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Ch. 8: The Swelling of Jordan

If thou hast run with the footmen and they have wearied thee, then
how canst thou contend with horses? And if in the land of peace
wherein thou trustedst they wearied thee, then how wilt thou do in
the swelling of Jordan?

SCENE.-The GADSBYS' bungalow in the Plains, on a January
morning. Mas. G. arguing with bearer in back veranda.

CAPT. M. rides up.

CAPT. M. 'Mornin', Mrs. Gadsby. How's the Infant Phenomenon
and the Proud Proprietor?

Mas. G. You'll find them in the front veranda; go through the
house. I'm Martha just now.

CAPT. M, 'Cumbered about with cares of Khitmatgars? I fly.

Passes into front veranda, where GADSBV is watching GADSBY
JUNIOR, aged ten months, crawling about the matting.

CAPT. M. What's the trouble, Gaddy-spoiling an honest man's
Europe morning this way? (Seeing G. JUNIOR.) By Jove, that
yearling's comm' on amaxingly! Any amount of bone below the
knee there.

CAPT. G. Yes, he's a healthy little scoundrel. Don't you think his
hair's growing?

CAPT. M. Let's have a look. Hi! Hst Come here, General Luck,
and we'll report on you.

MRS. G. (Within.) What absurd name will you give him next?
Why do you call him that?

CAPT. M. Isn't he our Inspector-General of Cavalry? Doesn't he
come down in his seventeen-two perambulator every morning the
Pink Hussars parade? Don't wriggle, Brigadier. Give us your
private opinion on the way the third squadron went past. 'Trifle
ragged, weren t they?

CAPT. G. A bigger set of tailors than the new draft I don't wish to
see. They've given me more than my fair share-knocking the
squadron out of shape. It's sickening!

CAPT. M. When you're in command, you'll do better, young 'un.
Can't you walk yet? Grip my finger and try. (To G.) 'Twon't hurt
his hocks, will it?

CAPT. G. Oh, no. Don't let him flop, though, or he'll lick all the
blacking off your boots.

MRS. G. (Within.) Who's destroy mg my son's character?

CAPT. M. And my Godson's. I'm ashamed of you, Gaddy. Punch
your father in the eye, Jack! Don't you stand it! Hit him again I

CAPT. G. (Sotto voce.) Put The Butcha down and come to the
end of the veranda. I'd rather the Wife didn't hear-just now.

CAPT. M. You look awf'ly serious. Anything wrong?

CAPT. G. 'Depends on your view entirely. I say, Jack, you won't
think more hardly of me than you can help, will you? Come further
this way.-The fact of the matter is, that I've made up my mind-at
least I'm thinking seriously of-cutting the Service.

CAPT. M. Hwhatt?

CAPT. G. Don't shout. I'm going to send in my papers.

CAPT. M. You! Are you mad?

CAPT. G. No-only married.

CAPT. M. Look here! What's the meaning of it all? You never
intend to leave us. You can't. Isn't the best squadron of the best
regiment of the best cavalry in all the world good enough for you?

CAPT. G. (Jerking his head over his shoulder.) She doesn't seem
to thrive in this God-forsaken country, and there's The Butcha to
be considered and all that, you know.

CAPT. M. Does she say that she doesn't like India?

CAPT. G. That's the worst of it. She won't for fear of leaving me.

CAPT. M. What are the Hills made for?

CAPT. G. Not for my wife, at any rate.

CAPT. M. You know too much, Gaddy, and -I don't like you any
the better for it!

CAPT. G. Never mind that. She wants England, and The Butcha
would be all the better for it. I'm going to chuck. You don't
understand.

CAPT. M. (Hotly.) I understand this One hundred and
thirty-seven new horse to be licked into shape somehow before
Luck comes round again; a hairy-heeled draft who'll give more
trouble than the horses; a camp next cold weather for a certainty;
ourselves the first on the roster; the Russian shindy ready to come
to a head at five minutes' notice, and you, the best of us all,
backing out of it all! Think a little, Gaddy. You won't do it.

CAPT. G. Hang it, a man has some duties toward his family, I
suppose.

CAPT. M. I remember a man, though, who told me, the night after
Amdheran, when we were picketed under Jagai, and he'd left his
sword-by the way, did you ever pay Ranken for that sword?-in an
Utmanzai's head-that man told me that he'd stick by me and the
Pinks as long as he lived. I don't blame him for not sticking by
me-I'm not much of a man-but I do blame him for not sticking by
the Pink Hussars.

