The God from the Machine by Rudyard
Hit a man an' help a woman, an' ye can't be far wrong
—Maxims of Private Mulvaney.
The Inexpressibles gave a ball. They borrowed a seven-pounder from the
Gunners, and wreathed it with laurels, and made the dancing-floor
plate-glass and provided a supper, the like of which had never been eaten
before, and set two sentries at the door of the room to hold the trays of
programme-cards. My friend, Private Mulvaney, was one of the sentries,
because he was the tallest man in the regiment. When the dance was fairly
started the sentries were released, and Private Mulvaney went to curry
favor with the Mess Sergeant in charge of the supper. Whether the Mess
Sergeant gave or Mulvaney took, I cannot say. All that I am certain of is
that, at supper-time, I found Mulvaney with Private Ortheris, two-thirds
of a ham, a loaf of bread, half a pâtè-de-foie-gras,
and two magnums of champagne, sitting on the roof of my carriage. As I
came up I heard him saying—
"Praise be a danst doesn't come as often as Ord'ly-room, or, by this
an' that, Orth'ris, me son, I wud be the dishgrace av the rig'mint instid
av the brightest jool in uts crown."
"Hand the Colonel's pet noosance," said Ortheris, "But wot makes
you curse your rations? This 'ere fizzy stuff's good enough."
"Stuff, ye oncivilized pagin! 'Tis champagne we're dhrinkin' now.
'Tisn't that I am set ag'in. 'Tis this quare stuff wid the little bits av
black leather in it. I misdoubt I will be distressin'ly sick wid it in the
mornin'. Fwhat is ut?"
"Goose liver," I said, climbing on the top of the carriage, for I knew
that it was better to sit out with Mulvaney than to dance many dances.
"Goose liver is ut?" said Mulvaney. "Faith, I'm thinkin' thim that
makes it wud do betther to cut up the Colonel. He carries a power av liver
undher his right arrum whin the days are warm an' the nights chill. He wud
give thim tons an' tons av liver. 'Tis he sez so. 'I'm all liver to-day,'
sez he; an' wid that he ordhers me ten days C.B. for as moild a dhrink as
iver a good sodger took betune his teeth."
"That was when 'e wanted for to wash 'isself in the Fort Ditch,"
Ortheris explained. "Said there was too much beer in the Barrack
water-butts for a God-fearing man. You was lucky in gettin' orf with wot
you did, Mulvaney."
"Say you so? Now I'm pershuaded I was cruel hard trated, seein' fwhat
I've done for the likes av him in the days whin my eyes were wider opin
than they are now. Man alive, for the Colonel to whip me on the peg
in that way! Me that have saved the repitation av a ten times better man
than him! Twas ne-farious—an' that manes a power av evil!"
"Never mind the nefariousness," I said. "Whose reputation did you
"More's the pity, 'twasn't my own, but I tuk more trouble wid ut than
av ut was. 'Twas just my way, messin' wid fwhat was no business av mine.
Hear now!" He settled himself at ease on the top of the carriage. "I'll
tell you all about ut. Av coorse I will name no names, for there's wan
that's an orf'cer's lady now, that was in ut, and no more will I name
places, for a man is thracked by a place."
"Eyah!" said Ortheris, lazily, "but this is a mixed story wot's
"Wanst upon a time, as the childer-books say, I was a recruity."
"Was you though?" said Ortheris; "now that's extryordinary!"
"Orth'ris," said Mulvaney, "av you opin thim lips av yours again, I
will, savin' your presince, sorr, take you by the slack av your trousers
an' heave you."
"I'm mum," said Ortheris. "Wot 'appened when you was a recruity?"
"I was a betther recruity than you iver was or will be, but that's
neither here nor there. Thin I became a man, an' the divil of a man I was
fifteen years ago. They called me Buck Mulvaney in thim days, an', begad,
I tuk a woman's eye. I did that! Ortheris, ye scrub, fwhat are ye
sniggerin' at? Do you misdoubt me?"
"Devil a doubt!" said Ortheris; "but I've 'eard summat like that
Mulvaney dismissed the impertinence with a lofty wave of his hand and
"An' the orf'cers av the rig'mint I was in in thim days was
orfcers—gran' men, wid a manner on 'em, an' a way wid 'em such as is
not made these days—all but wan—wan o' the capt'ns. A bad
dhrill, a wake voice, an' a limp leg—thim three things are the signs
av a bad man. You bear that in your mind, Orth'ris, me son.
