Gil the Gunner - The Youngest Officer in the East
260 Pages

Gil the Gunner - The Youngest Officer in the East


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Published 08 December 2010
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Language English
The Project Gutenberg EBook of Gil the Gunner, by George Manville Fenn This eBook is for the use of anyone anywhere at no cost and with almost no restrictions whatsoever. You may copy it, give it away or re-use it under the terms of the Project Gutenberg License included with this eBook or online at Title: Gil the Gunner The Youngest Officer in the East Author: George Manville Fenn Illustrator: W.H. Overend Release Date: May 4, 2007 [EBook #21311] Language: English Character set encoding: ISO-8859-1 *** START OF THIS PROJECT GUTENBERG EBOOK GIL THE GUNNER *** Produced by Nick Hodson of London, England George Manville Fenn "Gil the Gunner" Chapter One. “You’re another.” “So are you.” “I am, am I?” “Yes; a cocky overbearing bully. You want your comb cut, Gil Vincent.” “Cut it, then, you miserable humbug. Take that.” Crack —thud! My fist went home on Morton’s cheek, and almost simultaneously his flew out and struck me in the ribs. Crack —thud! Morton’s return sounding like an echo of my blow. There was a buzz of excitement. Coats flew off; two of our fellows eagerly pressed forward to act as seconds; my shirt-sleeves were rolled up over my thin arms, and in another instant we two fellow-pupils were squaring at each other, and I was gathering myself up to deliver as hard a blow as I could when— “Stop! halt!” came in a sharp harsh voice, and General Crucie, with the great scar upon his white forehead looking red and inflamed as it always did when he was angry, strode up, thumped down his thick malacca cane, so that the ferule went into the grass and it stood alone, while he looked from one to the other fiercely. “Upon my word!” he cried. “Very pretty! Two gentlemen flying at each others’ throats like a couple of street boys. A regular blackguardly fight. I’m ashamed of you, gentlemen. What does it all mean?” “Well, sir, it was like this,” began Hendry, my second. “Silence, sir! I will not hear a word. I pretty well know what it all means. You, Vincent, as usual; that nasty overbearing temper of yours again. Is it utterly impossible for you to live in unity with your fellow-students?” “No, sir; not if they would let me be, and not fasten quarrels on me,” I cried in an ill-used tone. “Stuff, sir! rubbish, sir! nonsense, sir!” cried the general. “I know you better than you know yourself; and, mark my words, you will never succeed in your profession until you learn to behave like a gentleman. How can you expect to command men if you cannot command yourself. There, I’ll hear no more, for I’m sure you have been in the wrong.” The general pointed in so unmistakable a manner that I walked off with my uniform jacket half on, slowly thrusting my arm into the vacant sleeve, and thinking bitterly, with my head bent and my forehead wrinkled up like that of an old man. I was not long in reaching my little room, a favourite one amongst our fellows; and as I shut myself in, and locked the door, my conscience reproached me with certain passages in the past which led to my having that room, when a fellow-student gave way in my favour, and I don’t think it was from kindly feeling towards me. “I’m a miserable, unhappy wretch,” I said, as I threw myself in a chair which resented the rough usage by creaking violently and threatening to break one leg. “Nobody likes me. I’m always getting into trouble, and every one will be glad when I am gone to Calcutta, Madras, or Bombay.” I sat scowling down at the floor, thinking of how the others made friends and were regular companions, while I was almost avoided—at any rate, not sought out. “Is it all my fault?” I thought; and that day I had a very long think as I wondered why I was so different from other fellows of my age. I believed I was affectionate, for I felt very miserable when I saw my father off with his regiment four years before, and he sailed for the Madras Presidency, and I went back home with my mind made up to work hard at my studies; to look well after my mother and Grace; and always to be a gentleman in every act and thought. And as I sat there in the silence of my own room, I asked myself whether I had done exactly as my father had wished. “I might have worked harder,” I owned. “I might have been more of a gentleman. But I did try.” Then I began thinking that I had given my mother a good deal of trouble before she and Grace went out to join my father at Madras. “But mamma did not mind,” I said to myself, for nothing could have been more loving than our parting, when I was so miserable at being left that I felt as if everything were at an end. “The fellows don’t understand me,” I said at last. “And now if I try to be extra civil to any one of them, they all laugh and think I mean something—want to borrow money, or get another favour.” This had been at the bottom of the quarrel that morning, and as I sat there thinking, I grew more and more roused, giving myself the credit of being shamefully ill-used by every one, from General Crucie and the professors, down to the newest comer, while the governor seemed to me to be the greatest offender. “Boasts about understanding boys and young men,” I said bitterly, “and does not know how to be just. I wish I was out of it all, and could go away, so that I could be where people understood me, and—” There was a sharp tap at the door, but I was too savage and sulky to answer, and there was a fresh tapping on the panel. “Vincent, why don’t you answer? I know you are in there.” It was the voice of my fellow-pupil with whom I had been about to fight, when the general came upon us. “Well, what do you want?” I said sourly. “The governor has sent me for you. Come along, look sharp. He wants you in his room.” My temper bubbled up like the carbonic acid gas in a chemical experiment, and my fists involuntarily clenched. “To go there and be rowed,” I thought; “and all through Morton. He might have let me off now after bullying me before the chaps. And then to