CAPT. G. (Uneasily.) We were little more than boys then. Can't
you see, Jack, how things stand? 'Tisn't as if we were serving for
our bread. We've all of us, more or less, got the filthy lucre. I'm
luckier than some, perhaps. There's no call for me to serve on.

CAPT. M. None in the world for you or for us, except the
Regimental. If you don't choose to answer to that, of course-

CAPT. G. Don't be too hard on a man. You know that a lot of us
only take up the thing for a few years and then go back to Town
and catch on with the rest.

CAPT. M. Not lots, and they aren't some of Us.

CAPT. G. And then there are one's affairs at Home to be
considered-my place and the rents, and all that. I don't suppose my
father can last much longer, and that means the title, and so on.

CAPT. M. 'Fraid you won't be entered in the Stud Book correctly
unless you go Home? Take six months, then, and come out in
October. If I could slay off a brother or two, I s'pose I should be a
Marquis of sorts. Any fool can be that; but it needs men, Gaddy-
men like you-to lead flanking squadrons properly. Don't you
delude yourself into the belief that you're going Home to take your
place and prance about among pink-nosed Kabuli dowagers. You
aren't built that way. I know better.

CAPT. G. A man has a right to live his life as happily as he can.
You aren't married.

CAPT. M. No-praise be to Providence and the one or two women
who have had the good sense to jawab me.

CAPT. G. Then you don't know what it is to go into your own
room and see your wife's head on the pillow, and when everything
else is safe and the house shut up for the night, to wonder whether
the roof-beams won't give and kill her.

CAPT. M. (Aside.) Revelations first and second! (Aloud.) So-o!
I knew a man who got squiffy at our Mess once and confided to
me that he never helped his wife on to her horse without praymg
that she'd break her neck before she came back. All husbands
aren't alike, you see.

CAPT. G. What on earth has that to do with my case? The man
must ha' been mad, or his wife as bad as they make 'em.

CAPT. M. (Aside.) 'No fault of yours if either weren't all you say.
You've forgotten the time when you were insane about the Herriott
woman. You always were a good hand at forgetting. (Aloud.) Not
more mad than men who go to the other extreme. Be reasonable,
Gaddy. Your roof-beams are sound enough.

CAPT. G. That was only a way of speaking. I've been uneasy and
worried about the Wife ever since that awful business three years
ago-when-I nearly lost her. Can you wonder?

CAPT. M. Oh, a shell never falls twice in the same place. You've
paid your toll to misfortune-why should your Wife be picked out
more than anybody else's?

CAPT. G. I can talk just as reasonably as you can, but you don't
understand-you don't understand. And then there's The Butcha.
Deuce knows where the Ayah takes him to sit in the evening! He
has a bit of a cough. Haven't you noticed it?

CAPT. M. Bosh! The Brigadier's jumping out of his skin with
pure condition. He's got a muzzle like a rose-leaf and the chest of a
two-year-old. What's demoralized you?

CAPT. G. Funk. That's the long and the short of it. Funk!

CAPT. M. But what is there to funk?

CAPT. G. Everything. It's ghastly.

CAPT. M. Ah! I see.

You don't want to fight, And by Jingo when we do, You've got the
kid, you've got the Wife, You've got the money, too.

That's about the case, eh?

CAPT. G. I suppose that's it. But it's not br myself. It's because of
them. At least I think it is.

CAPT. M. Are you sure? Looking at the matter in a cold-blooded
light, the Wife is provided for even if you were wiped out tonight.
She has an ancestral home to go to, money and the Brigadier to
carry on the illustrious name.

CAPT. G. Then it is for myself or because they are part of me. You
don't see it. My life's so good, so pleasant, as it is, that I want to
make it quite safe. Can't you understand?

CAPT. M. Perfectly. "Shelter-pit for the Off'cer's charger," as they
say in the Line.

CAPT. G. And I have everything to my hand to make it so. I'm
sick of the strain and the worry for their sakes out here; and there
isn't a single real difficulty to prevent my dropping it altogether.
It'll only cost me-Jack, I hope you'll never know the shame that I've
been going through for the past six months.

CAPT. M. Hold on there! I don't wish to he told. Every man has
his moods and tenses sometimes.

CAPT. G. (Laughing brtterly.) Has he? What do you call craning
over to see where your near-fore lands?

CAPT. M. In my case it means that I have been on the
Considerable Bend, and have come to parade with a Head and a
Hand. It passes in three strides.

