Where the weakest joint is, smite.—Ranjoor Singh.
WELL, sahib, Abraham caught up with us on the evening of the third day after leaving with that letter to the Germans in Angora, having ridden moderately to spare his horse. He said there were only two German officers there when he reached the place, and they seemed worried. They gave him the new saddle asked for, and a new horse under it; also a letter to carry back. Ranjoor Singh gave me the horse and saddle, letting Abraham take my sorry beast, that was beginning to recover somewhat under better treatment.
Ranjoor Singh smiled grimly as he read the letter. He translated parts of it to me—mainly complaints about lack of this and that and the other thing, and very grave complaints against the Turks, who, it seemed, would not cooperate. You would say that was good news to all of us, that should have inspired us with new spirit. But as I said in the beginning, sahib, there are reasons why the British must rule India yet a while. We Sikhs, who would rule it otherwise, are all divided.
We were seven non-commissioned officers. If we seven had stood united behind Ranjoor Singh there was nothing we could not have done, for the men would then have had no example of disunity. You may say that Ranjoor Singh was our rightful officer and we had only to obey him, but I tell you, sahib, obedience that is worth anything must come from the heart and understanding. Ranjoor Singh was as much dependent on good-will as if we had had the choosing of him. So he had to create it, and that which has once been lost, for whatever reason, is doubly and re-doubly hard to make again. He did what he did in spite of us, although I tried to help.
Of us seven, first in seniority came I; and as I have tried already to make clear I was Ranjoor. Singh's man (not that he believed it altogether yet). If he had ordered me to make black white, I would have perished in the effort to obey; but I had yet to prove that.
Next in order to me was Gooja Singh, and although I have spared the regiment's shame as much as possible, I doubt not that man's spirit has crept out here and there between my words—as a smell creeps from under coverings. He hated me, being jealous. He hated Ranjoor Singh, because of merited rebuke and punishment. He was all for himself, and if one said one thing, he must say another, lest the first man get too much credit. Furthermore, he was a badmash* born of a money-lender's niece to a man mean enough to marry such. Other true charges I could lay against him, but my tale is of Ranjoor Singh and why should I sully it with mean accounts; Gooja Singh must trespass in among it, but let that be all.
[* badmash—(Hindi) a crook, a reprobate, a criminal, a hooligan. For other meanings, see the Budmash entry in The Hobson Jobson Dictionary. ]
Third of us daffadars* in order of seniority was Anim Singh, a big man, born in the village next my father's. He was a naik† in the Tirah in '97 when he came to the rescue of an officer, splitting the skull of an Orakzai,‡ wounding three others, and making prisoner a fourth who sought to interfere. Thus he won promotion, and he held it after somewhat the same manner.
[* daffadar—the equivalent rank to Sergeant in the cavalry of the British Indian Army, the next rank up from Lance Daffadar. The equivalent in other units was Havildar. Like a British sergeant, a Daffadar wore three rank chevrons. Wikipedia.]
[† naik (Hindi)—the equivalent rank to Corporal in the British Indian Army, ranking between Lance Naik and Havildar. In cavalry units the equivalent was Lance Daffadar. Like a British corporal, he wore two rank chevrons. Wikipedia. ]
[‡ Orakzai—a Pathan tribe on the Kohat border of the North-West Frontier Province of India. The Orakzais inhabit the mountains to the north-west of Kohat district, bounded on the N. and E. by the Afridis, on the S. by the Miranzai valley and on the W. by the Zaimukht country and the Safed Koh mountains. Their name means "lost tribes," and their origin is buried in obscurity; though they resemble the Afghans in language, features and many of their customs, they are rejected by them as brethren ... Encyclopedia Britannica, 11th Edition, 1911.]
A blunt man. A fairly good man. A very good man with the saber. A gambler, it is true—but whose affair is that? A ready eye for rustling curtains and footholds near open windows, but that is his affair again —until the woman's husband intervenes. And they say he can look after himself in such cases. At least, he lives. Behold him, sahib. Aye, that is he yonder, swaggering as if India can scarcely hold him—that one with his arm in a sling. A Sikh, sahib, with a soldier's heart and ears too big for his head—excellent things on outpost, where the little noises often mean so much, but all too easy for Gooja Singh to whisper into.
Of the other four, the next was Ramnarain Singh, the shortest as to inches of us all, but perhaps the most active on his feet. A man with a great wealth of beard and too much dignity due to his father's thaldukari*. His father pockets the rent of three fat villages, so the son believes himself a wisehead. A great talker. Brave in battle, as one must be to be daffadar of Outram's Own, but too assertive of his own opinion. He and Gooja Singh were ever at outs, resentful of each other's claim to wisdom.
[* thaldukari(Hindi)—a landed estate. For more information, see the Wikipedia article Taluqdar. ]
Next was Chatar Singh, like me, son and grandson of a soldier of the raj —a bold man, something heavy on his horse, but able to sever a sheep in two with one blow of his saber—very well regarded by the troopers because of physical strength and willingness to overlook offenses. Chatar Singh's chief weakness was respect for cunning. Having only a great bull's heart in him and ability to go forward and endure, he regarded cunning as very admirable; and so Gooja Singh had one daffadar to work on from the outset (although I did what I could to make trouble between them).
The remaining two non-commissioned officers were naiks—corporals, as you would say—Surath Singh and Mirath Singh, both rather recently promoted from the ranks and therefore likely to see both sides to a question (whereas a naik should rightly see but one). Very early I had taken those two naiks in hand, showing them friendship, harping on the honor and pleasure of being daffadar and on the chance of quick promotion.
Given a British commanding officer—just one British officer —even a little young one—one would have been enough—it would have been hard to find better backing for him. Even Gooja Singh would scarcely have failed a British leader. But not only was the feeling still strong against Ranjoor Singh; there was another cloud in the sky. Did the sahib ever lay his hands on loot? No? Ah! Love of that runs in the blood, and crops out generation after generation!
Until the British came and overthrew our Sikh kingdom—and that was not long ago—loot was the staff of life of all Sikh armies. In those days when an army needed pay there was a war. Now, except for one month's pay that, as I have told, the Germans had given us, we had seen no money since the day when we surrendered in that Flanders trench; and what the Germans gave us Ranjoor Singh took away, in order to bribe the captain of a Turkish ship. And Gooja Singh swore morning, noon and night that as prisoners of war we should not be entitled to pay from the British in any event, even supposing we could ever contrive to find the British and rejoin them.
