The Daughter of the
Regiment by Rudyard Kipling
Jain 'Ardin' was a Sarjint's wife,
A Sarjint's wife wus she,
She married of 'im in Orldershort
An' comed across the sea.
'Ave you never 'eard tell o' Jain 'Ardin'?
'Ave you never 'eard tell o' Jain 'Ardin'?
The pride o' the Companee?
—Old Barrack Room Ballad.
"A gentleman who doesn't know the Circasian Circle ought not to stand
up for it—puttin' everybody out." That was what Miss McKenna said,
and the Sergeant who was my vis-à-vis looked the same thing. I was
afraid of Miss McKenna. She was six feet high, all yellow freckles and red
hair, and was simply clad in white satin shoes, a pink muslin dress, an
apple-green stuff sash, and black silk gloves, with yellow roses in her
hair. Wherefore I fled from Miss McKenna and sought my friend Private
Mulvaney, who was at the cant—refreshment-table.
"So you've been dancin' with little Jhansi McKenna, sorr—she
that's goin' to marry Corp'ril Slane? Whin you next conversh wid your
lorruds an' your ladies, tell thim you've danced wid little Jhansi. 'Tis a
thing to be proud av."
But I wasn't proud. I was humble. I saw a story in Private Mulvaney's
eye; and besides, if he stayed too long at the bar, he would, I knew,
qualify for more pack-drill. Now to meet an esteemed friend doing
pack-drill outside the guardroom is embarrassing, especially if you happen
to be walking with his Commanding Officer.
"Come on to the parade-ground, Mulvaney, it's cooler there, and tell me
about Miss McKenna. What is she, and who is she, and why is she called
"D'ye mane to say you've niver heard av Ould Pummeloe's daughter? An'
you thinkin' you know things! I'm wid ye in a minut whin me poipe's
We came out under the stars. Mulvaney sat down on one of the artillery
bridges, and began in the usual way: his pipe between his teeth, his big
hands clasped and dropped between his knees, and his cap well on the back
of his head—
"Whin Mrs. Mulvaney, that is, was Miss Shadd that was, you were a dale
younger than you are now, an' the Army was dif'rint in sev'ril e-senshuls.
Bhoys have no call for to marry nowadays, an' that's why the Army has so
few rale good, honust, swearin', strapagin', tinder-hearted, heavy-futted
wives as ut used to have whin I was a Corp'ril. I was rejuced
aftherward—but no matther—I was a Corp'ril wanst. In thim
times, a man lived an' died wid his regiment; an' by natur', he
married whin he was a man. Whin I was Corp'ril—Mother av
Hivin, how the rigimint has died an' been borrun since that day!—my
Color-Sar'jint was Ould McKenna—an' a married man tu. An' his
woife—his first woife, for he married three times did
McKenna—was Bridget McKenna, from Portarlington, like mesilf. I've
misremembered fwhat her first name was; but in B Comp'ny we called her
'Ould Pummeloe,' by reason av her figure, which was entirely
cir-cum-fe-renshill. Like the big dhrum! Now that woman—God rock her
sowl to rest in glory!—was for everlastin' havin' childher; an'
McKenna, whin the fifth or sixth come squallin' on to the musther-roll,
swore he wud number thim off in future. But Ould Pummeloe she prayed av
him to christen them after the names av the stations they was borrun in.
So there was Colaba McKenna, an' Muttra McKenna, an' a whole Presidincy av
other McKennas, an' little Jhansi, dancin' over yonder. Whin the childher
wasn't bornin', they was dying; for, av our childher die like sheep in
these days, they died like flies thin, I lost me own little
Shadd—but no matther. 'Tis long ago, and Mrs. Mulvaney niver had
"I'm digresshin. Wan divil's hot summer, there come an order from some
mad ijjit, whose name I misremember, for the rigimint to go up-country.
Maybe they wanted to know how the new rail carried throops. They knew! On
me sowl, they knew before they was done! Old Pummeloe had just buried
Muttra McKenna; an', the season bein' onwholesim, only little Jhansi
McKenna, who was four year ould thin, was left on hand.
"Five children gone in fourteen months. 'Twas harrd, wasn't ut?
"So we wint up to our new station in that blazin' heat—may the
curse av Saint Lawrence conshume the man who gave the ordher! Will I iver
forget that move? They gave us two wake thrains to the rigimint; an' we
was eight hundher' and sivinty strong. There was A, B, C, an' D Companies
in the secon' thrain, wid twelve women, no orficers' ladies, an' thirteen
childher. We was to go six hundher' miles, an' railways was new in thim
days. Whin we had been a night in the belly av the thrain—the men
ragin' in their shirts an' dhrinkin' anything they cud find, an' eatin'
bad fruit-stuff whin they cud, for we cudn't stop 'em—I was a
Corp'ril thin—the cholera bruk out wid the dawnin' av the day.
"Pray to the Saints, you may niver see cholera in a throop-thrain! 'Tis
like the judgmint av God hittin' down from the nakid sky! We run into a
rest-camp—as ut might have been Ludianny, but not by any means so
comfortable. The Orficer Commandin' sent a telegrapt up the line, three
hundher' mile up, askin' for help. Faith, we wanted ut, for ivry sowl av
the followers ran for the dear life as soon as the thrain stopped; an' by
the time that telegrapt was writ, there wasn't a naygur in the station
exceptin' the telegrapt-clerk—an' he only bekaze he was held down to
his chair by the scruff av his sneakin' black neck. Thin the day began wid
the noise in the carr'ges, an' the rattle av the men on the platform
fallin' over, arms an' all, as they stud for to answer the Comp'ny
muster-roll before goin' over to the camp. 'Tisn't for me to say what like
the cholera was like. Maybe the Doctor cud ha' tould, av he hadn't dropped
on to the platform from the door av a carriage where we was takin' out the
dead. He died wid the rest. Some bhoys had died in the night. We tuk out
siven, and twenty more was sickenin' as we tuk thim. The women was huddled
up anyways, screamin' wid fear.
