The Taking of Lungtungpen by Rudyard
So we loosed a bloomin' volley,
An' we made the beggars cut,
An' when our pouch was emptied out.
We used the bloomin' butt,
Don't yer come anigh,
When Tommy is a playin' with the baynit an' the butt.
—Barrack Room Ballad.
My friend Private Mulvaney told me this, sitting on the parapet of the
road to Dagshai, when we were hunting butterflies together. He had
theories about the Army, and colored clay pipes perfectly. He said that
the young soldier is the best to work with, "on account av the surpassing
innocinse av the child."
"Now, listen!" said Mulvaney, throwing himself full length on the wall
in the sun. "I'm a born scutt av the barrick-room! The Army's mate an'
dhrink to me, bekaze I'm wan av the few that can't quit ut. I've put in
sivinteen years, an' the pipeclay's in the marrow av me. Av I cud have
kept out av wan big dhrink a month, I wud have been a Hon'ry Lift'nint by
this time—a nuisince to my betthers, a laughin'-shtock to my equils,
an' a curse to meself. Bein' fwhat I am, I'm Privit Mulvaney, wid no
good-conduc' pay an' a devourin' thirst. Always barrin' me little frind
Bobs Bahadur, I know as much about the Army as most men."
I said something here.
"Wolseley be shot! Betune you an' me an' that butterfly net, he's a
ramblin', incoherint sort av a divil, wid wan oi on the Quane an' the
Coort, an' the other on his blessed silf—everlastin'ly playing
Saysar an' Alexandrier rowled into a lump. Now Bobs is a sinsible little
man. Wid Bobs an' a few three-year-olds, I'd swape any army av the earth
into a towel, an' throw it away aftherward. Faith, I'm not jokin'! Tis the
bhoys—the raw bhoys—that don't know fwhat a bullut manes, an'
wudn't care av they did—that dhu the work. They're crammed wid
bull-mate till they fairly ramps wid good livin'; and thin, av they
don't fight, they blow each other's hids off. 'Tis the trut' I'm tellin'
you. They shud be kept on water an' rice in the hot weather; but there'd
be a mut'ny av 'twas done.
"Did ye iver hear how Privit Mulvaney tuk the town av Lungtungpen? I
thought not! 'Twas the Lift'nint got the credit; but 'twas me planned the
schame. A little before I was inviladed from Burma, me an' four-an'-twenty
young wans undher a Lift'nint Brazenose, was ruinin' our dijeshins thryin'
to catch dacoits. An' such double-ended divils I niver knew! Tis only a
dah an' a Snider that makes a dacoit, Widout thim, he's a paceful
cultivator, an' felony for to shoot. We hunted, an' we hunted, an' tuk
fever an' elephints now an' again; but no dacoits, Evenshually, we
puckarowed wan man, 'Trate him tinderly,' sez the Lift'nint. So I
tuk him away into the jungle, wid the Burmese Interprut'r an' my
clanin'-rod. Sez I to the man, 'My paceful squireen,' sez I, 'you shquot
on your hunkers an' dimonstrate to my frind here, where your
frinds are whin they're at home?' Wid that I introjuced him to the
clanin'-rod, an' he comminst to jabber; the Interprut'r interprutin' in
betweens, an' me helpin' the Intilligince Departmint wid my clanin'-rod
whin the man misremimbered.
"Prisintly, I learn that, acrost the river, about nine miles away, was
a town just dhrippin' wid dahs, an' bohs an' arrows, an' dacoits, and
elephints, an' jingles. 'Good!' sez I; 'this office will now
"That night, I went to the Lift'nint an' communicates my information. I
never thought much of Lift'nint Brazenose till that night. He was shtiff
wid books an' theouries, an' all manner av thrimmin's no manner av use.
'Town did ye say?' sez he. 'Accordin' to the theouries av War, we shud
wait for reinforcemints.'—'Faith!' thinks I, 'we'd betther dig our
graves thin;' for the nearest throops was up to their shtocks in the
marshes out Mimbu way. 'But,' says the Lift'nint, 'since 'tis a speshil
case, I'll make an excepshin. We'll visit this Lungtungpen to-night.'