"Let us loot, then, and pay ourselves!" was the unanimous verdict, I being about the only one who did not voice it. I claim no credit. I saw no loot, so what was the use of talking? We were crossing a desert where a crow could have found small plunder. But being by common consent official go-between I rode to Ranjoor Singh's side and told him what the men were saying.
"Aye," he nodded, not so much as looking sidewise, "any one would know they are saying that. What say the Turk and Tugendheim?"
"Loot, too!" said I, and he grunted.
It was this way, sahib. Our Turkish officer prisoner was always put with his forty men to march in front—behind our advance guard but in front of the carts and infantry. Thus there was no risk of his escaping, because for one thing he had no saddle and rode with much discomfort and so unsafely that he preferred to march on foot more often than not; and for another, that arrangement left him never out of sight of nearly all of us. One of us daffadars would generally march beside him, and some of the Syrian muleteers had learned English either in Egypt or the Levant ports, so that there was no lack of interpreters. I myself have marched beside the Turk for miles and miles on end, with Abraham translating for us.
"Why not loot? Who can prevent you? Who shall call you to account?" was the burden of the Turk's song.
And Tugendheim, who spoke our tongue fluently, marched as a rule among the men, or rode with the mounted men, watched day and night by the four troopers who had charge of him—better mounted than he, and very mindful of their honor in the matter. He made himself as agreeable as he could, telling tales about his life in India—not proper tales to tell to a sahib, but such as to make the troopers laugh; so that finally the things he said began to carry the weight that goes with friendliness. He soon discovered what the feeling was toward Ranjoor Singh, and somehow or other he found out what the Turk was talking about. After that he took the Turk's cue (although he sincerely despised Turks) and began with hint and jest to propagate lust for loot in the men's minds. Partly, I think, he planned to enrich himself and buy his way to safety—(although God knows in which direction he thought safety lay!). Partly, I think, he hoped to bring us to destruction, and so perhaps offset his offense of having yielded to our threats, hoping in that way to rehabilitate himself. So goes a lawyer to court, sure of a fee if his client wins, yet sure, too, of a fee if his client loses, enjoying profit and entertainment in any event. Yet who shall blame Tugendheim? Unlike a lawyer, he stood to take the consequences if both forks of the stick should fail. I told Ranjoor Singh all that Tugendheim and the Turk were saying to the men, and his brow darkened, although he made no comment. He did not trust me yet any more than he felt compelled to.
"Send Abraham to me," he said at last. So I went and sent Abraham, feeling jealous that the Syrian should hear what I might not.
Ranjoor Singh had been forcing the pace, and by the time I speak of now we had nearly crossed that desert, for a rim of hills was in front of us and all about. It was not true desert, such as we have in our Punjab, but a great plain already showing promise of the spring, with the buds of countless flowers getting ready to burst open; when we lay at rest it amused us to pluck them and try to determine what they would look like when their time should come. And besides flowers there were roots, remarkably good to eat, that the Syrians called "daughters of thunder," saying that was the local name. Tugendheim called them truffles. A little water and that desert would be fertile farm-land, or I never saw corn grow!
Ranjoor Singh conversed with Abraham until we entered a defile between the hills; and that night we camped in a little valley with our outposts in a ring around us, Ranjoor Singh sitting by a bright fire half-way up the side of a slope where he could overlook us all and be alone. We had seen mounted men two or three times that day, they mistaking us perhaps for Turkish troops, for they vanished after the first glimpse. Nevertheless, we tethered our horses close in the valley bottom, and lay around them, ready for all contingencies.
I remember that night well, for it was the first since we started eastward in the least to resemble our Indian nights. It made us feel homesick, and some of the men were crooning love-songs. The stars swung low, looking as if a man could almost reach them, and the smoke of our fires hung sweet on the night air. I was listening to Abraham's tales about Turks—tales to make a man bite his beard—when Ranjoor Singh called me in a voice that carried far without making much noise. (I have never known him to raise his voice so high or loud that it lost dignity.) "Hira Singh!" he called, and I answered "Ha, sahib!" and went clambering up the hill.
He let me stand three minutes, reading my eyes through the darkness, before he motioned me to sit. So then we sat facing, I on one side of the fire and he the other.
"I have watched you, Hira Singh," he said at last. "Now and again I have seemed to see a proper spirit in you. Nay, words are but fragments of the wind!" said he. (I had begun to make him protestations.) "There are words tossing back and forth below," he said, looking past me down into the hollow, where shadows of men were, and now and then the eye of a horse would glint in firelight. Then he said quietly, "The spirit of a Sikh requires deeds of us."
"Deeds in the dark?" said I, for I hoped to learn more of what was in his mind.
"Should a Sikh's heart fail him in the dark?" he asked.
"Have I failed you," said I, "since you came to us in the prison camp?"
"Who am I?" said he, and I did not answer, for I wondered what he meant. He said no more for a minute or two, but listened to our pickets calling their numbers one to another in the dark above us.
"If you serve me," he said at last, "how are you better than the stable- helper in cantonments who groomed my horse well for his own belly's sake? I can give you a full belly, but your honor is your own. How shall I know your heart?"
I thought for a long while, looking up at the stars. He was not impatient, so I took time and considered well, understanding him now, but pained that he should care nothing for my admiration.
"Sahib," I said finally, "by this oath you shall know my heart. Should I ever doubt you, I will tear out your heart and lay it on a dung-hill."
"Good!" said he. But I remember he made me no threat in return, so that even to this day I wonder how my words sounded in his ears. I am left wondering whether I was man enough to dare swear such an oath. If he had sworn me a threat in return I should have felt more at ease—more like his equal. But who would have gained by that? My heart and my belly are not one. Self-satisfaction would not have helped.
"Soon," he said, looking into my eyes beside the fire, "we shall meet opportunities for looting. Yet we have food enough for men and mules and horses for many a day to come; and as the corn grows less more men can ride in the carts, so that we shall move the swifter. But now this map of mine grows vague and our road leads more and more into the unknown. We need eyes ahead of us. I can control the men if I stay with them, but in that case who shall ride on and procure intelligence?"
In a flash I saw his meaning. There was none but he wise enough to ride ahead. But who else could control the men—men who believed they had sloughed the regiment's honor in a Flanders trench and a German prison camp? They were sloughing their personal honor that minute, fraternizing with Turkish prisoners. With their sense of honor gone, could even Ranjoor Singh control them? Perhaps! But if Ranjoor Singh rode forward, who should stay behind and stand in his shoes?
