bewere his insignificant propor- tween the just vacated ground tions compensated for by a which a hostile body had altruculent mien. Нө was ready seized, and the more renephew to the Signalling- tired eminence where they now Officer, and it was commonly found themselves. Spurts of reported in the column that he dust around the Provost had run away from Eton in Marshal showed that he was obedience to his country's call, being fired at; moreover, inasand had been brought to the much as panting and over-eager seat of war in his uncle's soldiers are apt to shoot erpocket. He was arrayed in ratically, he was almost as that hybrid article of dress, likely to be hit by his own as half trousers and half riding- by the other side. He manibreeches, combining the disad- fested not the slightest disposivantage of both without pos- tion to accelerate his pace, and sessing the merits of either, presently trotted up looking which young bloods were wont intensely bored, condescended
to dismount with much deliber- the ruck,” and he sauntered ation, and then felt in his over to a shady bush and lay haversack for a cigarette. down under it and went to
The military situation at the sleep. A scowl of implacable moment did not lend itself to rancour momentarily convulsed argument or admonition. But the Staff-Officer's usually serene some hours later, when the broil and placid features, but he had was over and when the Column nothing ready. He was too had off-saddled, weary of com- accomplished an exponent of bat, the Staff-Officer felt that the art of war not to perceive the time was come to upbraid the tactical blunder of which he the Piccanning for his irregular had been guilty. He had adbehaviour. "It isn't,” as he ventured an offensive operation was careful to explain, “that without making fitting prowe care a damn whether you vision to meet a counter-attack, get shot or not; but that's a and he acquiesced in the abrupt capital pony that you've got- breaking-off of the action on much too good for a young cub the part of the Piccanniny, like you,--and we've no idea of postponing further hostilities its falling into the hands of till a more convenient season. Mr Van der Venter." The It was decided one day to Piccanniny showed no symp- empty all the regimental wagtoms of resentment at the gons and to send them to the reproaches heaped on him by railway for forage, at a juncture the keeper of the Column's con- when the Supply-Monger was science. He had been in the absent with his convoy and midst of rout and uproar and when the Transport-Officer was commotion, a fragment of bis- reduced to comparative imcuit had been his only susten- potence by an injured foot; so ance for many hours, he was it became a question who was white with dust and he was to take charge of the caravan. tired, hot, and very thirsty; “Why not send the Piccanniny, but although he felt in no sir ?” suggested the Signallinghumour for acrimonious con- Officer, and the proposition versation, he remained good- was carried by acclamation. tempered even under this final “Capital thing for a youngster, provocation. He admitted that teaching him responsibility,' the tribute paid to the merits acknowledged the Columnof his pony was no more than Commander, wishing he had was that animal's due. “But," thought of it himself. - Will he added, “the beggar's nothing the boy understand that it's the like fast enough to get in front devil and all if mules aren't of you and the Colonel and the outspanned and allowed a roll rest of you when you're run- every ten miles or so?” ning away; I found bucketing mured the Transport-Officer as along with the whole gang of he hobbled about, a prey to you kicking up stones in my grave misgivings. « Please face rather tiresome, so I just goodness, he'll get nothing to slowed down and got clear of eat but biscuits and bully
beef !” was the Staff Officer's Depot to have been pestered fervent and malevolent wish, with the vouchers and requisWhen the report spread that ition - forms which the the Piccanning was going to be stock - in - trade of a departcalled upon to actually perform mental bureaucracy, without a military service, there was being expected to talk about quite a flutter of anticipation it afterwards. But the old in the Column, the only person soldier who ministered to his indeed who displayed no in- wants was overheard describterest in the matter whatever ing the main incidents of the being the Piccanning himself. expedition, and paying an elo
Nor did he seem concerned quent tribute to the Provostwhen the hour arrived for him Marshal's capacity for comto embark upon his venture. mand when “on his own.” “Mind you're back in four “Picoanniny is it?” he was days with the waggons filled heard to ejaculate. “'E ain't up, was the Column - Com- no Piccanniny! I jest tell ye mander's final word. “ Take this. Fust evnin' we was out the mules along quietly for 'o sez to me, sez 'e-'Go to mercy's sake, and if you see
that conductor man,' sez 'e, a nigger bustling them, trice 'an' jest give 'im this 'ere him up and give him a dozen," paper.
