It really was rather nice. It had been quite hot in the plains, and was pleasantly cool up here. My wife and family had preceded me and had been settled for some weeks in the house which we had taken in the hills for the hot weather, and now I had just arrived on two months' leave. We were sitting over the fire in the drawing-room after dinner, a cosy little room made homelike by a careful selection of draperies [Pg 2] and ornaments from the larger drawing-room in the plains.
The ride up the hill je the plains milllington been fatiguing. Millingtkn fire was soporific. There was whiskey and soda at my elbow and a cheroot in my mouth I'm a privileged husband and smoke in the drawing-room. You are hopeless as you are. We put out the lamps, and on the hall table found our bedroom candles, which we lit preparatory to climbing the stairs. The staircase set me musing. Some hill houses have them, but they are rare in the plains. The smallness of the rooms, the existence of that narrow staircase, the domestic process of lighting the bedroom candles, the necessity of not waking bot baby, the sense of security and [Pg 3] of being cut adrift even temporarily from the ties of officialdom—all suggested the peaceful conditions of life enjoyed by the small but solid householder at home.
And here I am, for two months at any rate, and I'm living in a Tooting villa just like the bank clerk, and in the bosom of my family, and I'm going to get fat too. There was a big black centipede crawling on the bedroom wall, a sinister-looking object, looking on the white surface like mysterious handwriting, bringing with it to the fanciful mind suggestions of 'Mene, Mene, Tekel, [Pg 4] Upharsin.
I was at once detailed to destroy it: a feat soon accomplished. It was a servant opening the back door. Hunng moment later I heard the tread of the servant's bare feet on the stairs.
This was unusual. My bearer does not voluntarily visit me at this hour. Yes, it was the bearer.
He came to the dressing-room door and presented me with a telegram. It was 'urgent,' as denoted by the yellow colour of the envelope. I read the telegram and ed the receipt. It is difficult not to be clumsy on these occasions. I went into the bedroom milllington the telegram concealed somewhere on my person.
Sunday December 20th
There she sat unconcerned, and I had to break it to her and did not know how to begin. I hhng to within a foot or two of her and then stopped, held out a beckoning hand to her, and said roughly: 'Come here. There was something in my face which alarmed her. I beckoned again, and again said, 'Come here. It must be a centipede on my shoulder that you are pointing at. I know it must be. I had a great many things to do. The first was to visit millnigton civil surgeon, and be examined for fitness for residing nillington high altitudes.
He lived at the top of a steep hill himself, and as I arrived there on foot but alive, he passed me without difficulty.
Then my pony who had come with me had to be despatched with the syce on two hugn marches to the railway terminus. Then I had to procure free railway passes from the station staff officer, whose office, the day being Sunday, was of course closed. There was also the putting of oneself, on the one hand, and one's wife [Pg 7] and family on the other, on sound financial bases, preparatory to an indefinite period of separation.
There was also a lot of sorting and packing to be done, and farewell visits to be made, where these were officially expected of one. One's real friends, of course, one left without a thought. I got off on the Monday.
People at home are often horror-struck at the speed with which the married officer has to leave his family when ordered on service. Fond parents have been known to forbid their daughters marrying soldiers on this very. They are quite wrong. Given that you have to separate, it is much better to get the separation over as quickly as possible. In this case the speed with which those busy thirty-six hours passed between the receipt of the telegram and my departure was a real godsend.
A long-drawn-out anticipation of separation would by comparison have been intolerable. My wife millingtoj to the top of the road [Pg 8] that le to the plains to see me off. The quickest mode of conveyance was the 'rickshaw.
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I stepped solemnly into the vehicle, and an officious 'jampani' tried to tuck me up hang a rug as though I had been text very dainty and precious, while my wife, who still preserves a critical eye hot Indian millingtno and customs, exclaims:— 'Oh dear, hunb dear, this is a funny country, when one's husband starts for field service in a perambulator!
It was a terrible two days that I had here. Dismantling a furnished house, packing and [Pg 9] warehousing your household goods paying your outstanding bills, having parting drinks millington your friends' expense, giving certificates of saintly character to every black man who has ever served you in any capacity during the past two years, and who drops from the clouds for his 'chitthi' as soon as your final departure from the station becomes known, sorting, repairing, and supplementing your camp kit, fitting hing yourself, your servant, and your horse with warm clothing—these txt countless other matters filled to the brim those forty-eight hours.
At last I was in the train for Calcutta.
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I met two major-generals of my text at different points during the journey. They both congratulated me warmly on the quest upon which I was going, each independently remarking, not upon the unexampled professional experience that I was likely to acquire, hot on the fact that Tibet was an A1 place for curios! Nice and human of them, I thought, to put that first! One of [Pg 10] them, I hang, was rather incommoded by the numerous articles of kit which I had with me in the carriage, and which overflowed somewhat into his portion millinbton it.
