‘What have I said?’ shouted Din Mahommed. ’There is the warning! The pulton are out already and are coming across the plain! Get away! Let us not be seen with the boy!’
The men waited for an instant, and then, as another shot was fired, withdrew into the hills, silently as they had appeared.
‘The wegiment is coming,’ said Wee Willie Winkie confidently to Miss Allardyce, ‘and it’s all wight. Don’t cwy!’
He needed the advice himself, for ten minutes later, when his father came up, he was weeping bitterly with his head in Miss Allardyce’s lap.
And the men of the 195th carried him home with shouts and rejoicings; and Coppy, who had ridden a horse into a lather, met him, and, to his intense disgust, kissed him openly in the presence of the men.
But there was balm for his dignity. His father assured him that not only would the breaking of arrest be condoned, but that the good-conduct badge would be restored as soon as his mother could sew it on his blouse-sleeve. Miss Allardyce had told the Colonel a story that made him proud of his son.
‘She belonged to you, Coppy,’ said Wee Willie Winkie, indicating Miss Allardyce with a grimy forefinger. ’I knew she didn’t ought to go acwoss ve wiver, and I knew ve wegiment would come to me if I sent Jack home.’
‘You’re a hero, Winkie,’ said Coppy—’a pukka hero!’
‘I don’t know what vat means,’ said Wee Willie Winkie, ’but you mustn’t call me Winkie any no more. I’m. Percival Will’am Will’ams.’
And in this manner did Wee Willie Winkie enter into his manhood.
A MATTER OF FACT.
if ye doubt the tale I tell,
Steer through the South Pacific swell;
Go where the branching coral hives
Unending strife of endless lives,
Where, leagued about the ’wildered boat,
The rainbow jellies fill and float;
And, lilting where the laver lingers,
The starfish trips on all her fingers;
Where, ’neath his myriad spines ashock,
The sea-egg ripples down the rock;
An orange wonder dimly guessed,
From darkness where the cuttles rest,
Moored o’er the darker deeps that hide
The blind white Sea-snake and his bride
Who, drowsing, nose the long-lost ships
Let down through darkness to their lips.
Once a priest, always a priest; once a mason, always a mason; but once a journalist, always and for ever a journalist.