With these counsels, and many others equally valuable, did Papa Wick fortify Bobby ere that last awful night at Portsmouth when the Officers' Quarters held more inmates than were provided for by the Regulations, and the liberty-men of the ships fell foul of the drafts for India, and the battle raged from the Dockyard Gates even to the slums of Longport, while the drabs of Fratton came down and scratched the faces of the Queen's Officers.
Bobby Wick, with an ugly bruise on his freckled nose, a sick and shaky detachment to manoeuvre inship, and the comfort of fifty scornful females to attend to, had no time to feel homesick till the Malabar reached mid-Channel, when he doubled his emotions with a little guard-visiting and a great many other matters.
When Bobby came up from Deolali and took his place among the Tail Twisters, it was gently but firmly borne in upon him that the Regiment was his father and his mother and his indissolubly wedded wife, and that there was no crime under the canopy of heaven blacker than that of bringing shame on the Regiment, which was the best-shooting, best-drilled, best set-up, bravest, most illustrious, and in all respects most desirable Regiment within the compass of the Seven Seas.
Bobby did not kneel and worship them, because British subalterns are not constructed in that manner.
Allowing for duty-men and sick, the Regiment was one thousand and eighty strong, and Bobby belonged to them; for was he not a Subaltern of the Line, - the whole Line and nothing but the Line, - as the tramp of two thousand one hundred and sixty sturdy ammunition boots attested?
They fought through the clear cool day, and Bobby felt a little thrill run down his spine when he heard the tinkle-tinkle-tinkle of the empty cartridge-cases hopping from the breech-blocks after the roar of the volleys; for he knew that he should live to hear that sound in action.
"If you haven't a taste that way," said Revere between his puffs of his cheroot, "you'll never be able to get the hang of it, but remember, Bobby, 'tisn't the best drill, though drill is nearly everything, that hauls a Regiment through Hell and out on the other side.
"Dormer, for instance," said Bobby; "I think he comes under the head of fool-men.
He's taken to quiet boozing, and, Bobby, when the butt of a room goes on the drink, or takes to moping by himself, measures are necessary to pull him out of himself."
Here the Colour-sergeant entered with some papers; Bobby reflected for a while as Revere looked through the Company forms.
"Does Dormer do anything, Sergeant?" Bobby asked with the air of one continuing an interrupted conversation.
'E's always pokin' in the mud by the river an' a-cleanin' them muchly-fish with 'is thumbs." Revere was still absorbed in the Company papers, and the Sergeant, who was sternly fond of Bobby, continued, -" 'E generally goes down there when'e's got 'is skinful, beggin' your pardon, sir, an' they do say that the more lush - inebriated 'e is, the more fish 'e catches.
"It's a filthy amusement," sighed Bobby to himself.
Bobby, the Captain of a dhoni, with Private Dormer for mate, dropped down the river on Thursday morning - the Private at the bow, the Subaltern at the helm.
"Of course not," said Bobby, and he shook accordingly.