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HOW “THE CRAYTURE” GOT ON

THE STRENGTH

MICK SULLIVAN was a private soldier in G troop, 30th Light Dragoons, of some six years service. Since the day old Sergeant Denny Lee 'listed him in Charles Street, just outside the Cheshire Cheese, close by where the Council door of the India Office now is, Mick had never been anything else than a private soldier, and never hoped or needed hope to be anything else if he served out his full twenty-four years, for he could neither read nor write, and his regimental defaulter sheet was much fuller of “marks” than the most lavish barrack-room pudding is of raisins. Nevertheless the Queen had a very good bargain in honest Mick, although that was scarcely the opinion of the adjutant, who was a “jumped-up” youngster, and had not been in the Crimea with the regiment. The grizzled captain of G troop, who was a non-purchase man, and had been soldiering for well on to twenty years, understood and appreciated Mick better. Captain Coleman knew that he had come limping up out of that crazy gallop along the

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valley of death” with a sword red from hilt to point, a lance-thrust through the calf of his leg, and a wounded comrade on his back. He had heard Mick's gay laugh and cheery jest during that dreary time in the hollow inland from Varna, when cholera was decimating the troop, and the hearts of brave

were in their boots. He remembered how Mick was the life and soul of the gaunt sorry squad inside the flimsy tent on the bleak slope of Kadikoi during that terrible Crimean winter, when men were turning their toes up to the daisies by sections, and when the living crawled about half frozen, half sodden. Mick's old chestnut mare (G 11) was the only horse of the troop that survived the winter, kept alive by her owner's patient and unremitting care : if it was true, as fellows swore who found her cruelly rough—she was known by the name of the "Dislocator,” given to her by a much-chafed recruit, whose anatomy her trot had wholly disorganised — if it was true that in that hard winter she had frozen quite hard, and had never since come properly thawed, it was to Mick's credit that she was still saving the country the price of a remount. There was no smarter man or cleaner soldier in all the corps than the harum-scarum Tipperary man; he had a brogue that you could cut with a knife; and there was nothing he would not do for whisky but shirk his turn of duty and hear his regiment belittled without promptly engaging in single combat with the disparager of the “Ould Strawboots.”

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