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"Mr Warcop," said the commissariat officer, "I have come about the supply of meat for I have got an official from your cutcherry to say that no cattle are procurable locally. There must be some mistake about this. There are hundreds of beasts about, just the sort of animals I require."
"You need not have wasted your time and mine by coming to talk about that. My assistant could have explained to you that the local chief is a man of deep religious feeling. You may not know that these people have prejudices about taking life, and in particular will not eat beef. Now that you do know it, you must get your supplies elsewhere."
"If you will tell me where I can get slaughter-cattle, I will get them elsewhere. You may be sure that I would not have come to you if the matter had not been urgent,—we have only two days' rations for the men."
'Why did you not foresee this? When I come to a place like this I don't expect to find stationery, so I make reasonable preparations and bring a year's supply with me, and I indent for more long before I want it. Your department seems to want system, and to expect others to do everything for it when there is the slightest difficulty."
"There should be no difficulty. The difficulty is entirely of your-of the chief's making. There are heaps of cattle about. I have seen the officer commanding, and he said that all that was required
was a little pressure from you to be put upon the chief. His piety is all humbug-mere pretence in order to discredit the authority of the British Government. If you tell him that we must have cattle he will sell them fast enough, and of course your department will fix the market rate."
"You do not understand apparently, notwithstanding the circulars which I have sent round for perusal and information, that it is the policy of Government to conciliate these people. The officer commanding, at any rate, is aware of the paragraph in the instructions to the column which intimates that the utmost consideration and forbearance are to be shown towards the religious prejudices of these people. I cannot think, therefore, that you understood him properly."
"Very good, sir; I will tell the colonel that you refuse to listen to me, and that he must see you himself. You do not seem to realise that the health and requirements of British soldiers are at stake, and that they are worth more than dozens of these chiefs and their prejudices too."
"What I realise is that you want other people to do everything for you. You should have found out long ago that beef was wanted for your men, and if you had any proper system, you would have seen that there was no breakdown. What I recommend you to do is to send off as fast as you can to get cattle from below. There! That's settled. And
another time you should see my assistant about these petty matters. I have much more important things to think about."
"I did see your assistant, and he said that you were the only person who could give orders to the chief, and that there was no chance of getting cattle except by the chief's permission. He also said he was very busy, because he was writing your report for you."
"Well, you see, it all comes to the same thing. You should exercise a little more forethought, and then you would not get into an excited state as Good morning." you are now. The commissariat officer went off to the officer commanding, a choleric old colonel, with decided fashions of speech and a profound conviction that no one outside the service had any right to prevent him from having his own way. The
colonel announced that he would soon settle the difficulty the next time he met Warcop. When they did meet, which was the same evening, it did not take them long to come to the savage elements of argument. The colonel threatened to hand up the civil officer to the general officer commanding as being totally regardless of the requirements of the troops, stubbornly resolved not understand the situation, and entirely unfitted for the position he was in. The civil officer retorted by advising the colonel for his own sake to do nothing so stupid, since he would most assuredly be told that he had neglected to read, or to under
stand, the instructions to both military and civil officers, which enjoined the maintenance of good relations with the people and the most scrupulous respect for their feelings, and the result would be that he himself would be recalled.
Now, when the two chief personages in a small station fall out, it is very unpleasant for all the smaller people. There was no lawn-tennis that evening, and the whist was considerably interfered with. The major went round to the assistant and invited him to do what
he could towards smoothing down the disturbance, and at the same time entreated him to do something for "Grambags," as the commissariat officer is usually called by the light-hearted subaltern. The two old busters would soon forget everything and do nothing if the "poisonous Grambags" could be kept quiet.
Accordingly the assistant took the matter in hand. He was not long away from examinations and was accustomed to tackle difficulties on a system, and at the same time to endeavour to circumvent them if that method seemed quicker. So he went and asked Grambags how long it would take to get up cattle from the plains.
"Well, you see," said Grambags, "the heliograph has never worked properly with this hill-haze, and the telegraph wire can't have got nearer than a hundred miles yet. It will take six or seven days for a letter to get down, and then a week for collecting the beasts
and getting a convoy together, disinterested gentleman can and then -five-ten-seven- take up in his hand the aforeteen,-yes, seventeen marches. said business, if nobody can 'Gad, it will be five weeks at know." the earliest."
"And you've only got beef for two days! How much bully have you?"
"Oh, I've got eight months' supply of that-old stuff from Rindhli Junction,—but the men can't live on bully for weeks on end. You would have rows in no time. They're grousing now because they've had it three or four times lately. Besides, the medical officer would object."
"Well, why don't you try buying cattle on the quiet? I am sure there are lots of these people who would be only too glad to supply you if you made it safe for them."
"Yes, but that requires careful management, and I've only got a Madrassi interpreter, a drunken, foul - spoken blackguard. I can't do anything through him."
"Well, I'll see what my clerk can do. Here, Maung Pé, don't you think some of the people here would sell cattle to the commissariat officer if the thing were kept quiet and done at night?"
"Yes, your Honour, many people would sell, but they fear too much the thakingyi. He is most ferocious man, and would cut off their head if they disobey order to that end enacted. He has not yet learnt proper method. He belongs old regimen, and wants make people save soul by force. But plenty people want make money. I think can find a
"You mean you can get somebody to sell cattle to the commissariat officer if he manages it so that nobody but he and the man that sells the bullocks knows anything about it?"