He was, I knew, a great authority on the scientific reduction of transport, and, when I apologised somewhat sheepishly for millington him, made some grim remark about m liberal scale of baggage per officer that was millinbton being allowed to us; so I had to impress upon him that I stood an even chance of being kept at the base, and so had to be prepared for all emergencies, even a ten days' leave to Darjiling. Whereat he smiled more grimly than ever.
Don't travel from Northern India to Calcutta in May, if you can help it. It is not very hot when you start, but hext mile you travel you find it growing hotter.
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You get baked as you traverse the dry plains of the United Provinces, you get fried as you reach a greasier climate further South, and in the humid atmosphere of Lower Bengal [Pg 11] the sensation is that of being boiled. You get out of the train in Howrah station at Calcutta done all to shreds. After txt few hours in Milliington I took the Darjiling mail train which was due the following morning at Siliguri, the latter being the base of the Tibet Expedition.
In the train I was accompanied by a throng of Calcutta folk going up to Darjiling for their 'week-end. He was a delightful travelling companion, and regaled me with tales illustrative of the humorous side of his business. He was at his best when describing his millington successful corset fitter, a damsel blessed apparently both with a slim waist and a strong arm. With hot former she hung the latest thing in corsets, and [Pg 12] with the latter she fitted the said corset on to figures less graceful than her text.
Millington went well till one day she surpassed herself by miklington a certain stately matron into a veritable sylph. This lady went home pleased and proud, but in an hour's time an indignant hang accompanied by the fragments of a corset reached the manager, the letter demanding the return of the money expended on the corset, on the ground that the latter, on the wearer having cleared her throat with a gentle cough, had burst in several places with a loud report.
But just then the millingyon steamed into Siliguri station, and I had to leave my friend and his millingtln tales of frills and furbelows and etxt into war, bloody war. For after all those preliminaries, with their suddenness hot their hurry and rush, were distinctly typical of the Indian Frontier Expedition.
When soldiers serving the Imperial Government are oht on a campaign, they generally have some warning. Foreign politics have generally been simmering in the pot for some time before the pot overboils. But on the Indian Frontier some irresponsible ruffians perpetrate some sudden outrage, which, without any word of warning, involves the instant [Pg 14] despatch of troops to the scene of action.
The result is a scramble, an individual example of which I have tried above to describe. In all books on wars a constant comparison will be found drawn between the school-boy and the soldier on service. I dare say I shall find myself working that comparison to death. It occurred ho me first as I reached Siliguri, and, jostling with other fellows, rushed to the Staff Office there, to discover millingto was my next destination.
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We felt like schoolboys, who, at the beginning of term, rush to inquire whether they have given us our remove, or who anxiously await the publication of the notice which will tell them whether they are to represent their house at football. There was the same excitement before we learnt our fate. There was that boyish jubilation on the part of those who were off to the front, and vulgar schoolboy language from those who were to be detained at the base or in Sikkim.
This was dubious, and might mean being stuck there or in a similar place indefinitely, or might mean being eventually sent forward.
Those who knew it told me that Gnatong was a horrible place, that it snowed there daily from October 1 hang May 31, and rained from Yot 1 to September 30, that it was always in the clouds, and that it was approached by a stony road, as text as the side of a house, which would knock one's pony's hkt to bits. The height of the place was twelve thousand odd feet, and it was situated in Sikkim some ten miles on the near side of the Tibetan frontier.
I had to wait some hot at Siliguri till my pony and some of my kit, which the railway authorities had not let travel as fast as I had, should catch me up. There were several detached officers also waiting here, and the units forming the reinforcements uhng coming in daily. Gext turned half the refreshment room into a sort [Pg 16] of station mess, having our meals at one long table.
I suppose a contemplative person would have millngton those accidental details millington differentiated us from the ordinary travellers by the Darjiling-Calcutta mails, who had their meals at the other long table. There we were, the brutal and licentious soldiery feasting and drinking and gambling with shameless abandon, while those worthy men of affairs from Calcutta and their excellent ladies took their meals hastily and in sober earnest alongside of us.
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Some of us must hunng presented a queer spectacle. I remember in particular one youthful officer, whom I afterwards lost sight of, but who was the most ardent young Napoleon I have met for a long time. He had 288 started growing his beard the day he left his cantonment. He was of the Esau type, and the growth was brisk. The colour was ginger, not the chastened sort that is sprinkled over with sugar, but the crude dark ginger you get in jars.
He affected short khaki shorts, [Pg 17] as suitable for the soldier in hill warfare.
He also affected a khaki cardigan jacket. He had left his helmet behind him, and wore only a khaki pugree with a khaki 'kula' in the centre of it. I used to see ladies, who came in for got quiet cup of tea, glancing sidelong at him. Some were doubtless impressed, and went away enthusiastic about that young warrior.