"Sez the Commandin' Orficer whose name I misremember, 'Take the women
over to that tope av trees yonder. Get thim out av the camp. 'Tis no place
"Ould Pummeloe was sittin' on her beddin'-rowl, thryin' to kape little
Jhansi quiet. 'Go off to that tope!' sez the Orficer. 'Go out av the men's
"'Be damned av I do!' sez Ould Pummeloe, an' little Jhansi, squattin'
by her mother's side, squeaks out, 'Be damned av I do,' tu. Thin Ould
Pummeloe turns to the women an' she sez, 'Are ye goin' to let the bhoys
die while you're picnickin', ye sluts?' sez she. 'Tis wather they want.
Come on an' help.'
"Wid that, she turns up her sleeves an' steps out for a well behind the
rest-camp—little Jhansi trottin' behind wid a lotah an'
string, an' the other women followin' like lambs, wid horse-buckets and
cookin' pots. Whin all the things was full, Ould Pummeloe marches back
into camp—'twas like a battlefield wid all the glory
missin'—at the hid av the rigimint av women.
"'McKenna, me man!' she sez, wid a voice on her like grand-roun's
challenge, 'tell the bhoys to be quiet. Ould Pummeloe's comin' to look
afther thim—wid free dhrinks.'
"Thin we cheered, an' the cheerin' in the lines was louder than the
noise av the poor divils wid the sickness on thim. But not much.
"You see, we was a new an' raw rigimint in those days, an' we cud make
neither head nor tail av the sickness; an' so we was useless. The men was
goin' roun' an' about like dumb sheep, waitin' for the nex' man to fall
over, an' sayin' undher their spache, 'Fwhat is ut? In the name av God,
fwhat is ut?' 'Twas horrible. But through ut all, up an' down, an'
down an' up, wint Ould Pummeloe an' little Jhansi—all we cud see av
the baby, undher a dead man's helmut wid the chin-strap swingin' about her
little stummick—up an' down wid the wather an' fwhat brandy there
"Now an' thin Ould Pummeloe, the tears runnin' down her fat, red face,
sez, 'Me bhoys, me poor, dead, darlin' bhoys!' But, for the most, she was
thryin' to put heart into the men an' kape thim stiddy; and little Jhansi
was tellin' thim all they wud be 'betther in the mornin'.' 'Twas a thrick
she'd picked up from hearin' Ould Pummeloe whin Muttra was burnin' out wid
fever. In the mornin'! 'Twas the iverlastin' mornin' at St. Pether's Gate
was the mornin' for seven-an'-twenty good men; and twenty more was sick to
the death in that bitter, burnin' sun. But the women worked like angils as
I've said, an' the men like divils, till two doctors come down from above,
and we was rescued.
"But, just before that, Ould Pummeloe, on her knees over a bhoy in my
squad—right-cot man to me he was in the barrick—tellin' him
the worrud av the Church that niver failed a man yet, sez, 'Hould me up,
bhoys! I'm feelin' bloody sick!' 'Twas the sun, not the cholera, did ut.
She mis-remembered she was only wearin' her ould black bonnet, an' she
died wid 'McKenna, me man,' houldin' her up, an' the bhoys howled whin
they buried her.
"That night, a big wind blew, an' blew, an' blew, an' blew the tents
flat. But it blew the cholera away an' niver another case there was all
the while we was waitin'—ten days in quarintin'. Av you will belave
me, the thrack av the sickness in the camp was for all the wurruld the
thrack av a man walkin' four times in a figur-av-eight through the tents.
They say 'tis the Wandherin' Jew takes the cholera wid him. I believe
"An' that," said Mulvaney, illogically, "is the cause why little
Jhansi McKenna is fwhat she is. She was brought up by the Quartermaster
Sergeant's wife whin McKenna died, but she b'longs to B Comp'ny; and this
tale I'm tellin' you-wid a proper appreciashin av Jhansi
McKenna—I've belted into ivry recruity av the Comp'ny as he was
drafted. 'Faith, 'twas me belted Corp'ril Slane into askin' the girl!"
"Man, I did! She's no beauty to look at, but she's Ould Pummeloe's
daughter, an' 'tis my juty to provide for her. Just before Slane got his
promotion I sez to him, 'Slane,' sez I, 'to-morrow 'twill be
insubordinashin av me to chastise you; but, by the sowl av Ould Pummeloe,
who is now in glory, av you don't give me your wurrud to ask Jhansi
McKenna at wanst, I'll peel the flesh off yer bones wid a brass huk
to-night, 'Tis a dishgrace to B Comp'ny she's been single so long!' sez I.
Was I goin' to let a three-year-ould preshume to discoorse wid me—my
will bein' set? No! Slane wint an' asked her. He's a good bhoy is Slane.
Wan av these days he'll get into the Com'ssariat an' dhrive a buggy wid
his—savin's. So I provided for Ould Pummeloe's daughter; an' now you
go along an' dance agin wid her."
And I did.
I felt a respect for Miss Jhansi McKenna; and I went to her wedding
Perhaps I will tell you about that one of these days.