I looked at the stars, that had the color of jewels in them. I listened to the night birds. I heard the wind soughing—the mules and horses stamping—the murmur of men's voices. My tongue itched to say some foolish word, that would have proved me unfit to be trusted out of sight. But the thought came to me to be still and listen. And still I remained until he began again.
"If I told the men what the true position is they would grow desperate," he said. "They would believe the case hopeless."
"They almost believe that now!" said I.
"Have the Turk and Tugendheim been kept apart?" said he.
"Aye," I answered. "They have not had ten words together."
"Good," said he. "Neither Turk nor Tugendheim knows the whole truth, but if they get together they might concoct a very plausible, misleading tale."
"They would better have been bound and gagged," said I.
"No," he answered. "If I had bound and gagged them it would have established sympathy between them, and they would have found some way of talking nevertheless. Kept apart and let talk, the Turk will say one thing, Tugendheim another."
"True," said I. "For now the Turk advises plunder to right and left, and settlement afterward among Armenian villages. He says there are women to be had for the taking. 'Be a new nation!' says he."
"And what says Tugendheim?" asked Ranjoor Singh.
"'Plunder!'" said I. "'Plunder and push northward into Russia! The Russians will welcome you,' says he, 'and perhaps accept me into their secret service!—Plunder the Turks!' says Tugendheim. 'Plunder the Armenians!' says the Turk."
"I, too, would be all for Russia," he answered, "but it isn't possible. The coast of the Black Sea, and from the Black Sea down to the Persian frontier, is held by a very great Turkish army. The main caravan routes lie to the north of us, and every inch of them is watched."
"I am glad then that it must be Egypt," said I. "A long march, but friends at the other end. Who but doubts Russians?"
He shook his head. "Syria and Palestine," he said, "are full of an army gathering to invade Egypt. It eats up the land like locusts. An elephant could march easier unseen into a house than we into Syria!"
"So we must double back?" said I. "Good! By now they must have ceased looking for us, supposing they ever thought us anything but drowned. Somewhere we can surely find a ship in which to cross to Gallipoli!"
He laughed and shook his head again. "We slipped through the one unguarded place," he said. "If we had come one day later that place, too, would have been held by some watchful one, instead of by the fool we found in charge."
Then at last I thought surely I knew what his objective MUST be. It had been common talk in Flanders how an expedition marched from Basra up the Tigris.
"Baghdad!" I said. "We march to Baghdad to join the British there! Baghdad is good!"
But he answered, "Baghdad is not yet taken—not yet nearly taken. Between us and Baghdad lies a Turkish army of fifty or sixty thousand men at least."
I sat silent. I can draw a map of the world and set the rivers and cities and boundaries down; so I knew that if we could go neither north—nor south—nor westward, there remained only eastward, straight-forward into Persia. He read my thoughts, and nodded.
"Persia is neutral," he said, with a wave of his hand that might mean anything. "The Turks have spared no army for one section of the Persian frontier, choosing to depend on savage tribes. And the Germans have given them Wassmuss to help out."
"Ah!" said I, making ready to learn at last who Wassmuss might be. "When we have found this Wassmuss, are we to make him march with us like Tugendheim?"
"If what the Germans in Stamboul said of him is only half-true," he answered, "we shall find him hard to catch. Wassmuss is a remarkable man. Before the war he was consul in Baghdad or somewhere, and he must have improved his time, for he knows enough now to keep all the tribes stirred up against Russians and British. The Germans send him money, and he scatters it like corn among the hens; but the money would be little use without brains. The Germans admire him greatly, and he certainly seems a man to be wondered at. But he is the one weak point, nevertheless—the only key that can open a door for us."
"But if he is too wary to be caught?" said I.
"Who knows?" he answered with another of those short gruff laughs. "But I know this," said he, "that from afar hills look like a blank wall, yet come closer and the ends of valleys open. Moreover, where the weakest joint is, smite! So I shall ride ahead and hunt for that weakest joint, and you shall shepherd the men along behind me. Go and bring Abraham and the Turk!"
I went and found them. Abraham was already asleep, no longer wearing the Turkish private soldier's uniform but his own old clothes again (because, the Turkish soldier having done nothing meriting punishment, Ranjoor Singh had ordered him his uniform returned). I awoke him and together we went and found the Turk sitting between a Syrian and Gooja Singh; and although I did not overhear one word of what they were saying, I saw that Gooja Singh believed I had been listening. It seemed good to me to let him deceive himself, so I smiled as I touched the Turk's shoulder.
"Lo! Here is our second-in-command!" sneered Gooja Singh, but I affected not to notice.
"Come!" said I, showing the Turk slight courtesy, and, getting up clumsily like a buffalo out of the mud, he followed Abraham and me. Some of the men made as if to come, too, out of curiosity, but Gooja Singh recalled them and they clustered round him.
When I had brought the Turk uphill to the fire-side, Ranjoor Singh had only one word to say to him.
"Strip!" he ordered.
Aye, sahib! There and then, without excuse or explanation, he made the Turkish officer remove his clothes and change with Abraham; and I never saw a man more unwilling or resentful! Abraham had told me all about Turkish treatment of Syrians, and it is the way of the world that men most despise those whom they most ill-treat. So that although Turks have no caste distinctions that I know of, that one felt like a high-caste Brahmin* ordered to change garments with a sweeper. He looked as if he would infinitely rather die.
[* Brahmin—a member of the highest of the Hindu varnas (castes)—that of priests and teachers. The word is related to, but not to be confused with, the Hindu religious conception of the transcendent and immanent supreme soul, "Brahman". For in-depth information, see the Wikipedia article Brahmin. ]
"Hurry!" Ranjoor Singh ordered him in English.
"Hurriyet?" said the Turk. Hurriyet is their Turkish for liberty. All the troops in Stamboul used it constantly, and Ranjoor Singh told me it means much the same as the French cry of "Liberty, Equality, Fraternity!" The Turk seemed bewildered, and opened his eyes wider than ever; but whatever his thoughts were about Hurriyet he rightly interpreted the look in Ranjoor Singh's eye and obeyed, grimacing like a monkey as he drew on Abraham's dirty garments.
"You shall wear the rags of a driver of mules if you talk any more about loot to your men or mine!" said Ranjoor Singh. "If I proposed to loot, I would bury you for a beginning, lest there be nothing for the rest of us!"