"An' the Colonel av the rig'mint had a daughter—wan av thim
lamblike, bleatin', pick-me-up-an'-carry-me-or-I'll-die gurls such as was
made for the natural prey av men like the Capt'n, who was iverlastin'
payin' coort to her, though the Colonel he said time an' over, 'Kape out
av the brute's way, my dear.' But he niver had the heart for to send her
away from the throuble, bein' as he was a widower, an' she their wan
"Stop a minute, Mulvaney," said I; "how in the world did you come to
know these things?"
"How did I come?" said Mulvaney, with a scornful grunt; "bekaze I'm
turned durin' the Quane's pleasure to a lump av wood, lookin' out straight
forninst me, wid a—a—candelabbrum in my hand, for you to pick
your cards out av, must I not see nor feel? Av coorse I du! Up my back,
an' in my boots, an' in the short hair av the neck—that's where I
kape my eyes whim I'm on duty an' the reg'lar wans are fixed. Know! Take
my word for it, sorr, ivrything an' a great dale more is known in a
rig'mint; or fwhat wud be the use av a Mess Sargint, or a Sargint's wife
doin' wet-nurse to the Major's baby? To reshume. He was a bad dhrill was
this Capt'n—a rotten bad dhrill—an' whin first I ran me eye
over him, I sez to myself: 'My Militia bantam!' I sez, 'My cock av a
Gosport dunghill'—'twas from Portsmouth he came to us—'there's
combs to be cut,' sez I, 'an' by the grace av God, 'tis Terence Mulvaney
will cut thim.'
"So he wint menowderin', and minanderin', an' blandandhering roun' an'
about the Colonel's daughter, an' she, poor innocint, lookin' at him like
a Comm'ssariat bullock looks at the Comp'ny cook. He'd a dhirty little
scrub av a black moustache, an' he twisted an' turned ivry wurrd he used
as av he found ut too sweet for to spit out.
"Eyah! He was a tricky man an' a liar by natur'. Some are born so. He
was wan. I knew he was over his belt in money borrowed from natives;
besides a lot av other matthers which, in regard for your presince, sorr,
I will oblitherate. A little av fwhat I knew, the Colonel knew, for he wud
have none av him, an' that, I'm thinkin', by fwhat happened aftherward,
the Capt'in knew.
"Wan day, bein' mortial idle, or they wud never ha' thried ut, the
rig'mint gave amsure theatricals—orf'cers an' orfcers' ladies.
You've seen the likes time an' again, sorr, an' poor fun 'tis for them
that sit in the back row an' stamp wid their boots for the honor av the
rig'mint. I was told off for to shif' the scenes, haulin' up this an'
draggin' down that. Light work ut was, wid lashins av beer and the gurl
that dhressed the orf'cers' ladies—but she died in Aggra twelve
years gone, an' my tongue's gettin' the betther av me. They was actin' a
play thing called Sweethearts, which you may ha' heard av, an' the
Colonel's daughter she was a lady's maid. The Capt'n was a boy called
Broom—Spread Broom was his name in the play. Thin I saw—ut
come out in the actin'—fwhat I niver saw before, an' that was that
he was no gentleman. They was too much together, thim two, a-whishperin'
behind the scenes I shifted, an' some av what they said I heard; for I was
death—blue death an' ivy—on the comb-cuttin'. He was
iverlastin'ly oppressing her to fall in wid some sneakin' schame av his,
an' she was thryin' to stand out against him, but not as though she was
set in her will. I wonder now in thim days that my ears did not grow a
yard on me head wid list'nin'. But I looked straight forninst me an'
hauled up this an' dragged down that, such as was my duty, an' the
orf'cers' ladies sez one to another, thinkin' I was out av listen-reach:
'Fwhat an obligin' young man is this Corp'ril Mulvaney!' I was a Corp'ril
then. I was rejuced aftherward, but, no matther, I was a Corp'ril
"Well, this Sweethearts' business wint on like most amshure
theatricals, an' barrin' fwhat I suspicioned, 'twasn't till the
dhress-rehearsal that I saw for certain that thim two—he the
blackguard, an' she no wiser than she should ha' been—had put up an
"A what?" said I.
"E-vasion! Fwhat you call an elopemint. E-vasion I calls it, bekaze,
exceptin' whin 'tis right an' natural an' proper, 'tis wrong an' dhirty to
steal a man's wan child, she not knowin' her own mind. There was a Sargint
in the Comm'ssariat who set my face upon e-vasions. I'll tell you about
"Stick to the bloomin' Captains, Mulvaney," said Ortheris;
"Comm'ssariat Sargints is low."
