Im the breech-piece mule of Number Two gun of the First Screw Battery, said the mule, and the others one of your friends. Hes woken me up too. Who are you?
Number Fifteen, E troop, Ninth LancersDick Cunliffes horse. Stand over a little, there.
Oh, beg your pardon, said the mule. Its too dark to see much. Arent these camels too sickening for anything? I walked out of my lines to get a little peace and quiet here.
My lords, said the camel humbly, we dreamed bad dreams in the night, and we were very much afraid. I am only a baggage-camel of the 39th Native Infantry, and I am not so brave as you are, my lords.
Then why the pickets didnt you stay and carry baggage for the 39th Native Infantry, instead of running all round the camp? said the mule.
They were such very bad dreams, said the camel. I am sorry. Listen! What is that? Shall we run on again?
Sit down, said the mule, or youll snap your long legs between the guns. He cocked one ear and listened. Bullocks! he said. Gun-bullocks. On my word, you and your friends have waked the camp very thoroughly. It takes a good deal of prodding to put up a gun-bullock.
I heard a chain dragging along the ground, and a yoke of the great sulky white bullocks that drag the heavy siege-guns when the elephants wont go any nearer to the firing, came shouldering along together; and almost stepping on the chain was another battery-mule, calling wildly for Billy.
Thats one of our recruits, said the old mule to the troop-horse. Hes calling for me. Here, youngster, stop squealing. The dark never hurt anybody yet.
The gun-bullocks lay down together and began chewing the cud, but the young mule huddled close to Billy.
Things! he said. Fearful and horrible things, Billy! They came into our lines while we were asleep. Dyou think theyll kill us?
Ive a mind to give you a number-one kicking, said Billy. The idea of a fourteen-hand mule with your training disgracing the battery before this gentleman!
Gently, gently! said the troop-horse. Remember they are always like this to begin with. The first time I ever saw a man (it was in Australia when I was a three-year-old) I ran for half a day, and if Id seen a camel I should have been running still.
Nearly all our horses for the English cavalry are brought to India from Australia, and are broken in by the troopers themselves.
True enough, said Billy. Stop shaking, youngster. The first time they put the full harness with all its chains on my back, I stood on my forelegs and kicked every bit of it off. I hadnt learned the real science of kicking then, but the battery said they had never seen anything like it.
But this wasnt harness or anything that jingled, said the young mule. You know I dont mind that now, Billy. It was things like trees, and they fell up and down the lines and bubbled; and my head-rope broke, and I couldnt find my driver, and I couldnt find you, Billy, so I ran off withwith these gentlemen.
Hm! said Billy. As soon as I heard the camels were loose I came away on my own account, quietly. When a batterya screw-gun mule calls gun-bullocks gentlemen, he must be very badly shaken up. Who are you fellows on the ground there?
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