"Seems to me," said Billy to the troop horse, "that our friend Two Tails is afraid of most things. Now, if I had a full meal for every dog I've kicked across the parade-ground I should be as fat as Two Tails nearly."
I whistled, and Vixen ran up to me, muddy all over, and licked my nose, and told me a long tale about hunting for me all through the camp. I never let her know that I understood beast talk, or she would have taken all sorts of liberties. So I buttoned her into the breast of my overcoat, and Two Tails shuffled and stamped and growled to himself.
"Extraordinary! Most extraordinary!" he said. "It runs in our family. Now, where has that nasty little beast gone to?"
I heard him feeling about with his trunk.
"We all seem to be affected in various ways," he went on, blowing his nose. "Now, you gentlemen were alarmed, I believe, when I trumpeted."
"Not alarmed, exactly," said the troop-horse, "but it made me feel as though I had hornets where my saddle ought to be. Don't begin again."
"I'm frightened of a little dog, and the camel here is frightened by bad dreams in the night."
"It is very lucky for us that we haven't all got to fight in the same way," said the troop-horse.
"What I want to know," said the young mule, who had been quiet for a long time—"what I want to know is, why we have to fight at all."
"Because we're told to," said the troop-horse, with a snort of contempt.
"Orders," said Billy the mule, and his teeth snapped.
"Hukm hai!" (It is an order!), said the camel with a gurgle, and Two Tails and the bullocks repeated, "Hukm hai!"
"Yes, but who gives the orders?" said the recruit-mule.
"The man who walks at your head—Or sits on your back—Or holds the nose rope—Or twists your tail," said Billy and the troop-horse and the camel and the bullocks one after the other.
"But who gives them the orders?"
"Now you want to know too much, young un," said Billy, "and that is one way of getting kicked. All you have to do is to obey the man at your head and ask no questions."
"He's quite right," said Two Tails. "I can't always obey, because I'm betwixt and between. But Billy's right. Obey the man next to you who gives the order, or you'll stop all the battery, besides getting a thrashing."
The gun-bullocks got up to go. "Morning is coming," they said. "We will go back to our lines. It is true that we only see out of our eyes, and we are not very clever. But still, we are the only people to-night who have not been afraid. Good-night, you brave people."
Nobody answered, and the troop-horse said, to change the conversation, "Where's that little dog? A dog means a man somewhere about."
"Here I am," yapped Vixen, "under the gun tail with my man. You big, blundering beast of a camel you, you upset our tent. My man's very angry."
"Phew!" said the bullocks. "He must be white!"
"Of course he is," said Vixen. "Do you suppose I'm looked after by a black bullock-driver?"
"Huah! Ouach! Ugh!" said the bullocks. "Let us get away quickly."
They plunged forward in the mud, and managed somehow to run their yoke on the pole of an ammunition wagon, where it jammed.
"Now you have done it," said Billy calmly. "Don't struggle. You're hung up till daylight. What on earth's the matter?"
The bullocks went off into the long hissing snorts that Indian cattle give, and pushed and crowded and slued and stamped and slipped and nearly fell down in the mud, grunting savagely.
"You'll break your necks in a minute," said the troop-horse. "What's the matter with white men? I live with 'em."
"They—eat—us! Pull!" said the near bullock. The yoke snapped with a twang, and they lumbered off together.
I never knew before what made Indian cattle so scared of Englishmen. We eat beef—a thing that no cattle-driver touches—and of course the cattle do not like it.
"May I be flogged with my own pad-chains! Who'd have thought of two big lumps like those losing their heads?" said Billy.
"Never mind. I'm going to look at this man. Most of the white men, I know, have things in their pockets," said the troop-horse.
"I'll leave you, then. I can't say I'm over-fond of 'em myself. Besides, white men who haven't a place to sleep in are more than likely to be thieves, and I've a good deal of Government property on my back. Come along, young un, and we'll go back to our lines. Good-night, Australia! See you on parade to-morrow, I suppose. Good-night, old Hay-bale!—try to control your feelings, won't you? Good-night, Two Tails! If you pass us on the ground tomorrow, don't trumpet. It spoils our formation."
Billy the Mule stumped off with the swaggering limp of an old campaigner, as the troop-horse's head came nuzzling into my breast, and I gave him biscuits, while Vixen, who is a most conceited little dog, told him fibs about the scores of horses that she and I kept.
"I'm coming to the parade to-morrow in my dog-cart," she said. "Where will you be?"
"On the left hand of the second squadron. I set the time for all my troop, little lady," he said politely. "Now I must go back to Dick. My tail's all muddy, and he'll have two hours' hard work dressing me for parade."