Mulvaney accepted the amendment and went on:—
"Now I knew that the Colonel was no fool, any more than me, for I was
hild the smartest man in the rig'mint, an' the Colonel was the best
orf'cer commandin' in Asia; so fwhat he said an' I said was a
mortial truth. We knew that the Capt'n was bad, but, for reasons which I
have already oblitherated, I knew more than me Colonel. I wud ha' rolled
out his face wid the butt av my gun before permittin' av him to steal the
gurl. Saints knew av he wud ha' married her, and av he didn't she wud be
in great tormint, an' the divil av a 'scandal.' But I niver sthruck, niver
raised me hand on my shuperior orf'cer; an' that was a merricle now I come
to considher it."
"Mulvaney, the dawn's risin'," said Ortheris, "an' we're no nearer 'ome
than we was at the beginnin'. Lend me your pouch. Mine's all dust."
Mulvaney pitched his pouch over, and filled his pipe afresh.
"So the dhress-rehearsal came to an end, an', bekaze I was curious, I
stayed behind whin the scene-shiftin' was ended, an' I shud ha' been in
barricks, lyin' as flat as a toad under a painted cottage thing. They was
talkin' in whispers, an' she was shiverin' an' gaspin' like a fresh-hukked
fish. 'Are you sure you've got the hang av the manewvers?' sez he, or
wurrds to that effec', as the coort-martial sez. 'Sure as death,' sez she,
'but I misdoubt 'tis cruel hard on my father.' 'Damn your father,' sez he,
or anyways 'twas fwhat he thought, 'the arrangement is as clear as mud.
Jungi will drive the carri'ge afther all's over, an' you come to the
station, cool an' aisy, in time for the two o'clock thrain, where I'll be
wid your kit.' 'Faith,' thinks I to myself, 'thin there's a ayah in the
"A powerful bad thing is a ayah. Don't you niver have any thruck wid
wan. Thin he began sootherin' her, an' all the orfcers an' orfcers' ladies
left, an' they put out the lights. To explain the theory av the flight, as
they say at Muskthry, you must understand that afther this
Sweethearts' nonsinse was ended, there was another little bit av a
play called Couples—some kind av couple or another. The gurl
was actin' in this, but not the man. I suspicioned he'd go to the station
wid the gurl's kit at the end av the first piece. Twas the kit that
flusthered me, for I knew for a Capt'n to go trapesing about the impire
wid the Lord knew what av a truso on his arrum was nefarious, an'
wud be worse than easin' the flag, so far as the talk aftherward
'"Old on, Mulvaney. Wot's truso?" said Ortheris.
"You're an oncivilized man, me son. Whin a gurl's married, all her kit
an' 'coutrements are truso, which manes weddin'-portion. An' 'tis
the same whin she's runnin' away, even wid the biggest blackguard on the
"So I made my plan av campaign. The Colonel's house was a good two
miles away. 'Dennis,' sez I to my color-sargint, 'av you love me lend me
your kyart, for me heart is bruk an' me feet is sore wid trampin' to and
from this foolishness at the Gaff.' An' Dennis lent ut, wid a rampin',
stampin' red stallion in the shafts. Whin they was all settled down to
their Sweethearts for the first scene, which was a long wan, I
slips outside and into the kyart. Mother av Hivin! but I made that horse
walk, an' we came into the Colonel's compound as the divil wint through
Athlone—in standin' leps. There was no one there excipt the
sarvints, an' I wint round to the back an' found the girl's ayah.
"'Ye black brazen Jezebel,' sez I, 'sellin' your masther's honor for
five rupees—pack up all the Miss Sahib's kit an' look slippy!
Capt'n Sahib's order,' sez I, 'Going to the station we are,' I sez,
an' wid that I laid my finger to my nose an' looked the schamin' sinner I
"'Bote acchy,' says she; so I knew she was in the business, an'
I piled up all the sweet talk I'd iver learned in the bazars on to this
she-bullock, an' prayed av her to put all the quick she knew into the
thing. While she packed, I stud outside an' sweated, for I was wanted for
to shif' the second scene. I tell you, a young gurl's e-vasion manes as
much baggage as a rig'mint on the line av march! 'Saints help Dennis's
springs,' thinks I, as I bundled the stuff into the thrap, 'for I'll have
"'I'm comin' too,' says the ayah.
"'No, you don't,' sez I, 'later—pechy! You baito
where you are. I'll pechy come an' bring you sart, along
with me, you maraudin''—niver mind fwhat I called her.
"Thin I wint for the Gaff, an' by the special ordher av Providence, for
I was doin' a good work you will ondersthand, Dennis's springs hild
toight. 'Now, whin the Capt'n goes for that kit,' thinks I, 'he'll be
throubled.' At the end av Sweethearts off the Capt'n runs in his
kyart to the Colonel's house, an' I sits down on the steps and laughs.
