The Smith Administration, by Rudyard Kipling

What It Comes To

‘Men instinctively act under the excitement of the battlefield, only as they have been taught to act in peace.’ . . . These words deserve to be engraved in letters of gold over the gates of every barrack and drill-ground in the country. The drill of the soldier now begins and ends in the Company. . . . Each Company will stand for itself on parade, practically as independent as a battery of artillery in a brigade, etc., etc. Vide Comments on New German Drill Regulations, in Pioneer.

 

SCENE. — Canteen of the Tyneside Tailtwisters, in full blast. CHUMER of B Company annexes the Pioneer on its arrival, by right of the strong arm, and turns it over contemptuously.

CHUMER. —’Ain’t much in this ’ere. On’y Jack the Ripper and a lot about Ci-vilians. ’Might think the ’ole country was full of Ci-vilians. Ci-vilians an’ drill. ’Strewth a’ mighty! As if a man didn’t get ’nuff drill outside o’ his evenin’ paiper. Anybody got the fill of a pip. ’ere?

SHUCKBRUGH of B Company (passing pouch). — Let’s ’ave ’old o’ that paper. Wot’s on? Wot’s in? No more new drill?

CHUMER. — Drill be sugared! When I was at ’ome, now, buyin’ my Times orf the Railway stall like a gentleman, I never read nothin’ about drill. There wasn’t no drill. Strike me blind, these Injian papers ain’t got nothin’ else to write about. When ’tisn’t our drill, it’s Rooshian or Prooshian or French. It’s Prooshian now. Brrh!

HOOKEY (E Company). — All for to improve your mind, Chew. You’ll get a first-class school ticket one o’ these days, if you go on.

CHUMER (whose strong point is not education). — You’ll get a first-class head on top o’ your shoulders, ’Ook, if you go on. You mind that I ain’t no bloomin’ litteratoor but . . .

SHUCKBRUGH. — Go on about the Prooshians an’ let ’Ook alone. ’Ook ’as a — wot’s its name? — fas — fas — fascilitude for impartin’ instruction. ’E’s down in the Captain’s book as sich. Ain’t you, ’Ook?

CHUMER (anxious to vindicate his education). — Listen ’ere! ‘Men instinck — stinkivly act under the excitement of the battle-field on’y as they ’ave been taught for to act in peace.’ An’ the man that wrote that sez ’t ought to be printed in gold in our barricks.

SHUCKBRUGH (who has been through the Afghan War). —’Might a told ’im that, if he’d come to me, any time these ten years.

HOOKEY (loftily). — O I bid fair he’s a bloomin’ General. Wot’s ’e drivin’ at?

SHUCKBRUGH. —’E says wot you do on p’rade you do without thinkin’ under fire. If you was taught to stand on your ’ed on p’rade, you’d do so in action.

CHUMER. — I’d lie on my belly first for a bit, if so be there was aught to lie be’ind.

HOOKEY. — That’s ’ow you’ve been taught. We’re allus lyin’ on our bellies be’ind every bloomin’ bush — spoilin’ our best clobber. Takin’ advantage o’ cover, they call it.

SHUCKBRUGH. — An’ the more you lie the more you want to lie. That’s human natur’.

CHUMER. — It’s rare good — for the henemy. I’m lyin’ ’ere where this pipe is; Shukky’s there by the ’baccy-paper; ’Ook is there be’ind the pewter, an’ the rest of us all over the place crawlin’ on our bellies an’ poppin’ at the smoke in front. Old Pompey, arf a mile be’ind, sez, ‘The battalion will now attack.’ Little Mildred squeaks out, ‘Charrge!’ Shukky an’ me, an’ you, an’ ’im, picks ourselves out o’ the dirt, an’ charges. But ’ow the dooce can you charge from skirmishin’ order? That’s wot I want to know. There ain’t no touch — there ain’t no chello; an’ the minut’ the charge is over, you’ve got to play at bein’ a bloomin’ field-rat all over again.

GENERAL CHORUS. — Bray-vo, Chew! Go it, Sir, Garnet! Two pints and a hopper for Chew! Kernel Chew!

HOOKEY (who has possessed himself of the paper). — Well, the Prooshians ain’t goin’ to have any more o’ that. There ain’t goin’ to be no more battalio-drill — so this bloke says. On’y just the comp’ny handed over to the comp’ny orf’cer to do wot ’e likes with.

