True, he carries little books of French and English which tell him how to say “Porter, get my luggage and take it to a cab,” or “Please bring me a laundry list,” or “Give my kind regards to your parents,” Imagine him trying to find the French for “Look out, they’re coming!” to call to a French neighbour, in the inevitable mix-up of the line during a melee, and finding only “These trousers do not fit well,” or “I would like an ice and then a small piece of cheese.”
It was a curious group that sat in a semicircle around that peasant woman’s stove, waiting for the kettle to boil—the tall Indian major with his aristocratic face and long, quiet hands, the young English officer in his Headquarters Staff uniform, the French interpreter, and I. Just inside the door the major’s Indian servant, tall, impassive and turbaned, stood with folded arms, looking over our heads. And at the table the placid faced peasant woman cut slices of yellow bread, made with eggs and milk, and poured our coffee.
It was very good coffee, served black. The woman brought a small decanter and placed it near me.
“It is rum,” said the major, “and very good in coffee.”
I declined the rum. The interpreter took a little. The major shook his head.
“Although they say that a Sikh never refuses rum!” he said, smiling.
Coffee over, we walked about the village. Hardly a village—a cluster of houses along unpaved lanes which were almost impassable. There were tumbling stables full of horses, groups of Indians standing under dripping eaves for shelter, sentries, here and there a peasant. The houses were replicas of the one where Makand Singh had his quarters.
Although it was still raining, a dozen Indian Lancers were exercising their horses. They dismounted and stood back to let us pass. Behind them, as they stood, was the great Cross.
That was the final picture I had of the village of Ham and the Second Lahore Lancers—the turbaned Indians with their dripping horses, the grave bow of Makand Singh as he closed the door of the car, and behind him a Scotch corporal in kilt and cap, with a cigarette tucked behind his ear.
We went on. I looked back, Makand Singh was making his careful way through the mud; the horses were being led to a stable. The Cross stood alone.
SIR JOHN FRENCH
The next day I was taken along the English front, between the first and the second line of trenches, from Bethune, the southern extremity of the line, the English right flank, to the northern end of the line just below Ypres. In a direct line the British front at that time extended along some twenty-seven miles. But the line was irregular, and I believe was really well over thirty.
I have never been in an English trench. I have been close enough to the advance trenches to be shown where they lay, and to see the slight break they make in the flat country. I was never in a dangerous position at the English front, if one excepts the fact that all of that portion of the country between the two lines of trenches is exposed to shell fire.