He made Abraham translate that into Turkish, lest the full gist of it be lost, and I sat comparing the two men. It was strange to see what a change the uniform made in Abraham's appearance—what a change, too, came over the Turk. Had I not known, I could never have guessed the positions had once been reversed. Abraham looked like an officer. The Turk looked like a peasant. He was a big up-standing man, although with pouches under his eyes that gave the lie to his look of strength. Now for the first time Ranjoor Singh set a picked guard over him, calling out the names of four troopers who came hurrying uphill through the dark.
"Let your honor and this man's ward be one!" said he, and they answered "Our honor be it!"
He could not have chosen better if he had lined up the regiment and taken half a day. Those four were troopers whom I myself had singled out as men to be depended on when a pinch should come, and I wondered that Ranjoor Singh should so surely know them, too.
"Take him and keep him!" he ordered, and they went off, not at all sorry to be excused from other duties, as now of course they must be. Counting the four who guarded Tugendheim, that made a total of eight troopers probably incorruptible, for there is nothing, sahib, that can compare with imposing a trust when it comes to making sure of men's good faith. Hedge them about with precautions and they will revolt or be half-hearted; impose open trust in them, and if they be well-chosen they will die true.
"Now," said he to me when they were out of hearing, "I shall take with me one daffadar, one naik, and forty mounted men. Sometimes I shall take Abraham, sometimes Tugendheim, sometimes the Turk. This time I shall take the Turk, and before dawn I shall be gone. Let it be known that the best behaved of those I leave with you shall be promoted to ride with me—just as my unworthy ones shall be degraded to march on foot with you. That will help a little."
"Aye," said I, "a little. Which daffadar will you take? That will help more!" said I.
"Gooja Singh," he answered, and I marveled.
"Sahib," I said, "take him out of sight and bury his body! Make an end!" I urged. "In Flanders they shot men against a wall for far less than he has talked about!"
"Flanders is one place and this another," he answered. "Should I make those good men more distrustful than they are? Should I shoot Gooja Singh unless I am afraid of him?"
I said no more because I knew he was right. If he should shoot Gooja Singh the troopers would ascribe it to nothing else than fear. A British officer might do it and they would say, "Behold how he scorns to shirk responsibility!" Yet of Ranjoor Singh they would have said, "He fears us, and behold the butchery begins! Who shall be next?" Nevertheless, had I stood in his shoes, I would have shot and buried Gooja Singh to forestall trouble. I would have shot Gooja Singh and the Turk and Tugendheim all three with one volley. And the Turk's forty men would have met a like fate at the first excuse. But that is because I was afraid, whereas Ranjoor Singh was not. I greatly feared being left behind to bring the men along, and the more I thought of it, the worse the prospect seemed; so I began to tell of things I had heard Gooja Singh say against him, and which of the men I had heard and seen to agree, for there is no good sense in a man who is afraid.
"Is it my affair to take vengeance on them, or to lead them into safety?" he asked. And what could I answer?
After some silence he spread out his map where firelight shone on it and showed Abraham and me where the Tigris River runs by Diarbekr. "Thus," he said, "we must go," pointing with his finger, "and thus—and thus —by Diarbekr, down by the Tigris, by Mosul, into Kurdistan, to Sulimanieh, and thence into Persia—a very long march through very wild country. Outside the cities I am told no Turk dare show himself with less than four hundred men at his back, so we will keep to the open. If the Turks mistake us for Turks, the better for us. If the tribes mistake us for Turks, the worse for us; for they say the tribes hate Turks worse than smallpox. If they think we are Turks they will attack us. We need ride warily."
"It would take more Turks than there are," I said, "to keep our ruffians from trying to plunder the first city they see! And as for tribes— they are in a mood to join with any one who will help make trouble!"
"Then it may be," he answered quietly, "that they will not lack exercise! Follow me and lend a hand!" And he led down toward the camp-fires, where very few men slept and voices rose upward like the noise of a quarrelsome waterfall.
Just as on that night when we captured the carts and Turks and Syrians, he now used the cover of darkness to reorganize; and the very first thing he did was to make the forty Turkish prisoners change clothes with Syrians— the Turks objecting with much bad language and the Syrians not seeming to relish it much, for fear, I suppose, of reprisals. But he made the Turks hand over their rifles, as well, to the Syrians; and then, of all unlikely people he chose Tugendheim to command the Syrians and to drill them and teach them discipline! He set him to drilling them there and then, with a row of fires to see by.
In the flash of an eye, as you might say, we had thus fifty extra infantry, ten of them neither uniformed nor armed as yet, but all of them at least afraid to run away. Tugendheim looked doubtful for a minute, but he was given his choice of that, or death, or of wearing a Syrian's cast-off clothes and driving mules. He well understood (for I could tell by his manner of consenting) that Ranjoor Singh would send him into action against the first Turks we could find, thus committing him to further treason against the Central Powers; but he had gone too far already to turn back.
And as for the Syrians-they had had a lifetime's experience of Turkish treatment, and had recently been taught to associate Germans with Turks; so if Tugendheim should meditate treachery it was unlikely his Syrians would join him in it. It was promotion to a new life for them—occupation for Tugendheim, who had been growing bored and perhaps dangerous on that account—and not so dreadfully distressing to the Turkish soldiers, who could now ride on the carts instead of marching on weary feet. They had utterly no ambition, those Turkish soldiers; they cared neither for their officer (which was small wonder) nor for the rifles that we took away, which surprised us greatly (for in the absence of lance or saber, we regarded our rifles as evidence of manhood). They objected to the dirty garments they received in exchange for the uniforms, and they despised us Sikhs for men without religion (so they said!); but it did not seem to trouble them whether they fought on one side or the other, or whether they fought at all, so long as they had cigarettes and food. Yet I did not receive the impression they were cowards—brutes, perhaps, but not cowards. When they came under fire later on they made no effort to desert with the carts to their own side; and when we asked them why, they said because we fed them! They added they had not been paid for more than eighteen months.
Why did not Ranjoor Singh make this arrangement sooner, you ask. Why did he wait so long, and then choose the night of all times? Not all thoughts are instantaneous, sahib; some seem to develop out of patience and silence and attention. Moreover, it takes time for captured men to readjust their attitude—as the Germans, for instance, well knew when they gave us time for thought in the prison camp at Oeschersleben. When we first took the Syrians prisoner they were so tired and timid as to be worthless for anything but driving carts, whereas now we had fed them and befriended them. On the other hand, in the beginning, the Turks, if given a chance, would have stampeded with the carts toward Angora.
