A Walk in the Karakorum
Fandom: Fix Bay'nets!
Disclaimer: Fix Bay'nets! OR, The Regiment in the Hills was written by G. Manville Fenn, and was published in 1899. It is out of copyright. The characters' opinions reflect the worldview of the novel.
A Walk in the Karakorum
Daegaer wrote, @ 2003-08-30 17:42:00
Current mood: Manly!
No subtext at all, no sirree bob
The night was clear and chill, as nights so often were, even in the hottest summer. Bracy wrapped his blanket tighter around him, disturbing Gedge with the little murmur of discontent. The young soldier shifted closer to Bracy, casting his own blanket over them both, and felt much satisfaction as Bracy slipped into a deeper slumber.
The morning dawned with the golden brilliance that they had become almost inured to, the light gleaming from the snow capped peaks as if some careless giant child had spilled his paint box over nature. Birds called out with wild, exotic cries, and Gedge stirred sleepily.
'Aw right, aw right,' he muttered. 'What I wouldn't give to hear some honest English sparrers chirping their little hearts out.'
He climbed to his feet, then gently roused Bracy, mindful of the captain's still fragile health. Bracy groaned and stretched mightily as he opened his eyes.
'Mornin', sir,' said Gedge. 'It looks like a fine day.'
'Yes,' said Bracy, 'I hope we can move on and find a hospitable village this day.' He got up and went to the stream, where he washed his face in the cold crystal water. After this he walked back and forth across their little bower, working out his stiffness. Gedge watched him carefully, then burst forth.
'Does the leg pain you, sir?'
'Not at all,' Bracy said shortly, 'we will move on directly after eating, Gedge.'
Gedge berated himself for his stupidity. He had made it a challenge, and no man, be he worker or gentleman, soldier or officer would now admit to a weakness. 'You have porridge for brains, Bill Gedge,' he thought fiercely. The thought of porridge caused a great grumbling to roil from his stomach, making Bracy laugh indulgently, quite wiping the frown from his brow.
'Eat up,' cried Bracy cheerfully, 'and let us be off.'
'You won't think of soaking your foot, sir?' said Gedge. ''It'd do you such good.'
'We can't spare the time,' said Bracy firmly. 'I will do very well, Sergeant.'
'Yes, sir,' said Gedge meekly, accepting the implicit rebuke. He eyed Bracy's boot, wishing he could get it off. 'Ah,' he thought, 'you must hope to find as good a spot tonight, he'll be wanting a soak then.'
* * *
On they tramped through the morning, not daring to use the most direct approaches to the native villages.
'We must not fall into rash behaviour,' said Bracy, 'our mission is too important for us to consider acting vaingloriously. If we keep on this course we shall no doubt come to a village by nightfall.'
'Unless those young fellows are on our trail, sir,' said Gedge; still scornful of the way their assailant had struck down the interpreter. 'For what?' he thought, 'for having the sense to take reg'lar employment and get shillings to send to his poor old mother, no doubt.'
'If they are on our trail they show no great desire to catch up to us,' said Bracy. 'It is my hope they believe we have turned back to Gittah. Come now, my lad, let's push on.'
By the afternoon Bracy could no longer disguise his limp, but the fierce look in his eye silenced Gedge's concerns before they could be voiced. Still, the young sergeant could not but help remember the Doctor's stern instructions that Bracy should not exert himself overmuch until his wounds were fully healed. Gedge himself had felt a little peaky in the morning, though he had been sure that being in the clean air away from sickness would do him more good than any amount of hospital rest. As he mused in this manner, Bracy's ankle turned under him and he staggered. Only Gedge's quick spring forward to grasp him tightly saved him from a tumble. Bracy gasped loudly, and pressed his hands to his thigh. Poor Gedge's heart leaped within him; it was the knife wound the young officer had taken in their final desperate fight on the mountain before the Ghurkha lads had come up to them.
'Sir!' he cried, laying Bracy down on the leafy ground. 'Your leg!'