An' on the paper it advised the Transport-Officer. sez as ’ow the bloomin' transEmotion robbed the Signalling- port was to be ready to march Officer of his powers of speech, orf at 6 A.M. Well, I goes over but he caught himself feeling to the conductor an' I gives in his pocket for the sovereign 'im the paper, an' 'e looks at he had been in the habit of the paper, an' ’e larfs sort of bestowing upon his hopeful nasty, an' 'e sez, sez 'e, ‘Mebbe nephew on previous occasions we'll be orf at seven,' sez 'e. of their parting. The Picoan- 'Will I tell the orfoer that,' sez niny in the meantime rode out I. 'E looks up mighty fierce. of the circle with a counten- 'Oo the 'ell are you?' 'e sez, ance devoid of all expression, 'a - steppin' up to me with and the staff did not fail to yer blarsted chits.'
An' 'is take note that he never looked langidge ! Wy, I 'ear the to see whether his convoy was Signallin' Lance - Corpral afollowing him or not.
torkin' t'other mornin' Four days later he arrived that big black 'orse of 'is stud in camp with his waggons full on 'is fut; but 'e's no better and with the mules looking all nor
nor a babby at slingin' 'is the better for their journey. tongue 'longside that there He was not communicative, conductor.
So I jest goes nor did he show the slightest back to the orfoer an' I gives inclination to give an account 'im a resoomée of wot'e said, of his experiences. It had an' we orl goes to sleep. been bad enough to have “Nex' mornin' the orfer 'as trekked all that distance, and 'is mug o' cocoa at five-thirty, when he reached the Supply- an' I see as 'ow the waggons
wasn't inspannin'. Arter &
ant at the station as bit 'e sez to me, sez 'e, Wot subordinate camp - follower'time do ye make it ?' sez 'e. that's wot 'e calls 'im_'an 'I makes it five parst six,' sez yo'd better be quick,' sez he, I. 'It's jest six,' sez 'e; 'go cos there's ’arf a minute gorn to that conductor man an' tell already.' Well, the conductor 'im to come 'ere to me,' sez 'e. jest thinks as long as ye might I goes to the conductor an' I take to suck down ’arf a pint, tells ’im. 'Oh, 'e wants me to an' then 'e rides back to the go to 'im, the young limb!' waggons. An' I tell ye this ! sez the conductor; 'if 'e wants Them waggons was ready to me 'e can well, come 'ere,' move orf in ten minutes; an' sez 'e. Will I tell the orfoer rest of the time that conductor, that?' sez I. 'Well,' sez 'e, as takes so much on 'isself 'ere • I'll jest get on my ’orse an' with the column, was as perlite go over to 'im,' sez 'e; an' 'e as a one-day recruity as is gets on 'is ’orse an' rides over drorin' 'is 'quipment from the to the orfcer's bivvy. The quarter - bloke. That's wot I orfcer was standin' outside 'is sez! My orfcer ain't a veterbivvy a-brushin' 'is teeth—’e's ing, as 'as lived in barricks an' allus a-brushin' 'is teeth. Wy knows wot's wot, same as the ain't them waggons ready Fiddler 3 .but 'e ain't 'cordin' to orders ?' 'o arsks bloomin' Piocanning!” the conductor. 'Y' ain't ready Whatever he was then, he is yerself,' sez the conductor, no Piccanniny now. pretty cheeky.
prop yourself against the gar“The orfcer looks at 'im very den wall of Marlborough House quiet ’arf a minute 'an then 'e about a quarter to eleven of a sez, sez 'e, 'See 'ere, conductor,' morning, and if fortune favours sez 'e, 'the Kurnel may put up you, you may behold him over with a lazy useless loafin' 'oaf against you in the courtyard in 'is column, as funks 'is own of St James' Palace, a gracious niggers, but I won't,' sez 'e. figure, erect and debonair, Ye've got ten minutes by my participating in certain obwatch to ’ave them waggons servances in which portions ready,' sez ’e, 'an' if they ain't of His Majesty's Foot Guards ready ye'll be in arrest, an' I'll are wont to indulge at that ’and ye over to the Command- early hour.
For if you