"The bhoys was fairly woild wid deloight whin I tould 'em; an', by this
an' that, they wint through the jungle like buck-rabbits. About midnight
we come to the shtrame which I had clane forgot to minshin to my orficer.
I was on, ahead, wid four bhoys, an' I thought that the Lift'nint might
want to theourise. 'Shtrip boys!' sez I. 'Shtrip to the buff, an' shwim in
where glory waits!'—'But I can't shwim!' sez two av thim. 'To
think I should live to hear that from a bhoy wid a board-school
edukashin!' sez I. 'Take a lump av timber, an' me an' Conolly here will
ferry ye over, ye young ladies!'
"We got an ould tree-trunk, an' pushed off wid the kits an' the rifles
on it. The night was chokin' dhark, an' just as we was fairly embarked, I
heard the Lift'nint behind av me callin' out. 'There's a bit av a
nullah here, sorr,' sez I, 'but I can feel the bottom already.' So
I cud, for I was not a yard from the bank.
"'Bit av a nullah! Bit av an eshtuary!' sez the Lift'nint. 'Go
on, ye mad Irishman! Shtrip bhoys!' I heard him laugh; an' the bhoys begun
shtrippin' an' rollin' a log into the wather to put their kits on. So me
an' Conolly shtruck out through the warm wather wid our log, an' the rest
come on behind.
"That shtrame was miles woide! Orth'ris, on the rear-rank log, whispers
we had got into the Thames below Sheerness by mistake. 'Kape on shwimmin',
ye little blayguard,' sez I, 'an' don't go pokin' your dirty jokes at the
Irriwaddy,'—'Silince, men!' sings out the Lift'nint. So we shwum on
into the black dhark, wid our chests on the logs, trustin' in the Saints
an' the luck av the British Army.
"Evenshually, we hit ground—a bit av sand—an' a man. I put
my heel on the back av him. He skreeched an' ran.
"'Now we've done it!' sez Lift'nint Brazenose. 'Where the Divil
is Lungtungpen?' There was about a minute and a half to wait. The
bhoys laid a hould av their rifles an' some thried to put their belts on;
we was marchin' wid fixed baynits av coorse. Thin we knew where
Lungtungpen was; for we had hit the river-wall av it in the dhark, an' the
whole town blazed wid thim messin' jingles an' Sniders like a cat's
back on a frosty night. They was firin' all ways at wanst, but over our
hids into the shtrame.
"'Have you got your rifles?' sez Brazenose. 'Got 'em!' sez Orth'ris.
'I've got that thief Mulvaney's for all my back-pay, an' she'll kick my
heart sick wid that blunderin' long shtock av hers.'—'Go on!' yells
Brazenose, whippin' his sword out. 'Go on an' take the town! An' the Lord
have mercy on our sowls!'
"Thin the bhoys gave wan divastatin' howl, an' pranced into the dhark,
feelin' for the town, an' blindin' an' stiffin' like Cavalry Ridin'
Masters whin the grass pricked their bare legs. I hammered wid the butt at
some bamboo-thing that felt wake, an' the rest come an' hammered
contagious, while the jingles was jingling, an' feroshus yells from
inside was shplittin' our ears. We was too close under the wall for thim
to hurt us.
"Evenshually, the thing, whatever ut was, bruk; an' the six-and-twinty
av us tumbled, wan after the other, naked as we was borrun, into the town
of Lungtungpen. There was a melly av a sumpshus kind for a whoile;
but whether they tuk us, all white an' wet, for a new breed av divil, or a
new kind av dacoit, I don't know. They ran as though we was both, an' we
wint into thim, baynit an' butt, shriekin' wid laughin'. There was torches
in the shtreets, an' I saw little Orth'ris rubbin' his showlther ivry time
he loosed my long-shtock Martini; an' Brazenose walkin' into the gang wid
his sword, like Diarmid av the Gowlden Collar—barring he hadn't a
stitch av clothin' on him. We diskivered elephints wid dacoits under their
bellies, an', what wid wan thing an' another, we was busy till mornin'
takin' possession av the town of Lungtungpen.