CAPT. G. (Lowering voice.) It never passes w'th me, Jack. I'm
always thinking about it. Phil Gadsby funking a fall on parade!
Sweet picture, isn't it! Draw it for me.

CAPT. M. (Gravely.) Heaven forbid! A man like you can't be as
bad as that. A fall is no nice thing, but one never gives it a thought.

CAPT. G. Doesn't one? Wait till you've got a wife and a youngster
of your own, and then you'll know how the roar of the squadron
behind you turns you cold all up the back.

CAPT. M. (Aside.) And this man led at Amdheran after Bagal
Deasin went under, and we were all mixed up together, and he
came out of the snow dripping like a butcher. (Aloud.) Skittles!
The men can always open out, and you can always pick your way
more or less. We haven't the dust to bother us, as the men have,
and whoever heard of a horse stepping on a man?

CAPT. G. Never-as long as he can see. But did they open out for
poor Errington?

CAPT. M. Oh, this is childish!

CAPT. G. I know it is, worse than that. I don't care. You've ridden
Van Loo. Is he the sort of brute to pick his way-'specially when
we're coming up in column of troop with any pace on?

CAPT. M. Once in a Blue Moon do we gallop in column of troop,
and then only to save time. Aren't three lengths enough for you?

CAPT. G. Yes-quite enough. They just allow for the full
development of the smash. I'm talking like a cur, I know: but I tell
you that, for the past three months, I've felt every hoof of the
squadron in the small of my back every time that I've led.

CAPT. M. But, Gaddy, this is awful!

CAPT. G. Isn't it lovely? Isn't it royal? A Captain of the Pink
Hussars watering up his charger before parade like the blasted
boozing Colonel of a Black Regiment!

CAPT. M. You never did!

CAPT. G. Once Only. He squelched like a mussuck, and the
Troop-Sergeant-Major cocked his eye at me. You know old Haffy's
eye. I was afraid to do it again.

CAPT. M. I should think so. That was the best way to rupture old
Van Loo's tummy, and make him crumple you up. You knew that.

CAPT. G. I didn't care. It took the edge off him.

CAPT. M. "Took the edge off him"? Gaddy, you-you-you
mustn't, you know! Think of the men.

CAPT. G. That's another thing I am afraid of. D'you s'pose they
know?

CAPT. M. Let's hope not; but they're deadly quick to spot
skirm-little things of that kind. See here, old man, send the Wife
Home for the hot weather and come to Kashmir with me. We'll
start a boat on the Dal or cross the Rhotang-shoot ibex or loaf-
which you please. Only come! You're a bit off your oats and you're
talking nonsense. Look at the Colonel-swag-bellied rascal that he
is. He has a wife and no end of a bow-window of his own. Can any
one of us ride round him-chalkstones and all? I can't, and I think I
can shove a crock along a bit.

CAPT. G. Some men are different. I haven't any nerve. Lord
help me, I haven't the nerve! I've taken up a hole and a half to get
my knees well under the wallets. I can't help it. I'm so afraid of
anything happening to me. On my soul, I ought to be broke in front
of the squadron, for cowardice.

CAPT. M. Ugly word, that. I should never have the courage to own
up.

CAPT. G. I meant to lie about my reasons when I began, but-I've
got out of the habit of lying to you, old man. Jack, you won't?-But
I know you won't.

CAPT. M. Of course not. (Half aloud.) The Pinks are paying
dearly for their Pride.

CAPT. G. Eb! What-at?

CAPT. M. Don't you know? The men have called Mrs. Gadsby the
Pride of the Pink Hussars ever since she came to us.

CAPT. G. 'Tisn't her fault. Don't think that. It's all mine.

CAPT. M. What does she say?

CAPT. G. I haven't exactly put it before her. She's the best little
woman in the world, Jack, and all that-but she wouldn't counsel a
man to stick to his calling if it came between him and her. At least,
I think-

CAPT. M. Never mind. Don't tell her what you told me. Go on
the Peerage and Landed-Gentry tack.

CAPT. G. She'd see through it. She's five times cleverer than I am.

CAPT. M. (Aside.) Then she'll accept the sacrifice and think a
little bit worse of him for the rest of her days.

CAPT. G. (Absentl'y.) I say, do you despise me?

CAPT. M. 'Queer way of putting it. Have you ever been asked that
question? Think a minute. What answer used you to give?

CAPT. G. So bad as that? I'm not entitled to expect anything
more, but it's a bit hard when one's best friend turns round and-

CAPT. M. So ! have found But you will have consolations-Bailiffs
and Drains and Liquid Manure and the Primrose League, and,
perhaps, if you're lucky, the Colonelcy of a Yeomanry Cav-al-ry
Regiment-all uniform and no riding, I believe. How old are you?

