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Life’s Handicap, Rudyard Kipling Also his face changed. He said something that sounded like Shto ve takete, and the man fawning answered, Chetyre. ‘What’s that?’ said everybody together. ‘His number. That is number four, you know.’ Dirkovitch spoke very thickly. ‘What has a Queen’s officer to do with a qualified number?’ said the Colonel, and an unpleasant growl ran round the table. ‘How can I tell?’ said the affable Oriental with a sweet smile. ‘He is a--how you have it?--escape--run-a-way, from over there.’ He nodded towards the darkness of the night. ‘Speak to him if he’ll answer you, and speak to him gently,’ said little Mildred, settling the man in a chair. It seemed most improper to all present that Dirkovitch should sip brandy as he talked in purring, spitting Russian to the creature who answered so feebly and with such evident dread. But since Dirkovitch appeared to understand no one said a word. All breathed heavily, leaning forward, in the long gaps of the conversation. The next time that they have no engagements on hand the White Hussars intend to go to St. Petersburg in a body to learn Russian. ‘He does not know how many years ago,’ said Dirkovitch, facing the mess, ‘but he says it was very long ago in a war. I think that there was an accident. He says he was of this glorious and distinguished regiment in the war.’ ‘The rolls! The rolls! Holmer, get the rolls!’ said little Mildred, and the adjutant dashed off bare-headed to the orderly-room, where the muster-rolls of the regiment were kept.

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