Now that both Turks and Syrians had grown used to being prisoners and to obeying us, they were less likely to think independently—in the same way that a new-caught elephant in the keddah is frenzied and dangerous, but after a week or two is learning tricks.
And as for choosing the night-time for the change, every soldier knows that the darkness is on the side of him whose plans are laid. He who is taken unawares must then contend with both ignorance and darkness. Thieves prefer the dark. Wolves hunt in the dark. Fishermen fish in the dark. And the wise commander who would change his dispositions makes use of darkness, too. Men who might disobey by daylight are like lambs when they can not see beyond the light a camp-fire throws.
But such things are mental, sahib, and not to be explained like the fire of heavy guns or the shock tactics of cavalry—although not one atom less effective. If Ranjoor Singh had lined up the men and argued with them, there might have been mutiny. Instead, when he judged the second ripe, he made sudden new dispositions in the night and gave them something else to think about without suggesting to their minds that he might be worried about them or suspicious of them. On the contrary, he took opportunity to praise some individuals and distribute merited rewards.
For instance, he promoted the two naiks, Surath Singh and Mirath Singh, to be daffadars on probation, to their very great surprise and absolute contentment. The four who guarded Tugendheim he raised to the rank of naik, bidding them help Tugendheim drill the Syrians without relaxing vigilance over him. Then he chose six more troopers to be naiks. And of the eighty mounted men he degraded eighteen to march on foot again, replacing them with more obedient ones. Then at last I understood why he had chosen some grumblers to ride in the first instance—simply in order that he might make room for promotion of others at the proper time, offsetting discontent with emulation.
Then of the eighty mounted men he picked the forty best. He gave Abraham's saddle to Gooja Singh, set one of the new naiks over the left wing, and Gooja Singh over the right wing of the forty, under himself, and ordered rations for three days to be cooked and served out to the forty, including corn for their horses. They had to carry it all in the knapsacks on their own backs, since no one of them yet had saddles.
Gooja Singh eyed me by firelight while this was going on, with his tongue in his cheek, as much as to say I had been superseded and would know it soon. When I affected not to notice he said aloud in my hearing that men who sat on both sides of a fence were never on the right side when the doings happen. And when I took no notice of that he asked me in a very loud voice whether my heart quailed at the prospect of being left a mile or two behind. But I let him have his say. Neither he, nor any of the men, had the slightest idea yet of Ranjoor Singh's real plan.
After another talk with me Ranjoor Singh was to horse and away with his forty an hour before daybreak, the Turkish officer riding bareback in Syrian clothes between the four who had been set to guard him. And the sound of the departing hooves had scarcely ceased drumming down the valley when the men left behind with me began to put me to a test. Abraham was near me, and I saw him tremble and change color. Sikh troopers are not little baa-lambs, sahib, to be driven this and that way with a twig! Tugendheim, too, ready to preach mutiny and plunder, was afraid to begin lest they turn and tear him first. He listened with both ears, and watched with both eyes, but kept among his Syrians.
"Whither has he gone?" the men demanded, gathering round me where I stooped to feel my horse's forelegs. And I satisfied myself the puffiness was due to neither splint nor ring-bone before I answered. There was just a little glimmer of the false dawn, and what with that and the dying fires we could all see well enough. I could see trouble—out of both eyes.
"Whither rides Ranjoor Singh?" they demanded.
"Whither we follow!" said I, binding a strip from a Syrian's loin-cloth round the horse's leg. (What use had the Syrian for it now that he wore uniform? And it served the horse well.)
A trooper took me by the shoulder and drew me upright. At another time he should have been shot for impudence, but I had learned a lesson from Ranjoor Singh too recently to let temper get the better of me.
"Thou art afraid!" said I. "Thy hand on my shoulder trembles!"
The man let his hand fall and laughed to show himself unafraid. Before he could think of an answer, twenty others had thrust him aside and confronted me.
"Whither rides Ranjoor Singh? Whither does he ride?" they asked. "Make haste and tell us!"
"Would ye bring him back?" said I, wondering what to say. Ranjoor Singh had told me little more than that we were drawing near the neighborhood of danger, and that I was to follow warily along his track. "God will put true thoughts in your heart," he told me, "if you are a true man, and are silent, and listen." His words were true. I did not speak until I was compelled. Consider the sequel, sahib.
"Ye have talked these days past," said I, "of nothing but loot— loot—loot! Ye have lusted like wolves for lowing cattle! Yet now ye ask me whither rides Ranjoor Singh! Whither should he ride? He rides to find bees for you whose stings have all been drawn, that ye may suck honey without harm! He rides to find you victims that can not strike back! Sergeant Tugendheim," said I, "see that your Syrians do not fall over one another's rifles! March in front with them," I ordered, "that we may all see how well you drill them! Fall in, all!" said I, "and he who wishes to be camp guard when the looting begins, let him be slow about obeying!"
Well, sahib, some laughed and some did not. The most dangerous said nothing. But they all obeyed, and that was the main thing. Not more than an hour and a half after Ranjoor Singh had ridden off our carts were squeaking and bumping along behind us. And within an hour after that we were in action! Aye, sahib, I should say it was less than an hour after the start when I halted to serve out ten cartridges apiece to the Syrians, that Tugendheim might blood them and get himself into deeper water at the same time. He was angry that I would not give him more cartridges, but I told him his men would waste those few, so why should I not be frugal? When the time came I don't think the Syrians hit anything, but they filled a gap and served a double purpose; for after Tugendheim had let them blaze away those ten rounds a piece there was less fear than ever of his daring to attempt escape. Thenceforward his prospects and ours were one. But my tale goes faster than the column did, that could travel no faster than the slowest man and the weakest mule.
We were far in among the hills now—little low hills with broad open spaces between, in which thousands of cattle could have grazed. Only there were no cattle. I rode, as Ranjoor Singh usually did, twenty or thirty horses' length away on the right flank, well forward, where I could see the whole column with one quick turn of the head. I had ten troopers riding a quarter of a mile in front, and a rear-guard of ten more, but none riding on the flanks because to our left the hills were steep and impracticable and to our right I could generally see for miles, although not always.
We dipped into a hollow, and I thought I heard rifle shots. I urged my horse uphill, and sent him up a steep place from the top of which I had a fine view. Then I heard many shots, and looked, and lo a battle was before my eyes. Not a great battle—really only a skirmish, although to my excited mind it seemed much more at first. And the first one I recognized taking his part in it was Ranjoor Singh.
