At dawn the guards jeered us, asking if we were ready to die. They took us out to a garden and pointing their muskets point blank at us, ordering us to dig our own graves in the dirt with our bare hands. I spat at them and said if they were going to shoot me they might as well start. “You can dig my fucking grave!”
“We will throw your corpse to the jackals to eat!”
“Do it then!” I said.
Palmer sat down in the dirt as his hands held his mangled ankle where he had been tortured. “Don’t bother boys. This is silly. Grown men don’t play such infantile games. Shoot us or take us to our cells. But stop behaving like assholes.” So we all sat down as if at a picnic and smirked at the guards pointing their muskets at our heads.
I looked at the musket pointed at my skull. “It is a lousy gun and it is dirty. It is befouled. No proper soldier would hold such a disgustingly befouled gun.”
“That is typical my dear Nicholson” Palmer explained. “Afghans do not clean their guns or worry about their gunpowder. They think the bullet strikes or not solely because of Allah. Their actions have nothing to do with it.”
“Like Muslim businessmen in Calcutta who don’t use insurance or brokerages or investment houses saying Allah protects their ship at sea. Then the ship sinks and they are ruined. They don’t think things through. They don’t have a backup plan. They are fatalistic. They don’t take the initiative to control their own lives and destinies.”
Palmer nodded as he cooly looked at a gun pointed point blank at his skull. “They use matchlocks because flint is not common in this area of the world. But rather than import flint for flintlock muskets which are technologically better, they use antiquated gunnery. They are incapable of using rifles for instance. Utterly incapable.”
“We have Afghan Knives!” one thug snarled. “The best! You Englishers live and die in terror of our knives.”
Palmer gestured blandly. “They use large butcher knives to gut their enemy, cutting upwards through the artillery belt, to steal the belt and then grab the musket before running away like a thief. They must steal. They can only steal. They are merely thieves. Thieves with large butcher knives.”
We sat as if at a picnic and enjoyed the warm sun as it warmed the air. The vicious guards realized we were not cowered so they abruptly marched us away as Palmer smiled a sly smile. Then they marched us to different chambers and shoved us into a tidy, airy room. To our shock we beheld Britishers staring at us with horror. There was Lady Sales and other women hostages. Men too. They were neat, clean, and shocked. But then we were, as I said, walking corpses.