“A good day’s work, old man,” said Barry Whalen to the still unconscious figure. “You’ve done the trick for the Lady at Windsor this time. It’s a great sight better business than playing baccarat at DeLancy Scovel’s.”
Cheering came from everywhere, cries of victory filled the air. As he looked down the valley Barry could see the horses they had left behind being brought, under cover of the artillery and infantry fire, to the hill they had taken. The grey mare would be among them. But Rudyard would not want the grey mare yet awhile. An ambulance-cart was the thing for him.
Barry would have given much for a flask of brandy. A tablespoonful would bring Rudyard back. A surgeon was not needed, however. Krool’s hands had knowledge. Barry remembered the day when Wallstein was taken ill in Rudyard’s house, and how Krool acted with the skill of a Westminster sawbones.
Suddenly a bugle-call sounded, loud and clear and very near them. Byng had heard that bugle call again and again in this engagement, and once he had seen the trumpeter above the trenches, sounding the advance before more than a half-dozen men had reached the defences of the Boers. The same trumpeter was now running towards them. He had been known in London as Jigger. In South Africa he was familiarly called Little Jingo.
His face was white as he leaned over Barry Whalen to look at Rudyard, but suddenly the blood came back to his cheek.
“He wants brandy,” Jigger said.
“Well, go and get it,” said Barry sharply.
“I’ve got it here,” was the reply; and he produced a flask.
“Well, I’m damned!” said Barry. “You’ll have a gun next, and fire it too!”
“A 4.7,” returned Jigger impudently.
As the flask was at Rudyard’s lips, Barry Whalen said to Krool, “What do you stay here as—deserter or prisoner? It’s got to be one or the other.”
“Prisoner,” answered Krool. Then he added, “See—the Baas.”
Rudyard’s eyes were open.
“Prisoner—who is a prisoner?” he asked feebly.
“Me, Baas,” whispered Krool, leaning over him.
“He saved your life, Colonel,” interposed Barry Whalen.
“I thought it was the brandy,” said Jigger with a grin.
“The Alpine fellow”
To all who fought in the war a change of some sort had come. Those who emerged from it to return to England or her far Dominions, or to stay in the land of the veld, of the kranz and the kloof and the spruit, were never the same again. Something came which, to a degree, transformed them, as the salts of the water and the air permeate the skin and give the blood new life. None escaped the salt of the air of conflict.
The smooth-faced young subaltern who but now had all his life before him, realized the change when he was swept by the leaden spray of death on Spion Kop, and received in his face of summer warmth, or in his young exultant heart, the quietus to all his hopes, impulses and desires. The young find no solace or recompense in the philosophy of those who regard life as a thing greatly over-estimated.