I could see no infantry at all. About a hundred Turkish cavalry were being furiously attacked by sixty or seventy mounted men who looked like Kurds, and who turned out later really to be Kurds. The Kurds were well mounted, riding recklessly, firing from horseback at full gallop and wasting great quantities of ammunition.
The shooting must have been extremely bad, for I could see neither dead bodies nor empty saddles, but nevertheless the Turks appeared anxious to escape—the more so because Ranjoor Singh with his forty men was heading them off. As I watched, one of them blew a trumpet and they all retreated helter-skelter toward us—straight toward us. There was nothing else they could do, now that they had given way. It was like the letter Y—thus, sahib,—see, I draw in the dust—the Kurds coming this way at an angle—Ranjoor Singh and his forty coming this way—and we advancing toward them all along the bottom stroke of the Y, with hills around forming an arena. The best the Turks could do would have been to take the higher ground where we were and there reform, except for the fact that we had come on the scene unknown to them. Now that we had arrived, they were caught in a trap.
There was plenty of time, especially as we were hidden from view, but I worked swiftly, the men obeying readily enough now that a fight seemed certain. I posted Tugendheim with his Syrians in the center, with the rest of us in equal halves to right and left, keeping Abraham by me and giving Anim Singh, as next to me in seniority, command of our left wing. We were in a rough new moon formation, all well under cover, with the carts in a hollow to our rear. By the time I was ready, the oncoming Turks were not much more than a quarter of a mile away; and now I could see empty saddles at last, for some of the Kurds had dismounted and were firing from the ground with good effect.
I gave no order to open fire until they came within three hundred yards of us. Then I ordered volleys, and the Syrians forthwith made a very great noise at high speed, our own troopers taking their time, and aiming low as ordered. We cavalrymen are not good shots as a rule, rather given, in fact, to despising all weapons except the lance and saber, and perhaps a pistol on occasion. But the practise in Flanders had worked wonders, and at our first volley seven or eight men rolled out of the saddles, the horses continuing to gallop on toward us.
The surprise was so great that the Turks drew rein, and we gave them three more volleys while they considered matters, bringing down a number of them. They seemed to have no officer, and were much confused. Not knowing who we were, they turned away from us and made as if to surrender to the enemy they did know, but the Kurds rode in on them and in less than five minutes there was not one Turk left alive. My men were for rushing down to secure the loot, but it seemed likely to me that the Kurds might mistake that for hostility and I prevailed on the men to keep still until Ranjoor Singh should come. And presently I saw Ranjoor Singh ride up to the leader of the Kurds and talk with him, using our Turkish officer prisoner as interpreter. Presently he and the Kurdish chief rode together toward us, and the Kurd looked us over, saying nothing. (Ranjoor Singh told me afterward that the Kurd wished to be convinced that we were many enough to enforce fair play.)
The long and the short of it was that we received half the captured horses —that is, thirty-five, for some had been killed—and all the saddles, no less than ninety of them, besides Mauser rifles and uniforms for our ten unarmed Syrians. The Kurds took all the remainder, watching to make sure that the Syrians, whom we sent to help themselves to uniforms, took nothing else. When the Kurds had finished looting, they rode away toward the south without so much as a backward glance at us.
I asked Ranjoor Singh how Turkish cavalry had come to let themselves get caught thus unsupported, and he said he did not know.
"Yet I have learned something," he said. "I shot the Turkish commander's horse myself, and my men pounced on him. That demoralized his men and made the rest easy. Now, I have questioned the Turk, and between him and the Kurdish chief I have discovered good reason to hurry forward."
"I would weigh that Kurd's information twice!" said I. "He cut those Turks down in cold blood. What is he but a cutthroat robber?"
"Let him weigh what I told him, then, three times!" he answered with a laugh. "Have you any men hurt?"
"No," said I.
"Then give me a mile start, and follow!" he ordered. And in another minute he was riding away at the head of his forty, slowly for sake of the horses, but far faster than I could go with all those laden carts. And I had to give a start of much more than a mile because of the trouble we had in fitting the saddles to our mounts. I wished he had left the captured Turkish officer behind to explain his nation's cursed saddle straps!
We rode on presently over the battle-ground; and although I have seen looting on more than one battlefield I have never seen anything so thorough as the work those Kurds had done. They had left the dead naked, without a boot, or a sock, or a rag of cloth among them. Here and there fingers had been hacked off, for the sake of rings, I suppose. There were vultures on the wing toward the dead, some looking already half-gorged, which made me wonder. I wondered, too, whither the Kurds had ridden off in such a hurry. What could be happening to the southward? Ranjoor Singh had gone due east.
It was not long before Ranjoor Singh rode out of sight in a cloud of dust, disappearing between two low hills that seemed to guard the rim of the hollow we were crossing. At midday I let the column rest in the cleft between those hills, not troubling to climb and look beyond because the men were turbulent and kept me watchful, and also because I knew well Ranjoor Singh would send back word of any danger ahead. And so he did. I was sitting eating my own meal when his messenger came galloping through the gap with a little slip of twisted paper in his teeth.
"Bring them along," said the message. "Don't halt again until you overtake me."
So I made every one of the mounted men take up a man behind, and the rest of the unmounted men I ordered into the carts, including Tugendheim's Syrians, judging it better to overtax the animals than to be too long on the road. And the long and short of that was that we overtook Ranjoor Singh at about four that afternoon. Our animals were weary, but the men were fit to fight.
Ranjoor Singh ordered Abraham to take the Syrians and all the carts and horses down into a hollow where there was a water-hole, and to wait there for further orders. Tugendheim was bidden come with us on foot; and without any explanation he led us all toward a low ridge that faced us, rising here and there into an insignificant hill. It looked like blown sand over which coarse grass had grown, and such it proved to be, for it was on the edge of another desert. It was fifty or sixty feet high, and rather difficult to climb, but he led us straight up it, cautioning us to be silent and not to show ourselves on the far side. On the top we crawled forward eighteen or twenty yards on our bellies, until we lay at last gazing downward. It was plain then whence those half-gorged vultures came.
Who shall describe what we saw? Did the sahib ever hear of Armenian massacres? This was worse. If this had been a massacre we would have known what to do, for our Sikh creed bids us ever take the part of the oppressed. But this was something that we did not understand, that held us speechless, each man searching his own heart for explanation, and Ranjoor Singh standing a little behind us watching us all.
