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Kipling-Steam_Tactics

2 THE SATURDAY' EVENING POST December 6, 1902 that the wind bore to me of his words and the carrier's. It seemed as if the friendship of years were dissolving amid throes. "'Ave it your own silly way, then," roared the carrier, " an' get into Linghurst on your o vv n silly feet. I've done with you two runagates." He lashed his horse and passed out of sight still rumbling. "The fleet's sailed," said Pyecroft, " leavin' us on the beach. Had you any particular port on your mind?" " Well, I was going to meet a friend at Instead Wick, but I don't mind —" " Oh ! that'll do as well as anything ! We're on leaf, you see." " She'll 'ardly hold four," said my engineer. I had broken him of the foolish habit of being surprised at things, but he was visibly uneasy. Hinchcliff returned, drawn as by ropes to my steamcar, round which he walked in narrowing circles. " What's her speed?" he demanded of the engineer. " Twenty-five," said that loyal man. " Easy to run?" " No; very difficult," was the emphatic answer. " That just shows that you ain't fit for your rating. D'you suppose that a man who earns his livin' by runnin' 3o-knot destroyers for a parstime— for a parstime, mark you!—is going to lie down before any blighted land-crabbing steampinnace on springs?" Yet that was what he did. Directly under the car he lay and looked upward into pipes—petrol, steam, and water— with a keen and searching eye. I telegraphed Mr. Pyecroft a question. " Not—in—the—least," was the answer. " Steam gadgels always take him that way. We 'ad a bit of a riot at Parsley Green through 'is tryin' to show a traction-engine haulin' gipsy-wagons how to turn corners." " Tell him everything he wants to know," I said to the engineer, as I dragged out a rug and spread it on the roadside. " He don't want much showing," said the engineer. Now, the two men had not, counting the time we took to stuff our pipes, been together more than three minutes. " This," said Pyecroft, driving an elbow back into the mallow and the scabious of the hedge-foot, " is a little bit of all right. Hinch, I shouldn't let too much o' that 'ot muckings drop in my eyes. Your leaf's up in a fortnight, an' you'll be wantin"em." " Here!" said Hinchcliff, still on his back, to the engineer. " Come here and show me the lead of this pipe." And the engineer lay down beside him. " That's all right," said Mr. Hinchcliff, rising. " But she's more of a bag of tricks than I thought. Unship this superstructure aft "—he pointed to the back seat —" and I'll 'ave a look at the forced draught." The engineer obeyed with alacrity. I heard him volunteer the fact that he had a brother an artificer in the Navy. " They couple very well, those two," said Pyecroft critically, while Hinchcliff sniffed round the asbestos-lagged boiler and turned on gay jets of steam. " Now take me up the road," he said. My man, for form's sake, looked at me. " Yes, take him," I said. " He's all right." " No, I aren't," said Hinchcliff of a sudden—" not if I'm expected to judge my water out of a blighted shaving-glass." The water-gauge of a steam-car is reflected on a mirror to the right of the dashboard. I also have found it inconvenient. " Throw up your arm and look at the gauge under your armpit. Only mind how you steer while you're doing it, or you'll get ditched!" I cried, as the car ran down the road. " I wonder!" said Pyecroft, musing. " But, after all, it's your steamin' gadgets he's usin' for his libretto, as you might put it. He said to me after breakfast only this mornin' ow he thanked 'is Maker, on all fours, that he wouldn't see nor smell nor thumb a blighted bulgine till the nineteenth prox. Now look at 'im! Only look at 'im!" We could see, down the long slope of the road, my driver surrendering his seat to Hinchcliff while the car flickered generously from hedge to hedge. " What happens if he upsets?" " The petrol will light up and the boiler may blow up." " 'Ow rambunkshus! And "—Pyecroft blew a slow cloud —" Agg's about three hoops up this mornin', too." " What's that to do with us? He's gone down the road," I retorted, " Ye—es, but we'll overtake 'im. He's a vindictive blighter. He and Hinch 'ad words about pig-breeding this morning. 0' course Hindu don't know the elements o' that evolution; but 'e fell back on 'is naval rank an' office, an' Agg grew peevish. I wasn't sorry to get out of the cart. . . . 'Ave you ever considered how when you an' I meet, so to say, there's nearly always a remarkable hectic day ahead of us. Hullo! Be'old the beef-boat returnin'!" He rose as the car climbed up the slope, and shouted: " In bow! Way 'nuff ! " " You be quiet!" cried Hinchcliff, and drew up opposite . the rug, his dark face shining with joy. " She's the Poetry o' Motion! She's the Angel's Dream. She's--" He shut off steam, and the slope being against her, the car slid soberly down hill again. "‘Vhat's this here? I've got the brake on!" he yelled. " It doesn't hold backwards," I said. " Put her on the mid-link." " That's a nasty one for the chief engineer o' the Djinn, 31-knot T. B. D.," said Pyecroft. "Do you know what a mid-link is, Hinch?" Once more the car returned to us; but as Pyecroft stooped to gather up the rug, Hinchcliff jerked the lever testily, and with prawn-like speed she retired backwards into her own steam. "Apparently 'e don't," said Pyecroft. " What's- he done now, sir?" " Reversed her. I've done it myself." "But he's an engineer." For the third time the car manceuvred up hill. " I'll learn you to come alongside 'properly, if I keep you 'tiffies out all night!" shouted Pyecroft. It was evidently a quotation. Hinchcliff's face grew livid, and his hand ever so slightly working on the