Make of a meager meal a banquet, a starved pony a stallion, and even with war in your heart and soul, rotting boots are still rotting boots. Such illsome certainty was on the captain’s face that morning when his adjutant reported that the remaining men in the regiment, those not dying of flux in the sick tent, had abandoned the camp before sunrise. Captain Mallory spooned some blood colored beets into his mouth from a dented tin can and tried to remain stoic. Abernathy glanced away from his pink moustache and cast about for more promising sights. His eyes fell upon the scarred and smiling visage of Private Robin Smith.
“Smith,” said Abernathy, “go fetch the captain some brandy, would you?”
Smith grinned his bifurcated grin. “Neil, old sport, I’m afraid the boy’s’ve nicked that too.”
“What’s that?” called Captain Mallory from atop his beets.
“Sir, the brandy’s gone.”
“Bad form,” mumbled the captain. “How many remaining, then?”
“There is myself and Private Smith,” said Abernathy. “Those as are well enough to stand, though I suspect Smith simply slept too late to abscond with any valuables.”
Smith began to unloop the rope tied to his belt. “You hissing at me, Neil? You want I should lasso that ruddy mouth of yours?”
Captain Mallory made to push himself off of his stool but lost the will for it somewhere between the heat and his brittle bones. “Why did you stay, Private?”
“I rather fancied a promotion, sir.”
Captain Mallory grunted and waved the boy away. “Corporal Smith, go fetch my brandy, and see if you can’t fetch my secretary back from those cannibals we encountered last month.”
“Like as not Eleanor’s pale as fine china by now, sir, and twice as dry, if you catch my meaning.”
“He means she’s bones,” said Abernathy.
“Rather,” said the captain, “but it will get you two worthless cretins into the field and out of my sight. Go with him, Private Abernathy.”
“Sir!” cried Abernathy.
Smith clapped his hand round Abernathy’s shoulder and pulled him laughing into the jungle. “Demotion, old chum! What you need is a brush with cannibals to get some blood back into that pale face of yours. Tally ho, eh? It’s a man’s life in the Queen’s army!”
Abernathy fainted rather quickly into a plant composed of poison and thorns.
The Cannibal Cavalcade
Part 2 – Robin and Neil meet a company of natives
The Adventures of Robin Smith
The Misadventures of Neil Abernathy