There were hundreds of men, women and little children being herded by Turks toward the desert—southward. The line was long drawn out, for the Armenians were weary. They had no food with them, no tents, and scarcely any clothing. Here and there, in parties at intervals along the line, rode Turkish soldiers; and when an Armenian, man or woman or child, would seek to rest, a Turk would spur down on him and prick him back into line with his lance—man, woman or child, as the case might be. Some of the Turks cracked whips, and when they did that the Armenians who were not too far spent would shudder as if the very sound had cut their flesh. How did I know they were Armenians? I did not know. I learned that afterward.
Some wept. Some moaned. But the most were silent and dry-eyed, moving slowly forward like people in a dream. Oh, sahib, I have had bad dreams in my day, and other men have told me theirs, but never one like that!
There was a little water-hole below where we lay—the merest cupful fed by a trickle from below the hill. Some of them gathered there to scoop the water in their hands and drink, and I saw a Turk ride among them, spurring his horse back and forward until the water was all foul mud. Nevertheless, they continued drinking until he and another Turk flogged them forward.
"Sahib!" said I, calling to Ranjoor Singh. "A grayness, sahib!"
He came and lay beside me with his chin on his hand. "What is it?" said he.
"The life of that Turk who trod the water into mud!" said I. "Let me have the winding up of his career!"
"Wait a while!" said he. "Let the men watch. Watch thou the men!"
So I did watch the men, and I saw cold anger grow among them, like an anodyne, making them forget their own affairs. I began to wonder how long Ranjoor Singh would dare let them lie there, unless perhaps he deliberately planned to stir them into uncontrol. But he was wiser than to do that. Just so far he meant their wrath should urge them—so far and no further. He watched as one might watch a fuse.
"Those Kurds of this morning," he told me (never taking his eyes off the men) "hurried off to the southward expecting to meet this very procession. Kurds hate Turks, and Turks fear Kurds, but in this they are playing to and fro, each into the other's hands. The Turks drive Armenians out into the desert, where the Kurds come down on them and plunder. The Turks return for more Armenians, and so the game goes on. I learned all that from our Turkish officer we took this morning."
While he spoke a little child died not a hundred yards away from where I lay. Its mother lay by it and wept, but a Turk spurred down and skewered the child's body on his lance, tossing it into the midst of a score of others who went forward dumbly. Another Turk riding along behind him thrashed the woman to her feet.
"That ought to do," said Ranjoor Singh, crawling backward out of sight and then getting to his feet. Then he called us, and we all crawled backward to the rear edge of the ridge. And there at last we stood facing him. I saw Gooja Singh whispering in Anim Singh's great ear. Ranjoor Singh saw it too.
"Stand forth, Gooja Singh!" he ordered. And Gooja Singh stood a little forward from the others, half-truculent and half-afraid.
"What do you want?" asked Ranjoor Singh. "Of what were you whispering?" But Gooja Singh did not answer.
"No need to tell me!" said Ranjoor Singh. "I know! Ye all seek leave to loot! As sons of thalkudars*—as trusted soldiers of the raj —as brave men—honorable men—ye seek to prove yourselves!"
[* thalukdar, talookdar, taluqdar (Hindi)— the owner of an estate. The Hobson Jobson Dictionary. For more information, see the Wikipedia article Taluqdar. ]
They gasped at him—all of them, Tugendheim included. I tell you he was a brave man to stand and throw that charge in the teeth of such a regiment, not one man of whom reckoned himself less than gentleman. I looked to my pistol and made ready to go and die beside him, for I saw that he had chosen his own ground and intended there and then to overcome or fail.
"Lately but one thought has burned in all your hearts," he told them. "Loot! Loot! Loot! Me ye have misnamed friend of Germany—friend of Turkey—enemy of Britain! Yourselves ye call honorable men!"
"Why not?" asked Gooja Singh, greatly daring because the men were looking to him to answer for them. "Hitherto we have done no shameful thing!"
"No shameful thing?" said Ranjoor Singh. "Ye have called me traitor behind my back, yet to my face ye have obeyed me these weeks past. Ye have used me while it served your purpose, planning to toss me aside at the first excuse. Is that not shameful? Now we reach the place where ye must do instead of talk. Below is the plunder ye have yearned for, and here stand I, between it and you!"
"We have yearned for no such plunder as that!" said Gooja Singh, for the men would have answered unless he did, and he, too, was minded to make his bid for the ascendency.
"No?" said Ranjoor Singh. "'No carrion for me!' said the jackal. 'I only eat what a tiger killed!'"
He folded his arms and stood quite patiently. None could mistake his meaning. There was to be, one way or the other, a decision reached on that spot as to who sought honor and who sought shame. He himself submitted to no judgment. It was the regiment that stood on trial! A weak man would have stood and explained himself.
Presently Ramnarain Singh, seeing that Gooja Singh was likely to get too much credit with the men, took up the cudgels and stood forward.
"Tell us truly, sahib," he piped up. "Are you truly for the raj, or is this some hunt of your own on which you lead us?"
"Ye might have asked me that before!" said Ranjoor Singh. "Now ye shall answer me my question first! When I have your answer, I will give you mine swiftly enough, in deeds not words! What is the outcome of all your talk? Below there is the loot, and, as I said, here stand I between it and you! Now decide, what will ye!"
He turned his back, and that was bravery again; for under his eye the men were used to showing him respect, whereas behind his back they had grown used to maligning him. Yet he had thrown their shame in their very teeth because he knew their hearts were men's hearts. Turning his back on jackals would have stung them to worse dishonor. He would not have turned his back on jackals, he would have driven them before him.
It began to occur to the men that they once made me go-between, and that it was my business to speak up for them now. Many of them looked toward me. They began to urge me. Yet I feared to speak up lest I say the wrong thing. Once it had not been difficult to pretend I took the men's part against Ranjoor Singh, but that was no longer so easy.
"What is your will?" said I at last, for Ranjoor Singh continued to keep his back turned, and Gooja Singh and Ramnarain were seeking to forestall each other. Anim Singh and Chatar Singh both strode up to me.
"Tell him we will have none of such plunder as that!" they both said.
"Is that your will?" I asked the nearest men, and they said "Aye!" So I went along the line quickly, repeating the question, and they all agreed. I even asked Tugendheim, and he was more emphatic than the rest.
"Sahib!" I called to Ranjoor Singh. "We are one in this matter. We will have none of such plunder as that below!"
