By this time I had been promoted to the rank of corporal. Next to the regimental sergeant-major, I had the loudest drill voice on the square, and shouting at squad-drill and stretcher- drill was about the only thing I ever did well in the army--except that, having been a scout, I was able to instruct the signalling squad. Route marches and field-days were a relief from the drill square. For five months we got no issue of khaki. Many of the men were through at the knees, and tattered at the elbows. Some were buttonless and patched. I had to put a patch in my shorts. Our civilian boots were wearing out--some were right through. Heels came off when they "right turned," others had their soles flapping as they marched. My "batman," who cleaned my boots and swept out the bunk, had his trousers held together with a huge safety-pin. The people called us "Kitchener's Rag-time Army." We became so torn, and worn, and ragged, that it was impossible to go out in the town. Being the only one in scout rig-out I drew much attention. "'Ere 'e comes, Moik-ell!" "Kitchener's cowboy! Isn't he lovely!" "Bejazus! so-it-is!" "Come an' see Path-rick--Kitchener's cowboy!--by-the-holy-sufferin'- jazus!" I found an old curio-shop down near the docks, and here I used to rummage among the gilded Siamese idols, and the painted African gods and drums. I discovered some odd parts of A Thousand-and-One Arabian Nights, which I bought for a penny or two, and took back to my barrack-room to read. By this means I forgot the gray square, and the gray line of the barracks outside, and the bare boards and yellow- washed walls within. I used to practise "slipping" the guard at the guard-room gate. This form of amusement became quite exciting, and I was never caught at it. Next I got a very old and worn copy of the Koran. By this time I was a full-blown sergeant. I made a mistake in walking into the sergeants' mess with the Koran under my arm. It was difficult to explain what sort of book it was. One day the regimental sergeant- major said-- "You know, Hargrave, I can't make you out." "No, sir?" "No;--you're not a soldier, you never will be--you act the part pretty well. But you don't take things seriously enough." We were often out on the Clare Mountains for field-days with the stretcher-squads. Coming back one day, I spotted two herons wading among some yellow-ochre sedges in a swampy field. I determined there and then to come back and stalk them. The following Saturday I set out with a fellow we called "Cherry Blossom," because he never cleaned his boots. I took a pair of field-glasses, and "Cherry" had a bag of pastries, which we bought on the way. We stalked those herons for hours and hours. We crept through the reeds, hid behind trees, and crawled into bushes, but the herons were better scouts. We only got about fifty yards up to one. For all that, it was like my old scout life--and we had had a break from the gray walls and the everlasting saluting of officers. There were rumours of war, and that's all we knew of it. There were fresh rumours each day. We were going to Egypt. We were to be sent to the East Coast for "home defence." That offended our martial ardour. When were we going out? Should we ever get out? Had we got to do squad drill for "duration"? Had Kitchener forgotten the Xth Division? Now and then a batch of men were put into khaki which arrived at the quartermaster's stores in driblets. Some had greeny puttees and sandy slacks, a "civvy" coat and a khaki cap. Others were rigged out in "Kitchener's workhouse blue," with little forage caps on one side. The sprinkling of khaki and khaki-browns and greens increased every time we came on parade: until one day the whole of the three field ambulances were fitted out. The drill went on like clockwork. It was as if some curse had fallen upon us. The officers were "fed up" you could see. And now, just a word as to army methods. Immediately opposite the barracks was a cloth factory, which was turning out khaki uniforms for the Government every day. For five months we went about in civilian clothes. We were a disgrace as we marched along. Yet because no order had been given to that factory to supply us with uniforms, we had to wait till the uniforms had been shipped to England, and then sent back to Ireland for us to wear! The spark of patriotism which was in each man when he enlisted was dead. We detested the army, we hated the routine, we were sickened and dulled and crushed by drill. The old habit of being always on the alert for anything picturesque saved me from idiotcy. Whenever opportunity offered, or whenever I could take French leave, I went off with sketchbook and pencil, and forgot for a time the horror of barrack-room life, with its unending flow of filthy language, and its barren desolation of yellow-washed walls and broken windows. And then we moved to Dublin. CHAPTER IV CHARACTERS It may be very amusing to read