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   Chapter 22 DUG-OUT YARNS

At Suvla Bay By John Hargrave Characters: 4938

Updated: 2017-12-06 00:02


Oft in the stilly night,

By yellow candle-light,

With finger in the sand

We mapped and planned.

"This is the Turkish well,

That's where the Captain fell,

There's the great Salt Lake bed,

Here's where the Munsters led."

Primitive man arose,

With prehistoric pose,

Like Dug-out Men of old,

By signs our thoughts were told.

I have slept and lived in every kind of camp and bivouac. I have dug and helped to dig dug-outs. I have lain full length in the dry, dead grass "under the wide and starry sky." I have crept behind a ledge of rock, and gone to sleep with the ants crawling over me. I have slept with a pair of boots for a pillow. I have lived and snoozed in the dried-up bed of a mountain torrent for weeks. A ground-sheet tied to a bough has been my bedroom. I have slumbered curled in a coil of rope on the deck of a cattle-boat, in an ambulance wagon, on a stretcher, in farmhouse barns and under hedges and haystacks. I have slept in the sand by the blue Mediterranean Sea, with the crickets and grasshoppers "zipping" and "zinging" all night long.

But our dug-out nights on the edge of the bay at Buccaneer Bivouac were the most enjoyable.

It was here of a night-time that Hawk and I-sometimes alone, sometimes with Brockley, or "Cherry Blossom," or "Corporal Mush," or Sergeant Joe Smith, the sailormen as onlookers and listeners-it was here we drew diagrams in the sand with our fingers, and talked on politics and women's rights, marriage and immorality, drink and religion, customs and habits; of life and death, peace and war.

Sometimes Hawk burst into a rare phrase of splendid composition-well-balanced rhetoric, not unworthy of a Prime Minister.

At other times he is the buccaneer, the flinger of foul oaths, and terrible damning curses. But as a rule they are not vindictive, they have no sting-for Hawk is a forgiving and humble man in reality, in spite of his mask of arrogance.

A remarkable character in every way, he fell unknowingly into the old north-country Quaker talk of "thee and thou."

Another minute he gives an order in those hard, calm, commanding words which, had he had the chance, would have made him, in spite of his lack of schooling, one of the finest Generals the world could ever know.

On these occasional gleams of pure leadership he finds the finest King's English ready to his lips, while at other times he is ungrammatical, ordinary, but never uninteresting or slow of

intuition.

He was a master of slang, and like all strong and vivid characters had his own peculiar sayings.

He never thought of looking over my shoulder when I was sketching. He was a gentleman of Nature. But when he saw I had finished, his clear, deep-set eyes (handed down to him from those old Norseman ancestors) would glint with interest-

"Dekko the drawing," he would say, using the old Romany word for "let's see."

"PRACtically" was a favourite word.

"PRACtically the 'ole Peninsula-"

"PRACtically every one of 'em-"

"It weren't that," he would say; or, "I weren't bothering-"

"I'm not bothered-"

"Thee needn't bother, but it's a misfortunate thing-"

"Hates me like the divil 'ates Holy Water."

"Like enough!"

"A pound to a penny!"

"As like as not!"

"Ah; very like."

These were all typical Hawkish expressions.

His yarns of India out-Rudyard Kipling. They were superb, full of barrack-room touches, and the smells and sounds of the jungle. He told of the time when a soldier could get "jungling leave"; when he could go off with a Winchester and a pal and a native guide for two or three months; when the Government paid so many rupees for a tiger skin, so many for a cobra-a scale of rewards for bringing back the trophies of the jungle wilds.

He pictured the Himalayas and the Hindu Kush, describing the everlasting snows where you look up and up at the sheer rocks and glaciers; "you feel like a baby tortoise away down there, so small, as like as not you get giddy and drunk-like."

One night Hawk told me of a Hindu fakir who sat by the roadside performing the mango-trick for one anna. I illustrated it in the sand as he told it.

caption: Dug-out, September 9, 1915.

1. The fakir puts a pinch of dust from the ground in a little pile on a glass plate on a tripod.

2. He covers it up with a handkerchief or a cloth.

3. He plays the bagpipes, or a wooden flute, while you can see the heap of dust under the cloth a-growing and a-growing up and up, bigger and bigger.

4. At last he lifts up the cloth and shows you the green mango-tree growing on the piece of glass.

"He covers it again-plays. Lifts the cloth, shows you the mango tree in leaf. Covers it again-plays again. Takes away the cloth, and shows you the mango-tree in fruit, real fruit; but they never let you have the fruit for love or money. Rather than let any one have it, they pluck it and squash it between their fingers."

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