He turned himself about, not quickly, but as one who is far from satisfied.
"So-ho! None of SUCH plunder!" said he. "What kind of plunder, then? What is the difference between the sorts of plunder in a stricken land?"
Gooja Singh answered him, and I was content that he should, for not only did I not know the answer myself but I was sure that the question was a trap for the unwary.
"We will plunder Turks, not wretches such as these!" said Gooja Singh.
"Aha!" said Ranjoor Singh, unfolding his arms and folding them again, beginning to stand truculently, as if his patience were wearing thin. "Ye will let the Turks rob the weak ones, in order that ye may rob the Turks! That is a fine point of honor! Ye poor lost fools! Have ye no better wisdom than that? Can ye draw no finer hairs? And yet ye dare offer to dictate to me, and to tell me whether I am true or not! The raj is well served if ye are its best soldiers!"
He spat once, and turned his back again.
"Ye have said we will have no such plunder!" shouted Gooja Singh, but he did not so much as acknowledge the words even by a movement of the head. Then Gooja Singh went whispering with certain of the men, those who from the first had been most partial to him, and presently I saw they were agreed on a course. He stood forward with a new question.
"Tell us whither you are leading?" he demanded. "Tell us the plan?"
Ranjoor Singh faced about. "In order that Gooja Singh may interfere and spoil the plan?" he asked, and Ramnarain Singh laughed very loud at that, many of the troopers joining. That made Gooja Singh angry, and he grew rash.
"How shall we know," he asked, "whither you lead or whether you be true or not?"
"As to whither I lead," said Ranjoor Singh, "God knows that better than I. At least I have led you into no traps yet. And as to whether I am true or not, it is enough that each should know his own heart. I am for the raj!" And he drew his saber swiftly, came to the salute, and kissed the hilt.
Then I spoke up, for I saw my opportunity. "So are we for the raj!" said I. "We too, sahib!" And it was with difficulty then that I restrained the men from bursting into cheers. Ranjoor Singh held his hand up, and we daffadars flung ourselves along the line commanding silence. A voice or two— even a dozen men talking—were inaudible, but the Turks would have heard a cheer.
"Ye?" said Ranjoor Singh. "Ye for the raj? I thought ye were all for loot?"
"Nay!" said Gooja Singh, for he saw his position undermined and began to grow fearful for consequences. "We are all for the raj, and all were for the raj from the first. It is you who are doubtful!"
He thought to arouse feeling again, but the contrast between the one man and the other had been too strong and none gave him any backing. Ranjoor Singh laughed.
"Have a care, Gooja Singh!" he warned. "I promised you court martial and reduction to the ranks should I see fit! To your place in the rear!"
So Gooja Singh slunk back to his place behind the men and I judged him more likely than ever to be dangerous, although for the moment overcome. But Ranjoor Singh had not finished yet.
"Then, on one point we are agreed," he said. "We will make the most of that. Let us salute our own loyalty to India, and the British and the Allies, with determination to give one another credit at least for that in future! Pre—sent arms!"
So we presented arms, he kissing the hilt of his saber again; and it was not until three days afterward that I overheard one of the troopers saying that Gooja Singh had called attention to the fact of its being a German saber. For the moment there was no more doubt among us; and if Gooja Singh had not begun to be so fearful lest Ranjoor Singh take vengeance on him there never would have been doubt again. We felt warm, like men who had come in under cover from the cold.
It was growing dusk by that time, and Ranjoor Singh bade us at once to return to where the horses and Syrians waited in the hollow, he himself continuing to sit alone on the summit of the ridge, considering matters. We had no idea what he would do next, and none dared ask him, although many of the men urged me to go and ask. But at nightfall he came striding down to us and left us no longer in doubt, for he ordered girths tightened and ammunition inspected.
The Syrians had no part in that night's doings. They were bidden wait in the shadow of the ridge; with mules inspanned, and with Tugendheim in charge we trusted them, to guard our Turkish prisoners. Tugendheim bit his nails and made as if to pull his mustache out by the roots, but we suffered no anxiety on his account; his safety and ours were one. He had no alternative but to obey.
Before the moon rose we sent our unmounted men to the top of the ridge under Chatar Singh, and the rest of us rode in a circuit, through a gap that Ranjoor Singh had found, to the plain on the far side.
The Turks had driven their convoy into the desert and had camped behind them, nearly three hundred strong. They had made one big fire and many little ones, and looked extremely cheerful, what with the smell of cooking and the dancing flame. Their horses were picketed together in five lines with only a few guards, so that their capture was an easy matter. We caught them entirely by surprise and fell on them from three sides at once, our foot-men from the ridge delivering such a hot fire that some of us were hit. I looked long for the Turk who had fouled the water, and for the other one who had lanced the child's body, but failed to identify either of them. I found two who looked like them, crawling out from under a heap of slain, and shot them through the head; but as to whether I slew the right ones or not I do not know.
Three officers we made prisoner, making five that we had to care for. The other officers were slain. We never knew how few or how many Turks escaped under cover of darkness, but I suspect not more than a dozen or two at the most. Whatever tale they told when they got home again, it is pretty certain they gave the Kurds the blame, for, how should they suppose us to be anything except Kurds?
We took no loot except the horses and rifles. We stacked the rifles in a cart, picked the best horses, taking twenty-five spare ones with us, and gave our worst horses to the Armenians to eat. We sent a few Syrians in a hurry to warn the Armenians in the desert against those Kurds who had ridden to the south to intercept them, and tipped out two cartfuls of corn that we could ill spare, putting our wounded in the empty carts. We had one-and-twenty wounded, many of them by our own riflemen.
Then we rode on into the night, Ranjoor Singh urging us to utmost speed. The Armenians begged us to remain with them, or to take them with us. Some clung to our stirrups, but we had to shake them loose. For what could we do more than we had done for them? Should we die with them in the desert, serving neither them nor us? We gave them the best advice we could and rode away. We bade them eat, and scatter, and hide. And I hope they did.
We rode on, laughing to think that Kurds would be blamed for our doings, and wondering whether the Armenians had enough spirit left to make use of the loot we did not touch. Some of us had lances now; a few had sabers; all had good mounts and saddles. We were likely to miss the corn we had given away; but to offset that we had a new confidence in Ranjoor Singh that was beyond price, and I sang as I rode. I sang the Anand, our Sikh hymn of joy. I knew we were a regiment again at last.