|By Frederick Daniel Hardy (1826 – 1911)|
Call the drummer to strike up and to his beat light the fuses; one-by-one. Now watch their little bodies be blown to bits in a cloud of bloody smoke. All that will be left is their arms and legs, their blackened heads falling to the ground with a resounding thud. And the air filled with smoke, dust and a mist of blood; listen to the unholy echo, fading.
Of course I would not do this to these particular children, to my children, to these little darlings playing here. But I did it, not so long ago, to young men not that much older; men with brown skins and smelling foreign. Such an act might have been in the newspapers had it been performed in this country. But it was not; no such act is noteworthy when performed far away in India. Out of sight of civilisation and as revenge for a mutiny.
I remember long ago marching behind a similar drum as a child, dreaming of the intransigence of empire and of service to God and country; of the noble deed and valour in the face of the heathen. As we youngsters played the rest of the family gaily watching on; cheering. Later, of growing up, so quickly growing up, and that joyful moment of enlistment, and the tears when I first walked off, so proudly, to the railway station.
My father, here, standing behind me, was also a military man, but he never hinted at the miserable reality, not then in this our bright playroom. But I, also, am too ashamed to speak.