Wanst an' again I slipped in to see how the little piece was goin', an'
whin ut was near endin' I stepped out all among the carriages an' sings
out very softly, 'Jungi!' Wid that a carr'ge began to move, an' I waved to
the dhriver. 'Hitherao!' sez I, an' he hitheraoed till I
judged he was at proper distance, an' thin I tuk him, fair an' square
betune the eyes, all I knew for good or bad, an' he dhropped wid a guggle
like the canteen beer-engine whin ut's runnin' low, Thin I ran to the
kyart an' tuk out all the kit an' piled it into the carr'ge, the sweat
runnin' down my face in dhrops, 'Go home,' sez I, to the sais;
'you'll find a man close here. Very sick he is. Take him away, an' av you
iver say wan wurrd about fwhat you've dekkoed, I'll marrow
you till your own wife won't sumjao who you are!' Thin I heard the
stampin' av feet at the ind av the play, an' I ran in to let down the
curtain. Whin they all came out the gurl thried to hide herself behind wan
av the pillars, an' sez 'Jungi' in a voice that wouldn't ha' scared a
hare. I run over to Jungi's carr'ge an' tuk up the lousy old horse-blanket
on the box, wrapped my head an' the rest av me in ut, an' dhrove up to
where she was.
"'Miss Sahib,' sez I; 'going to the station? Captain Sahib's
order!' an' widout a sign she jumped in all among her own kit.
"I laid to an' dhruv like steam to the Colonel's house before the
Colonel was there, an' she screamed an' I thought she was goin' off. Out
comes the ayah, saying all sorts av things about the Capt'n havin' come
for the kit an' gone to the station.
"'Take out the luggage, you divil,' sez I, 'or I'll murther you!'
"The lights av the thraps people comin' from the Gaff was showin'
across the parade ground, an', by this an' that, the way thim two women
worked at the bundles an' thrunks was a caution! I was dyin' to help, but,
seein' I didn't want to be known, I sat wid the blanket roun' me an'
coughed an' thanked the Saints there was no moon that night.
"Whin all was in the house again, I niver asked for bukshish but
dhruv tremenjus in the opp'site way from the other carr'ge an' put out my
lights. Presintly, I saw a naygur-man wallowin' in the road. I slipped
down before I got to him, for I suspicioned Providence was wid me all
through that night. 'Twas Jungi, his nose smashed in flat, all dumb sick
as you please. Dennis's man must have tilted him out av the thrap. Whin he
came to, 'Hutt!' sez I, but he began to howl.
"'You black lump av dirt,' I sez, 'is this the way you dhrive your
gharri? That tikka has been owin' an'
fere-owin' all over the bloomin' country this whole bloomin' night,
an' you as mut-walla as Davey's sow. Get up, you hog!' sez I,
louder, for I heard the wheels av a thrap in the dark; 'get up an' light
your lamps, or you'll be run into!' This was on the road to the Railway
"'Fwhat the divil's this?' sez the Capt'n's voice in the dhark, an' I
could judge he was in a lather av rage.
"'Gharri dhriver here, dhrunk, sorr,' sez I; 'I've found his
gharri sthrayin' about cantonmints, an' now I've found him.'
"'Oh!' sez the Capt'n; 'fwhat's his name?' I stooped down an' pretended
"'He sez his name's Jungi, sorr,' sez I.
"'Hould my harse,' sez the Capt'n to his man, an' wid that he gets down
wid the whip an' lays into Jungi, just mad wid rage an' swearin' like the
scutt he was.
"I thought, afther a while, he wud kill the man, so I sez:—'Stop,
sorr, or you'll murdher him!' That dhrew all his fire on me, an' he cursed
me into Blazes, an' out again. I stud to attenshin an'
saluted:—'Sorr,' sez I, 'av ivry man in this wurruld had his rights,
I'm thinkin' that more than wan wud be beaten to a jelly for this night's
work—that niver came off at all, sorr, as you see?' 'Now,' thinks I
to myself, 'Terence Mulvaney, you've cut your own throat, for he'll
sthrike, an' you'll knock him down for the good av his sowl an' your own
"But the Capt'n never said a single wurrd. He choked where he stud, an'
thin he went into his thrap widout sayin' good-night, an' I wint back to
"And then?" said Ortheris and I together.
"That was all," said Mulvaney, "niver another word did I hear av the
whole thing. All I know was that there was no e-vasion, an' that was fwhat
I wanted. Now, I put ut to you, sorr, Is ten days' C.B. a fit an' a proper
tratement for a man who has behaved as me?"
"Well, any'ow," said Ortheris, "tweren't this 'ere Colonel's daughter,
an' you was blazin' copped when you tried to wash in the Fort
"That," said Mulvaney, finishing the champagne, "is a shuparfluous an'