about "Kipps" and those commonplace people whom Mr. H.G. Wells describes so cleverly, but to have to live with them in barracks is far from pleasant. There were shop-assistants, dental mechanics, city clerks, office boys, medical students, and a whole mass of very ordinary, very uninteresting people. There was a fair sprinkling of mining engineers and miners, and these men were more interesting and of a far stronger mental and physical development. They were huge, full-chested, strong- armed men who swore and drank heavily, but were honest and straight. There were characters here from the docks and from the merchant service, some of whom had surely been created for W.W. Jacobs. One in particular--Joe Smith, a sailor-man (an engine-greaser, I think)--was full of queer yarns and seafaring talk. He was a little man with beady eyes and a huge curled moustache. He walked about quickly, with the seamen's lurch, as I have noticed most seagoing men of the merchant service do. This man "came up" in bell-bottomed trousers and a pea jacket. He was fond of telling a yarn about a vessel which was carrying a snake in a crate from the West Indies. This snake got into the boiler when they were cleaning out the engine-room. "The capt'in ses to me, 'Joe.' I ses, 'Yes-sir.' 'Joe,' says 'e, 'wot's to be done?' "'Why,' ses I, 'thing is ter git this 'ere snake out ag'in!' "'Jistso,' says the capt'in; 'but 'oo' ter do it?'--'E always left everythink ter me--and I ses, 'Why, sir, it's thiswise, if sobe all the others are afeared, I ain't, or my name's Double Dutch.' "'Very good, melad,' ses the capt'in, 'I relies on you, Joe.'--'E always did--and would you believe it, I upped an' 'ooked that there great rattlesnake out of the boiler with an old hum-brella!" There was a clerk who stood six-foot eight who was something of a "knut." He told me that at home he belonged to a "Lit'ry Society," and I asked him what books they had and which he liked. "Books?" he asked. "'Ow d'yow mean?" "You said a Literary Society, didn't you?" "Oh yes, we 'ave got books. But, you know, we go down there and 'ave a concert, or read the papers, and 'ave a social, perhaps, you know; sometimes ask the girls round to afternoon tea." I had a barrack-room full of these people to look after. Most of them got drunk. Once a young medical student tried to knife me with a Chinese jack-knife which his uncle, a missionary, had given him. He had "downed" too much whisky. Just as boys do at school, so these men formed into cliques, and "hung together" in twos and threes. Some of them, like the "lit'ry society" clerk, had never seen much of life or people; had lived in a little suburban villa and pretended to be "City men." Others had knocked about all over the world. These were mostly seafaring men. Savage was such a one. He was one of the buccaneer type, strong and sunburnt, with tattooed arms. Often he sang an old sea-song, which always ended, "Forty-five fadom, and a clear sandy bottom!" He knew most of the sea chanties of the old days, one of which went something in this way-- "Heave away Rio! Heave away Rio! So fare thee well, my sweet pretty maid! Heave away Rio! Heave away Rio! For there's plenty of gold--so we've been told-- On the banks of the Sacrament--o!" An old Irish apple-woman used to come into the barracks, and sit by the side of the parade ground with two baskets of apples and a box of chocolate. She did a roaring trade when we were dismissed from drill. We always addressed her as "Mother." She looked se witch-like that one day I asked-- "Can you tell a fortune, Mother?" "Lord-love-ye, no! Wad ye have the Cuss o' Jazus upon us all? Ye shud see the priest, sor." "And can he?" "No, Son! All witch-craftin' is forbid in the Book by the Holy Mother o' Gord, so they do be tellin' me." "Can no one in all Ireland read a fortune now, Mother?" "Ach, Son, 'tis died out, sure. Only in the old out-an'-away parts 'tis done; but 'tis terrible wicked!" She was a good bit of colour. I have her still in my pocket-book. Her black shawl with her apples will always remind me of early barrack- days at Limerick if I live to be ninety. CHAPTER V I HEAR OF HAWK Seldom are we lucky enough to meet in real life a character so strong and vivid, so full of subtle characteristics, that his appearance in a novel would make the author's name. Such a character was Hawk. When you consider, you find that many an author of note has made a lasting reputation by evolving some such character; and in most cases this character has been "founded on fact." For example, Stevenson's "Long John Silver," Kipling's "Kim," and Rider Haggard's "Alan Quatermain." Had Kipling met Hawk he would have worked him into a book of Indian soldier life; for Hawk was full of jungle adventures and stories of the Indian Survey Department and the Khyber Pass; while his descriptions of Kashmir and Secunderabad, with its fakirs and jugglers, monkey temples