throttle, the car buzzed twenty yards up hill. " That's enough. We'll take your word for it. The mountain will come to Ma'ommed. Stand fast ! " Pyecroft and I and the rug marched up where she and Hinchcliff fumed together. " Not as easy as it looks—eh, Hinch?" " It is dead easy. I'm going to drive her to Instead Wick —aren't I?" said the first-class engine-room artificer. I thought of his performances with No. 267 and nodded. After all, it was a little thing to accord to pure genius. " But my engineer will stand by—at first," I added. " An' you a family man, too," muttered Pyecroft, swinging himself into the right rear seat. " Sure to he a remarkably hectic day when we meet." We adjusted ourselves and, in the language of Marryat's immortal doctor, paved our way towards Linghurst, distant by mile-post It X miles. Mr. Hinchcliff, every nerve and muscle braced, talked only to the engineer, and that professionally. I recalled the time when I, too, enjoyed the rack on which he voluntarily extended himself. And the County of Sussex slid by in slow time. " 'Ow cautious is the 'tiffy-bird!" said Pyecroft. " Even in a destroyer," Hinch snapped over his shoulder, " you ain't expected to con and drive simultaneous. Don't address any remarks to me!" " Pump!" said the engineer. " Your water's droppin'." "/know that. Where the 'Eavens is that blighted by-pass?" He beat his right or throttle hand madly on the side of the car till he found the bent rod that more or less controls the pump, and, neglecting all else, twisted it furiously. My engineer grabbed the steering-bar just in time to save us lurching into a ditch. " If I was a burnin' peacock, with two 'undred bloodshot eyes in my shinin' tail, I'd need 'em all on this job!" said Hinch. " Don't talk! Steer! This ain't the North Atlantic!" Pyecroft replied. " Blast my stokers! Why, the steam's dropped fifty pounds! " Hinchcliff cried. " Fire's blown out," said the engineer. " Stop her!" " Does she do that often?" said Hinch, descending. " Sometimes." " Any time?" " Any time a cross-wind catches her.' The engineer produced a match and stooped. My car never lights twice in the same fashion. This time she back-fired superbly, and Pyecroft went out over the right rear wheel in a column of rich yellow flame. " I've seen a mine explode at Bantry— once—prematoor," he volunteered. "That's all right," said Hinchcliff, brushing down his singed beard with a singed forefinger. (He had been watching too closely.) "'As she any more little surprises up her blighted sleeve?" " She hasn't begun yet," said my engineer, with a scornful cough. " Some one 'as opened the petrol supply-valve too wide." " Change places with me, Pyecroft," I commanded, for I remembered that the petrol-supply, the steam-lock, and the forced draught were all controlled from the right rear seat. " Me? Why? There's a whole switchboard full o' nickelplated muckin's which I 'aven't begun to play with yet. The starboard side's crawlin' with 'em." " Change, or I'll kill you!" said Hinchcliff, and he looked like it. " That's the 'tiffy all over. When anything goes wrong, blame it on the lower deck. Navigate by your blighted self, then! / won't help you any more." We navigated for a mile in dead silence. " Talkin' o' wakes—" said Pyecroft suddenly. " We weren't," Hinchcliff grunted. " There's some wakes would break a snake's back ; but this of yours, so to speak, would fair turn a tapeworm giddy That's all I wish to observe, Hinch Cart at anchor on the port-bow. It's Agg!" Far up the shaded road into secluded Bromlingleigh we saw the carrier's cart at rest before the post-office. " He's bung in the fairway. 'Ow'm I to get past?" said Hinchcliff. "There's no room. 'Ere, Pye, come and relieve the wheel!" " Nay, nay, Pauline. You've made your own bed. You've as good as left your 'appy 'ome an' family cart to steal it. Now you lie on it." " Ring your bell," I suggested. "Glory!" said Pyecroft, falling forward into the nape of H inchcliff's neck, as the car stopped dead. " Get out o' my back- hair! That must have been the blighted brake I touched off," Hinchcliff mut- tered, and repaired his error tumul- tuously. We passed the cart as though we had been all Bruges belfry. Agg, from the post-office door, regarded us with a too pacific eye. I remembered later that the pretty postmistress looked on us pityingly. Hinchcliff wiped the sweat from his brow and drew breath. It was the first vehicle that he had passed, and I sympathised with him. " You needn't grip so hard," said my engineer. " She steers as easy as a bicycle." " Ho! You suppose I ride bicycles up an' down my engine- room? " was the answer. " other things to think about. She's a terror. She's a whistlin' lunatic. I'd sooner run the old South Easter at Simon's Town than 'er!" " One of the nice things they say about her," I interrupted, " is that no engineer is needed to run this machine." " No. They'd need about seven." " ' Common sense only is needed,'" I quoted. " Make a note of that, Hinch. Just common sense," Pyecroft put in. " And now," I said, " we'll have to take in water. There isn't more than a couple of inches in the tank." " Where d'you get it from?" " Oh!—cottages and such-like." " Yes, but that being so, where does our much advertised twenty-five miles an hour come in. Ain't a fly more to the point?" " If you want to go anywhere, I suppose it would be," I replied. " /don't want to go anywhere special. I'm thinkin' of you who've got to live with her. She'll burn her tubes if she loses her water?" " She will." " I've never scorched yet, and I ain't goin' to begin now." He shut off steam firmly. " Out you get, Pye, an' shove 'er along by 'and."


Kipling-Steam_Tactics
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