`'Thing I don't understand,' said Tertius, `was the way we chaps used to go down into the lavatories, boil ourselves pink, and then come up with all our pores open into a young snowstorm or a black frost. Yet none of our chaps died, that I can remember.'
`Talkin' of baths,' said M`Turk, with a chuckle, `'member our bath in Number Five, Beetle, the night Rabbits- Eggs rocked King? What wouldn't I give to see old Stalky now! He is the only one of the two Studies not here.'
`Stalky is the great man of his Century,' said Dick Four.
`How d'you know?' I asked.
`How do I know?' said Dick Four scornfully. `If you've ever been in a tight place with Stalky you wouldn't ask.'
`I haven't seen him since the camp at Pindi in '87,' I said. `He was goin' strong then--about seven feet high and four feet thick.'
`Adequate chap. Infernally adequate,' said Tertius, pulling his moustache and staring into the fire.
`Got dam' near court-martialled and broke in Egypt in '84,' the Infant volunteered. `I went out in the same trooper with him--as raw as he was. Only I showed it, and Stalky didn't.'
`What was the trouble?' said M`Turk, reaching forward absently to twitch my dress-tie into position.
`Oh, nothing. His colonel trusted him to take twenty Tommies out to wash, or groom camels, or something at the back of Suakin, and Stalky got embroiled with Fuzzies five miles in the interior. He conducted a masterly retreat and wiped up eight of 'em. He knew jolly well he'd no right to go out so far, so he took the initiative and pitched in a letter to his colonel, who was frothing at the mouth, complaining of the "paucity of support accorded to him in his operations." Gad, it might have been one fat brigadier slangin' another! Then he went into the Staff Corps.'
`That--is--entirely--Stalky,' said Abanazar from his armchair.
`You've come across him too?' I said.
`Oh yes,' he replied in his softest tones. `I was at the tail of that--that epic. Don't you chaps know?'
We did not--Infant, M`Turk, and I; and we called for information very politely.
`'Twasn't anything,' said Tertius. `We got into a mess up in the Khye-Kheen Hills a couple o' years ago, and Stalky pulled us through. That's all.'
M`Turk gazed at Tertius with all an Irishman's contempt for the tongue-tied Saxon.
`Heavens!' he said. `And it's you and your likes govern Ireland. Tertius, aren't you ashamed?'
`Well, I can't tell a yarn. I can chip in when the other fellow starts bukhing. Ask him.' He pointed to Dick Four, whose nose gleamed scornfully over the rug.
`I knew you wouldn't,' said Dick Four. `Give me a whisky and soda. I've been drinking lemon-squash and ammoniated quinine while you chaps were bathin' in champagne, and my head's singin' like a top.'
He wiped his ragged moustache above the drink; and, his teeth chattering in his head, began:
`You know the Khye-Kheen-Malôt expedition when we scared the souls out of 'em with a field force they daren't fight against? Well, both tribes--there was a coalition against us--came in without firing a shot: and
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