CAPT. G. Thirty-three. I know it's-

CAPT. M. At forty you'll be a fool of a J. P. landlord. At fifty
you'll own a bath-chair, and The Brigadier, if he takes after you,
will be fluttering the dovecotes of-what's the particular dunghill
you're going to? Also, Mrs. Gadsby will be fat.

CAPT. G. (Limply.) This is rather more than a joke.

CAPT. M. D'you think so? Isn't cutting the Service a joke? It
generally takes a man fifty years to arrive at it. You're quite right,
though. It is more than a joke. You've managed it in thirty-three.

CAPT. G. Don't make me feel worse than I do. Will it satisfy you
if I own that I am a shirker, a skrim-shanker, and a coward?

CAPT. M. It wil! not, because I'm the only man in the world who
can talk to you like this without being knocked down. You mustn't
take all that I've said to heart in this way. I only spoke-a lot of it at
least-out of pure selfishness, because, because-Oh, damn it all, old
man,-I don't know what I shall do without you. Of course, you've
got the money and the place and all that-and there are two very
good reasons why you should take care of yourself.

CAPT. G. 'Doesn't make it any sweeter. I'm backing out-I know I
am. I always had a soft drop in me somewhere-and I daren't risk
any danger to them.

CAPT. M. Why in the world should you? You're bound to think of
your family-bound to think. Er-hmm. If I wasn't a younger son
I'd go too-be shot if I wouldn't I!

CAPT. G. Thank you, Jack. It's a kind lie, but it's the blackest
you've told for some time. I know what I'm doing, and I'm going
into it with my eyes open. Old man, I can't help it. What would you
do if you were in my place?

CAPT. M. (Aside.) 'Couldn't conceive any woman getting
permanently between me and the Regiment. (Aloud.) 'Can't say.
'Very likely I should do no better. I'm sorry for you-awf'ly sorry-but
"if them's your sentiments," I believe, I really do, that you are
acting wisely.

CAPT. G. Do you? I hope you do. (In a whisper.) Jack, be very
sure of yourself before you marry. I'm an ungrateful ruffian to say
this, but marriage-even as good a marriage as mine has been-
hampers a man's work, it cripples his sword-arm, and oh, it plays
Hell with his notions of duty. Sometimes-good and sweet as she
is-sometimes I could wish that I had kept my freedom- No, I don't
mean that exactly.

MRS. G. (Coming down veranda.) What are you wagging your
head ove; Pip?

CAPT. M. (Turning quickly.) Me, as usual. The old sermon. Your
husband is recommending me to get married. 'Never saw such a
one-ideaed man.

MRS. G. Well, why don't you? I dare say you would make some
woman very happy.

CAPT. G. There's the Law and the Prophets, Jack. Never mind the
Regiment. Make a woman happy. (Aside.) O Lord!

CAPT. M. We'll see. I must be off to make a Troop Cook
desperately unhappy. I won't have the wily Hussar fed on
Government Bullock Train shinbones- (Hastily.) Surely black ants
can't be good for The Brigadier. He's picking em off the matting
and eating 'em. Here, Senor Comandante Don Grubbynuse, come
and talk to me. (Lifts G. JUNIOR in his arms.) 'Want my watch?
You won't be able to put it into your mouth, but you can try. (G.
JUNIOR drops watch, breaking dial and hands.)

MRS. G. Oh, Captain Mafflin, I am so sorry! Jack, you bad, bad
little villain. Ahhh!

CAPT. M. It's not the least consequence, I assure you. He'd treat
the world in the same way if he could get it into his hands.
Everything's made to be played, with and broken, isn't it, young
'un?

* * * * * *

MRS. G. Mafflin didn't at all like his watch being broken, though
he was too polite to say so. It was entirely his fault for giving it to
the child. Dem little puds are werry, werry feeble, aren't dey, by
Jack-in-de-box? (To G.) What did he want to see you for?

CAPT. G. Regimental shop as usual.

MRS. G. The Regiment! Always the Regiment. On my word, I
sometimes feel jealous of Mafflin.

CAPT. G. (Wearily.) Poor old Jack? I don't think you need. Isn't it
time for The Butcha to have his nap? Bring a chair out here, dear.
I've got some thing to talk over with you.

AND THIS IS THE END OF THE STORY OF THE GADSBYS

Rudyard Kipling

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