and sacred bulls, were superb. On the other hand, Haggard would have placed him "somewhere in Africa," a strong, hard man trekking across the African veldt he knew so well; for Hawk had been in the Boer War. Little did I realise when I met him on the barrack-square at Limerick how fate would throw us together upon the scorching sands and rocky ridges of Gallipoli, nor could either of us foresee the hairbreadth escapes and queer corners in which we found ourselves at Suvla Bay and on the Serbian frontier. I spotted him in the crowd as the only man on parade with a strong, clear-cut face. I noted his drooping moustache, and especially his keen grey eyes, which glittered and looked through and through. Somewhere, I told myself, there was good blood at the back of beyond on his line of descent. I was right, for, as he told me later, when I had come to know him as a trusty friend, he came from a Norseman stock. The jaw was too square and heavy, but the high-built chiselled nose and the deep-set clear grey eyes were a "throw-back" on the old Viking trail. Although dressed in ragged civilian clothes he looked a huge, full-grown, muscular man; active and well developed, with the arms of a miner and the chest of a gorilla. On one arm I remember he had a heart with a dagger through it tattooed in blue and red. I heard of him first as one to be shunned and feared. For it was said that "when in drink" he would pick up the barrack-room fender with one hand and hurl it across the room. I was told that he was a master of the art of swearing--that he could pour forth a continual flow of oaths for a full five minutes without repeating one single "cuss." My interest was immediately aroused. I smelt adventure, and I was on the adventure trail. Hawk was not in my barrack-room, and therefore I knew but little of him while in the old country. I heard that he had been galloper-dispatch-rider to Lord Kitchener in South Africa, and I tried to get him to talk about it. As an "artist's model," for a canvas to be called "The Buccaneer," Hawk was perfect. I never saw a man so splendidly developed. And Hawk was fifty years old! You would take him for thirty-nine or so. But "drink and the devil had done for the rest"--Hawk himself acknowledged it. His vices were the vices of a strong man, and when he was drunk he was "the very devil." He was "the old soldier," and knew all the ins and outs of army life. I quickly became entangled in the interest of unravelling his complex nature. On the one hand he was said to be a desperado and double-dyed liar. On the other hand, if he respected you, he would always tell you the naked truth, and would never "let you down." He knew drink was his ruin, but he could not and would not stop it. Yet his advice to me was always good. Indeed, although he had the reputation of a bold, bad blackguard, he never led any one else on the "wrong trail," and his advice to young soldiers in the barrack-rooms was wonderfully clear and useful. If he respected you, you could trust your life with him. If he didn't, you could "look up" for trouble. He was honest and "square"--if he liked you--but he could make things disappear by "sleight of hand" in a manner worthy of a West End conjurer. He was a miner, and had a sound knowledge of mining and practical geology which many a science-master might have been proud of. He had the eyes of a trained observer, and I afterwards discovered he was a crack shot. Some months later, when the A.S.C. ambulance drivers were exercising their horses, he showed himself a good rough-rider, and I recalled his "galloper" days. And again at Lemnos and Suvla he was a splendid swimmer. He was an all-round man. Unlike the other men in barracks-- the shop assistants and clerks--Hawk never missed noticing small things, and it was this which first drew my attention to him. I remember one night hearing a woman's voice wailing a queer Hindoo chant. It came from the barrack-room door. Afterwards I discovered it was Hawk sitting on his trestle bed cross-legged, with a bit of sacking and ashes on his head imitating the death-wail of an Indian woman for her dead husband. Hawk knew all the rites and ceremonies of the various Hindoo castes, and could act the part of a fakir or a bazaar-wullah with wonderful realism. By turns Hawk was a heavy drinker and a clear-brained man of action, calm in danger. In those early days of my "military career" I looked upon him only as an author looks upon an interesting character. Months afterwards, on the death-swept peninsula, Hawk and I became fast friends. The "bad man" of the ambulance became the most useful, most faithful, in my section. We went everywhere together--like "Horace and Holly" of Rider Haggard fame: he the great, strong man, and I the young artist scout. If Hawk was out of camp, you could bet I was also--and vice-versa. Of Hawk more anon.
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