Cairness stood up, ran his hands into his pockets, and going over to the window looked down at the geraniums as he had done once, long before.
He put out his hand and touched a warm, smooth flank. The horse gave a little low whinny. Quick as a flash he whipped out his knife and hamstrung it, not that one only, but ten other mules and horses before[Pg 207] he stopped. He groped from stall to stall, and in each cut just once, unerringly and deep, so that the poor beast, which had turned its head and nosed at the touch of the hand of one of those humans who had always been its friends, was left writhing, with no possible outcome but death with a bullet in its head.
She sat staring at the white glare of the opening, and listening to his foot-falls upon the sand.
The civilization of the Englishman is only skin deep. And therein lies his strength and his salvation. Beneath that outer surface, tubbed and groomed and prosperous, there is the man, raw and crude from the workshops of Creation. Back of that brain, trained to a nicety of balance and perception and judgment, there are the illogical passions of a savage. An adaptation of the proverb might run that you scratch an Englishman and you find a Briton—one of those same Britons who stained themselves blue with woad, who fell upon their foes with clumsy swords and flaming torches, who wore the skins of beasts, and lived in huts of straw, and who burned men and animals together, in sacrifice to their gods. If the sentry outside heard, he paid no attention. It was common enough for the horses to take a simultaneous fit of restlessness in the night, startled by some bat flapping through the beams or by a rat scurrying in the grain. In ten minutes more a flame had reached the roof. In another ten minutes the sentry had discharged his carbine three times, fire call had been sounded in quick, alarming notes, and men and officers, half dressed, had come running from the barracks and the line.