"Precisely, your Honour. But in my humble opinion that disinterested gentleman will not can sell cheap price; because fear simple transaction turned out serious, and must get ready do a bunk if that thakingyi ascertain and resolve execute law and harassments. The great carelessness sometimes put the man into death.”
"Oh, very well; you get hold of somebody and arrange it all with the commissariat officer, this thakin, you know. And mind, I don't want to know anything about it. Nothing at all! Don't forget that."
"All right, your Honour, I will inform kamèsali [commissariat] officer secret negotiation, and strictly suppress your Honour's connection. I shall derive no pecuniary benefit by lending my services in another department, but the boasting and glory to do smart thing under a master like yourself."
"That will do, Maung Pé," said the assistant. "Well, there you are, old man. You'll get your beef, I expect; but for goodness' sake don't tell anybody how you do it. My character, as far as Maung Pé is concerned, is gone for ever as it is."
The same night some cattle were mysteriously brought into the commissariat lines, and this happened at intervals for some time. But the prices demanded were outrageously high, and the commissariat department were perpetually getting the assistant to "fix the local rate" for slaughtercattle. These were always three times the rate of beasts sold for agricultural purposes, and sometimes, when the animals sold were pack bullocks, the price was six or seven times what would have been paid below in the plains.
The commissariat officer sent for Maung Pé and remonstrated vigorously.
Maung Pé promptly suspected that he was thought to have a share in the profits. "My sobriety and general characters are notorious," he said. "Up to my present age I have been without wife, because I imposed as a law upon myself not to marry before the brother and sister are in proper age. Therefore you understand I cannot take bribe. But if you are dissatisfied to my conduct please call another man."
"Oh, I don't say you have anything to do with fixing the price, and anyhow I don't believe that old blackguard would part with a coin if he could help it; but can't you get some competition up so as to bring down the rate?"
"It is very difficult thing, sir. The common people believe in witch. At the feasts there are nat-possessors. They are generally women, and these women at the time of festival
wrap up a piece of long red cloth on their heads, and they dance and shouts under pretences that all dancing, shouting, and speaking are made by nats [spirits]. It is said that if any witch take an offend she can use her magical power and causes a man to die, or to be mad instantly. There are plenty witch here, and offerings are made, at proper authorised season, in thakingyi's palace. Also at night in kamèsali lines, there are plenty fire, Sepoy making chapatti. Common people believe that these same lights are similar to that of willowisp, are witchcraft, Therefore they fear to come to your Honour's camp. is said that there are ghosts, that show a frightful feature at night, which shocks the nerves and the men die instantly. Therefore only old U Wa have courage to come at night-time."
"Oh well, do what you can. Can't you get some of them to sell cattle in the daytime, away from the camp, somewhere in the jungle?
"I will strive my utmost to earn your Honour's approbations, but thakingyi
"Oh, blow the thakingyi. Just see what you can do, will you?"
A few days later Maung Pé came and announced that there were many "cupitudinous men " in the neighbourhood who were perfectly willing to oblige the commissariat officer if it could be done without compromising themselves. Maung Pé had accordingly made ar
rangements with them whereby cattle would be found various parts of the jungle, to be settled beforehand by the commissariat officer himself, or his agents, in consultation with the sellers. Since, however, the selling of cattle to be marched alive into the fort would be much too risky a proceeding, in view of the orders of the chief of the state, Maung Pé had further arranged with the sellers that all cattle were to be killed on the spot, and the hides would either have to be destroyed, or so carefully concealed that informers could not get the people who sold the cattle into trouble, since it would be very easy to determine beasts by the marking on their skins, which are well known to dozens of people besides the actual owners, in a country where cattle may stray for miles and the "Track Law" is rigidly enforced.
After this the butcher made journeys in a variety of directions, and the meat was brought into camp. But the commissariat officer soon got tired of this complicated method of purchase. It entailed on him personally a great deal of riding over jungly paths, and through the jungle where there were no paths at all, but many thorn bushes, and this by no means suited his habit of body, which fitted a long arm-chair much better than a pigskin saddle. In addition to this, the coolie hire which he had to pay for bringing the beef, sometimes for a distance of several miles, into the fort,
was considerable; and worse than that, very seriously complicated his accounts, which had all to be submitted in triplicate. Moreover, he found that this addition of coolie hire brought up the price of beef to much the same amount as it had been under the arrangement with the nocturnal U Wa. So Grambags again had recourse to Maung Pé, and told him he positively must arrange to have the cattle brought close to the fort, or at least to the slaughter-house.
This Maung Pé at first declared to be quite impracticable, or exceedingly dangerous to all concerned, but after a couple of days' consideration he came round in great glee.
"I have invented first-rate plan, sir. The indigenous idea belongs to U Wa, who is very crafty old sinner; but I have made considerable improvement in accordance with rules of justice. The arrangement is submitted as follows for your Honour's orders and sanction: That cattleman will bring suitable beil and fasten him in convenient position adjacent to your Honour and the Government slaughter-house. We must now suppose that your Honour's butcher is fanatic for the sport and specially habituded to kill the wild bull. He will go out with rifle, at appropriate moment sanctioned by your Honour's convenience, and encounter the cattleman's animal as approved by you, and located according to instruction, and in the excitement of the chase will shoot him instantly dead. Shortly