The big parade of all the thirty thousand men was held that afternoon, and Vixen and I had a good place close to the Viceroy and the Amir of Afghanistan, with high, big black hat of astrakhan wool and the great diamond star in the center. The first part of the review was all sunshine, and the regiments went by in wave upon wave of legs all moving together, and guns all in a line, till our eyes grew dizzy. Then the cavalry came up, to the beautiful cavalry canter of "Bonnie Dundee," and Vixen cocked her ear where she sat on the dog-cart. The second squadron of the Lancers shot by, and there was the troop-horse, with his tail like spun silk, his head pulled into his breast, one ear forward and one back, setting the time for all his squadron, his legs going as smoothly as waltz music. Then the big guns came by, and I saw Two Tails and two other elephants harnessed in line to a forty-pounder siege gun, while twenty yoke of oxen walked behind. The seventh pair had a new yoke, and they looked rather stiff and tired. Last came the screw guns, and Billy the mule carried himself as though he commanded all the troops, and his harness was oiled and polished till it winked. I gave a cheer all by myself for Billy the mule, but he never looked right or left.
The rain began to fall again, and for a while it was too misty to see what the troops were doing. They had made a big half circle across the plain, and were spreading out into a line. That line grew and grew and grew till it was three-quarters of a mile long from wing to wing—one solid wall of men, horses, and guns. Then it came on straight toward the Viceroy and the Amir, and as it got nearer the ground began to shake, like the deck of a steamer when the engines are going fast.
Unless you have been there you cannot imagine what a frightening effect this steady come-down of troops has on the spectators, even when they know it is only a review. I looked at the Amir. Up till then he had not shown the shadow of a sign of astonishment or anything else. But now his eyes began to get bigger and bigger, and he picked up the reins on his horse's neck and looked behind him. For a minute it seemed as though he were going to draw his sword and slash his way out through the English men and women in the carriages at the back. Then the advance stopped dead, the ground stood still, the whole line saluted, and thirty bands began to play all together. That was the end of the review, and the regiments went off to their camps in the rain, and an infantry band struck up with—
The animals went in two by two, Hurrah! The animals went in two by two, The elephant and the battery mul', and they all got into the Ark For to get out of the rain!
Then I heard an old grizzled, long-haired Central Asian chief, who had come down with the Amir, asking questions of a native officer.
"Now," said he, "in what manner was this wonderful thing done?"
And the officer answered, "An order was given, and they obeyed."
"But are the beasts as wise as the men?" said the chief.
"They obey, as the men do. Mule, horse, elephant, or bullock, he obeys his driver, and the driver his sergeant, and the sergeant his lieutenant, and the lieutenant his captain, and the captain his major, and the major his colonel, and the colonel his brigadier commanding three regiments, and the brigadier the general, who obeys the Viceroy, who is the servant of the Empress. Thus it is done."
"Would it were so in Afghanistan!" said the chief, "for there we obey only our own wills."
"And for that reason," said the native officer, twirling his mustache, "your Amir whom you do not obey must come here and take orders from our Viceroy."
Parade Song of the Camp Animals
ELEPHANTS OF THE GUN TEAMS
We lent to Alexander the strength of Hercules, The wisdom of our foreheads, the cunning of our knees; We bowed our necks to service: they ne'er were loosed again,— Make way there—way for the ten-foot teams Of the Forty-Pounder train!
Those heroes in their harnesses avoid a cannon-ball, And what they know of powder upsets them one and all; Then we come into action and tug the guns again— Make way there—way for the twenty yoke Of the Forty-Pounder train!
By the brand on my shoulder, the finest of tunes Is played by the Lancers, Hussars, and Dragoons, And it's sweeter than "Stables" or "Water" to me— The Cavalry Canter of "Bonnie Dundee"!
Then feed us and break us and handle and groom, And give us good riders and plenty of room, And launch us in column of squadron and see The way of the war-horse to "Bonnie Dundee"!
As me and my companions were scrambling up a hill, The path was lost in rolling stones, but we went forward still; For we can wriggle and climb, my lads, and turn up everywhere, Oh, it's our delight on a mountain height, with a leg or two to spare!
Good luck to every sergeant, then, that lets us pick our road; Bad luck to all the driver-men that cannot pack a load: For we can wriggle and climb, my lads, and turn up everywhere, Oh, it's our delight on a mountain height, with a leg or two to spare!
We haven't a camelty tune of our own To help us trollop along, But every neck is a hair trombone (Rtt-ta-ta-ta! is a hair trombone!) And this our marching-song: Can't! Don't! Shan't! Won't! Pass it along the line! Somebody's pack has slid from his back, Wish it were only mine! Somebody's load has tipped off in the road— Cheer for a halt and a row! Urrr! Yarrh! Grr! Arrh! Somebody's catching it now!
ALL THE BEASTS TOGETHER
Children of the Camp are we, Serving each in his degree; Children of the yoke and goad, Pack and harness, pad and load. See our line across the plain, Like a heel-rope bent again, Reaching, writhing, rolling far, Sweeping all away to war! While the men that walk beside, Dusty, silent, heavy-eyed, Cannot tell why we or they March and suffer day by day. Children of the Camp are we, Serving each in his degree; Children of the yoke and goad, Pack and harness, pad and load!