Future without looking at the book; the whole battery to be under
his own special and particular command, with the rank of Brigadier,
and I to pay the freight.
I then inquired into the character and possibilities of the selected verb,
and was much disturbed to find that it was over my size, it being
chambered for fifty-seven rounds–fifty-seven ways of saying I LOVE
without reloading; and yet none of them likely to convince a girl
that was laying for a title, or a title that was laying for rocks.
It seemed to me that with my inexperience it would be foolish to go
into action with this mitrailleuse, so I ordered it to the rear
and told the facchino to provide something a little more primitive
to start with, something less elaborate, some gentle old-fashioned
flint-lock, smooth-bore, double-barreled thing, calculated to cripple
at two hundred yards and kill at forty–an arrangement suitable for a
beginner who could be satisfied with moderate results on the offstart
and did not wish to take the whole territory in the first campaign.
But in vain. He was not able to mend the matter, all the verbs being
of the same build, all Gatlings, all of the same caliber and delivery,
fifty-seven to the volley, and fatal at a mile and a half.
But he said the auxiliary verb AVERE, TO HAVE, was a tidy thing,
and easy to handle in a seaway, and less likely to miss stays in
going about than some of the others; so, upon his recommendation I
chose that one, and told him to take it along and scrape its bottom
and break out its spinnaker and get it ready for business.
I will explain that a facchino is a general-utility domestic.
Mine was a horse-doctor in his better days, and a very good one.
At the end of three days the facchino-doctor-brigadier was ready.
I was also ready, with a stenographer. We were in a room called
the Rope-Walk. This is a formidably long room, as is indicated
by its facetious name, and is a good place for reviews. At 9:30
the F.-D.-B. took his place near me and gave the word of command;
the drums began to rumble and thunder, the head of the forces appeared
at an upper door, and the “march-past” was on. Down they filed,
a blaze of variegated color, each squad gaudy in a uniform of its own
and bearing a banner inscribed with its verbal rank and quality:
first the Present Tense in Mediterranean blue and old gold, then the
Past Definite in scarlet and black, then the Imperfect in green
and yellow, then the Indicative Future in the stars and stripes,
then the Old Red Sandstone Subjunctive in purple and silver–
and so on and so on, fifty-seven privates and twenty commissioned
and non-commissioned officers; certainly one of the most fiery and
dazzling and eloquent sights I have ever beheld. I could not keep back
the tears. Presently:
“Halt!” commanded the Brigadier.
“Stand at ease!”
“One–two–three. In unison–RECITE!”
It was fine. In one noble volume of sound of all the fifty-seven
Haves in the Italian language burst forth in an exalting
and splendid confusion. Then came commands:
“About–face! Eyes–front! Helm alee–hard aport! Forward–march!”
and the drums let go again.
When the last Termination had disappeared, the commander said
the instruction drill would now begin, and asked for suggestions.
“They say I HAVE, THOU HAST, HE HAS, and so on, but they don’t say WHAT.
It will be better, and more definite, if they have something
to have; just an object, you know, a something–anything will do;
anything that will give the listener a sort of personal as well
as grammatical interest in their joys and complaints, you see.”
“It is a good point. Would a dog do?”
I said I did not know, but we could try a dog and see. So he sent
out an aide-de-camp to give the order to add the dog.
The six privates of the Present Tense now filed in, in charge
of Sergeant AVERE (TO HAVE), and displaying their banner.
They formed in line of battle, and recited, one at a time, thus:
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