"Thin we halted an' formed up, the wimmen howlin' in the houses an'
Lift'nint Brazenose blushin' pink in the light av the mornin' sun. 'Twas
the most ondasint p'rade I iver tuk a hand in. Foive-and-twenty privits
an' a orficer av the Line in review ordher, an' not as much as wud dust a
fife betune 'em all in the way of clothin'! Eight av us had their belts
an' pouches on; but the rest had gone in wid a handful av cartridges an'
the skin God gave thim. They was as nakid as Vanus.
"'Number off from the right!' sez the Lift'nint. 'Odd numbers fall out
to dress; even numbers pathrol the town till relieved by the dressing
party.' Let me tell you, pathrollin' a town wid nothing on is an
expayrience. I pathrolled for tin minutes, an' begad, before 'twas
over, I blushed. The women laughed so. I niver blushed before or since;
but I blushed all over my carkiss thin. Orth'ris didn't pathrol. He sez
only, 'Portsmith Barricks an' the 'Ard av a Sunday! Thin he lay down an'
rowled any ways wid laughin'.
"Whin we was all dhressed, we counted the dead—sivinty-foive
dacoits besides wounded. We tuk five elephints, a hunder' an' sivinty
Sniders, two hunder' dahs, and a lot av other burglarious thruck. Not a
man av us was hurt—excep' maybe the Lift'nint, an' he from the shock
to his dasincy.
"The Headman av Lungtungpen, who surrinder'd himself, asked the
Interprut'r—''Av the English fight like that wid their clo'es off,
what in the wurruld do they do wid their clo'es on?' Orth'ris began
rowlin' his eyes an' crackin' his fingers an' dancin' a step-dance for to
impress the Headman. He ran to his house; an' we spint the rest av the day
carryin' the Lift'nint on our showlthers round the town, an' playin' wid
the Burmese babies—fat, little, brown little divils, as pretty as
"Whin I was inviladed for the dysent'ry to India, I sez to the
Lift'nint, 'Sorr,' sez I, 'you've the makin's in you av a great man; but,
av you'll let an ould sodger spake, you're too fond of the-ourisin'.' He
shuk hands wid me and sez, 'Hit high, hit low, there's no plasin' you,
Mulvaney. You've seen me waltzin' through Lungtungpen like a Red Injin
widout the warpaint, an' you say I'm too fond av
the-ourisin'?'—'Sorr,' sez I, for I loved the bhoy; 'I wud waltz wid
you in that condishin through Hell, an' so wud the rest av the
men!' Thin I wint downshtrame in the flat an' left him my blessin'. May
the Saints carry ut where ut shud go, for he was a fine upstandin' young
"To reshume. Fwhat I've said jist shows the use av three-year-olds. Wud
fifty seasoned sodgers have taken Lungtungpen in the dhark that way? No!
They'd know the risk av fever and chill. Let alone the shootin'. Two
hundher' might have done ut. But the three-year-olds know little an' care
less; an' where there's no fear, there's no danger. Catch thim young, feed
thim high, an' by the honor av that great, little man Bobs, behind a good
orficer 'tisn't only dacoits they'd smash wid their clo'es off—'tis
Con-ti-nental Ar-r-r-mies! They tuk Lungtungpen nakid; an' they'd take St.
Pethersburg in their dhrawers! Begad, they would that!
"Here's your pipe, sorr. Shmoke her tinderly wid honey-dew, afther
letting the reek av the Canteen plug die away. But 'tis no good, thanks to
you all the same, fillin' my pouch wid your chopped hay. Canteen baccy's
like the Army. It shpoils a man's taste for moilder things."
So saying, Mulvaney took up his butterfly-net, and returned to