And now it is 1842 and I am 20 years old. My Indian family is in Ferozepore, I hope, in my little bungalow, I hope, with my trunks. All of my trunks. Including that trunk. Knowing the Afghans penchant for arranging corpses of their enemy in comic positions for jackals to eat and vultures to peck at I decided a shroud would not be needed. If I die, if we all die, here in Kabul, we will be thrown out like garbage for wild animals to eat. It is 1842 and we are prisoners of Akbar Khan in his grotesque fort in Kabul. The British Army of Retribution is coming to avenge our ‘Lost 9th Legion’ but I cannot see how we will live to see that army march into Kabul.
George Lawrence brightened the day by telling tall tales about his brothers Lawrence and Henry. That was when I realized Henry Lawrence was his brother.
“You are related to The Henry Lawrence?”
George laughed. “Who does Henry create that sense of awe in people?”
“I mean… I mean…. Probyn was commanded to come and demand a better gun from no less than General Hearsay!”
“Henry is not god John! But don’t say I said that! Because Henry thinks he is a demigod! But yes. I am the baby brother of the Great Henry Lawrence! I hope if you meet my brother your awe will not be deflated to discover that Henry is merely human and not a demigod! Much less a god!” Everyone smiled as George went on to describe his two remarkable brothers. He was the youngest and seemed bland that he would only be remembered as the younger brother of the Great Henry Lawrence! “Brother Henry thinks the White Mughal approach might work but John thinks Afghanistan will always be a poisoned chalice to any country deluded enough to think it can ever be redeemed. Some places are sewers and will away be sewers and will never ever change even if you through pour a million pounds or a million lives into it! A sewer is a sewer! Afghanistan is and will always be a sewer! I think we are just a cat’s paw in the Great Game with Russia.”
“Your brothers are Ulstermen I believe?” Lady Sales asked. I could tell she already knew the answer.
“Indeed Madam! We are all ‘No Surrender!’ Ulster bastards! Henry is Addiscombe and John is Haileybury which was deemed more befitting his slightly calmer temper! When I blow up Henry sighs most saintly and John shuffles paper at his desk and dryly snipes “A man is judged by his actions as I will judge him!’ So I always sabotage John’s desk! Works every time!”
“What do you do to torment Henry then?” Lady Sales replied laughing.
“I say ‘Bless me Henry for I have sinned’ and then knell as if taking confession! Now Malady and gentlemen! Well I have an idea about bribing a particular piece of Afghan slime!”
“We have all been looted of any valuables!” Crawford said.
“And how can anyone trust an Afghan?” I replied. “They would sell out Jesus, Joseph, Mary, Mohammad, and the Buddha!”
“Exactly! The relief column is coming! You can tell! The rats are abandoning the sinking ship! So a handsome bribe actually might do the trick! Any Afghan right now is thinking about buttering both sides of his bread with ghee! And as you say. They will sell out absolutely everybody!”
We all turned to Palmer. “I have sounded the scoundrel out. It is a 50% chance. But I have smelled the wind and I think that Akbar Khan will kill us when the relief column reaches a mark on the map. I think we have to move —- now….”
So tonight the offer of a bribe is going to be delivered by George Lawrence and Palmer. We prepare to make a run for it in bribed Afghan Pathan dress convincingly smelly and dirty and foul! We darken our faces and pull dirty turbans low. Either it is a trap to kill us or else we will reach the Khyber Pass and the British lines by Sept. I will wrap this journal around my waist with a salvaged cashmere sash given to me by Lady Sales. Captain Souter wrapped his regiment’s colors around his waist. To each his own needful thing. This journal has become my needful thing. But this may be the very last entry I will ever live to make in it.