'It's nothing, just a stitch,' said Bracy. 'A moment's rest and I'll be fit to continue.' He lay silent and still, his face pale. Gedge looked closely at where Bracy's hands lay on his thigh. Had the wound opened? he wondered. 'The colonel would never have sent him off like that,' he thought.
'Sir,' he said in some agitation, 'let me see your leg.'
'Nonsense,' said Bracy, 'I will have some water and then we will get on.'
Gedge held his water bottle to Bracy's lips, supporting the officer's head with his free hand.
'Here, sir,' he said. 'As much as you please.' Paying no attention to Bracy's protests he laid his hand to the officer's boot, and made to draw it off. Bracy sat up with a wince and pushed him away firmly.
'No, Gedge!' cried Bracy. 'I will never get it back on. You must leave it for the moment.'
Gedge unwillingly obeyed.
'Then let me tend to your thigh, sir,' he begged. 'Else we will go nowhere.'
Bracy sighed deeply, and lay back, staring up at the trees as Gedge undid his clothing and examined the wound. Not a sound did he make, although Gedge knew well that his fingers caused his officer some discomfort. The wound had not opened, but the scar, still so fresh and pink looked to have stretched. Gedge wrapped a bandage round and round the thigh, strapping it firmly.
'Now, sir,' he said with a cheer he did not truly feel, 'that'll be better for you. Lie still a while. Oh, sir!'
For Bracy had immediately risen up, and lifted himself to his feet once more. Insouciantly he adjusted his clothing and took slow and hesitant steps towards their goal.
'Come, my lad,' he said, 'we cannot wait here. We must stop these tribesmen thinking the fort presents a weak force.'
Shouldering his rifle and pack again, Gedge followed him as he made his uncertain and painful way across the hill. After another half mile Gedge was so bold as to put an arm round Bracy.
'Lean on me, sir,' he cried. 'We shall make better time.'
'Very well,' said Bracy, gratefully putting his weight on the young sergeant. He slung an arm over Gedge's shoulder, while Gedge's own arm went snug about his waist and thus they continued for a time.
It became clear that they would be spending another night in the open, as evening drew on with its quick darkening of the bright mountain air. Bracy frowned in displeasure, but could hardly gainsay Gedge when the lad commented that they should seek out a resting place.
'We'll never make it to that village in the dark, sir,' said Gedge. 'It'd be risking our necks, trying to get there now.'
'Let us stop, then,' sighed Bracy. 'We shall make camp at the very next suitable spot.'
'A pity we couldn't have stayed in that nice little garden,' Gedge thought to himself. 'Why, his leg could have been quite rested by now, and we'd be able to march on smartly.' He kept these opinions to himself, knowing full well that Bracy would claim that the second day of exercise was always the worst, and that he would be quite well in the morning. 'Not with the sprain acting up,' though Gedge as he laid out their blankets and watched Bracy fitfully chew his rations.
'Oh, here, sir, this bread-cake does stick to yer insides most wonderfully,' he said, to cheer himself up.
Bracy laughed, 'Gedge,' he said, 'I always take pleasure in seeing you eat, you do so with such honest enjoyment.'
'It ain't wittles such as a gentleman might call a good meal, but it fills yer up,' said Gedge, beaming.
He tidied away the remains of their little meal and looked on approvingly as Bracy snuggled down to sleep.
'Goodnight, sir,' he murmured, thinking that if they were close to a village he should remain on watch.
The night drew on, thick and black, and the woods that had seemed so silent earlier filled with the stealthy noise of shy night-creatures as they crept about their business. 'I do hope there's no bears in these parts,' thought Gedge, remembering the bruin that had straightened out of the bushes on their previous mountain trek, throwing their hearts into their mouths. 'Bears belong in the 'Logical Gardens, not out here where they might get the thought to eat visitin' sojers.' He fixed his eyes on the slumbering Bracy, and laid a gentle hand over the wounded thigh. 'You just rest, sir,' he thought, 'you let old Bill Gedge take care of things.'