SHUCKBRUGH. — Gawd ’elp B Comp’ny if they do that to us!

CHUMER (hotly). — You’re bloomin’ pious all of a sudden. Wot’s wrong with Little Mildred, I’d like to know?

SHUCKBRUGH. — Little Mildred’s all right. It’s his bloomin’ dandified Skipper — it’s Collar an’ Cuffs — it’s Ho de Kolone — it’s Squeaky Jim that I’m set against.

CHUMER. — Well. Ho de Kolone is goin’ ’Ome, an’ may be we’ll have Sugartongs instead. Sugartongs is a hard drill, but ’e’s got no bloomin’ frills about ’im.

HOOKEY (of E Company). — You ought to ’ave Hackerstone — e’d wheel yer into line. Our Jemima ain’t much to look at, but ’e knows wot ’e wants to do an’ he does it. ’E don’t club the company an’ damn the Sargints, Jemima doesn’t. ’E’s a proper man an’ no error.

SHUCKBRUGH. — Thank you for nothin’. Sugartongs is a vast better. Mess Sargint ’e told us that Sugartongs is goin’ to be married at ’Ome. If ’e’s that, o’ course ’e won’t be no good; but the Mess Sargint’s a bloomin’ liar mostly.

CHUMER. — Sugartongs won’t marry — not ’e. ’E’s too fond o’ the regiment. Little Mildred’s like to do that first; bein’ so young.

HOOKEY (returning to paper). —‘Only the comp’ny an’ the comp’ny orf’cer doin’ what ’e thinks ’is men can do.’ ‘Strewth! Our Jemima’d make us dance down the middle an’ back again. But what would they do with our Colonel? I don’t catch the run o’ this new trick of company officers thinkin’ for themselves.

SHUCKBRUGH. — Give ’im a stickin’ plaster to keep ’im on ’is ’orse at battalion p’rade, an’ lock ’im up in ord’ly-room ’tween whiles. Me an’ one or two more would see ’im now an’ again. Ho! Ho!

CHUMER. — A Colonel’s a bloomin’ Colonel anyway. ’Can’t do without a Colonel.

SHUCKBRUGH. —’Oo said we would, you fool? Colonel ’ll give his order, ‘Go an’ do this an’ go an’ do that, an’ do it quick.’ Sugartongs ’e salutes an’ Jemima ’e salutes an’ orf we goes; Little Mildred trippin’ over ’is sword every other step. We know Sugartongs; you know Jemima an’ they know us. ‘Come on,’ sez they. ‘Come on it is,’ sez we; an’ we don’ crawl on our bellies no more, but comes on. Old Pompey has given ’is orders an’ we does ’em. Old Pompey can’t cut in too with: ‘Wot the this an’ that are you doin’ there? Retire your men. Go to Blazes and cart cinders,’ an’ such like. There’s a deal in that there notion of independent commands.

CHUMER. — There is. It’s ’ow it comes in action anywoys, if it isn’t wot it comes on p’rade. But look ’ere, wot ’appens if you don’t know your bloomin’ orf’cer, an’ ’e don’t know nor care a brass farden about you — like Squeakin’ Jim?

HOOKEY. — Things ’appens, as a rule; an’ then again they don’t some’ow. There’s a deal o’ luck knockin’ about the world, an’ takin’ one thing with another a fair shares o’ that, comes to the Army. ’Cordin’ to this ’ere (he thumps the paper) we ain’t got no weppings worth the name, an’ we don’t know ’ow to use ’em when we ’ave — I didn’t mean your belt, Chew — we ain’t got no orf’cers we ’ave got bloomin’ swipes for liquor.

CHUMER (sotto voce). — Yuss. Undred an’ ten gallons beer made out of a heighty-four-gallon cask an’ the strength kep’ up with ’baccy. Yah! Go on, ’Ook.

HOOKEY. — We ain’t got no drill, we ain’t got no men, we ain’t got no kit, nor yet no bullocks to carry it if we ’ad — where in the name o’ fortune do all our bloomin’ victories come from? It’s a tail-uppards way o’ workin’; but where do the victories come from?

SHUCKBRUGH (recovering his pipe from Hookey’s mouth). — Ask Little Mildred —’e carries the Colours. Chew, are you goin’ to the bazar?

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Last updated Saturday, March 1, 2014 at 20:38