AFTER the Syrian campaign our unit was moved to a camp at Khassa and here was born Horrie's great romance. We camped alongside the 2/1 Anti-tank Regiment, just returned from the campaign. I strolled across to locate Bruce McKellary, Horrie trotting beside me, when some one yelled "Imshi!" I took no notice, as this was the command to some stray Arab to "Clear out! - get to hell out of it!"
"Imshi!" yelled that abusive voice, as if at me.
"What's biting you?" I called to the soldier.
"It's O.K., Dig," he laughed, "don't get your wool off."
"What's the matter?" I asked as Horrie and I strolled across to him.
"1 thought that was our little dog Imshi," he replied. "He's the dead spit of her - with reservations."
"I knew there was a lady dog of his breed in Crete," I said. "Surely there's not another in Palestine."
"Wait till you see her," he replied. "You wouldn't know them apart, except that she's got a longer tail. She's our mascot. Been with us through Egypt, Greece and Syria."
"Horrie's been with us in Egypt, Greece, and Crete," I replied. "Been sunk on a transport too."
"That evens up the record," he laughed.
"Horrie's got a wound stripe," I added.
"That goes one better," he said glumly, "although I'll bet your Horrie hasn't wet his pants as often as our Imshi has!"
"Horrie's been in plenty of ticklish engagements I replied, "and if he couldn't find a tree he used my boot."
I located Mac and we enjoyed a great yarn. Noticing that Horrie had disappeared I asked, "What's this Imshi of yours?"
"The gamest little dog in the world," he laughed, "hardly the size of a woolly elephant but with the guts of a lion. Why?"
"I've heard about her."
"The whole Army has," he said proudly. "You'll see her later; her valet is the cook, and he puts more science into preparing a meal for her than he does for the troops."
"She probably appreciates his efforts more," I laughed.
"Oh, he's not a bad cook," said Mac.
And then Horrie appeared with Imshi. With the most innocent expression, tongue gently hanging out, one ear at the cock, one at the flop, he trotted up to introduce Imshi to me.
She was following behind.
"Struth!" declared Mac, "he's pirated her!"
Most obviously so.
Oh, the he-male of the species! No longer was he a sea-sick hero playing second fiddle to Ben the Seadog. Here, he was Horrie the Wog-dog on solid ground with the bashful Imshi following behind.
I stooped down and smiled and patted Imshi; she responded bashfully, a "come-hither" look in her large brown eyes. I laughed, having been caught before.
Horrie fussed about her, his every attitude informing her I was quite all right - "just one of the boys."
"I dunno," said Mac thoughtfully, "but this love at first sight may cause trouble."
"We are in the land of Antony and Cleopatra," I said. "They both passed this way."
"Yes," replied Mac, "and what was the end of the journey?"
But Horrie, fussing round and round Imshi, had no misgivings. As to the winsome Imshi, she cared not a rap.
Imshi, though trustfully timid, was game too; she was of the same breed as Horrie, and an attractive wench indeed to a Wog-dog even though a shade taller, and of the same colouring and build, with her proudly carried tail obviously longer.
Having captured me she turned all her wiles on Horrie, showing off her paces while pretending she took far more interest in me than in him.
"She's bent on conquest," said Mac resignedly. "He's a goner."
"It always works out that way," I answered, "when the lady has made up her mind."
Imshi now blatantly set herself to capture the Wog-dog's heart. Having further won my admiration she pretended not to notice the admiring Horrie but pranced away around us with head playfully erect, fox-trotted back to us, and then with a sparkle in her eye bounded away behind a tent.
Ah! but if Horrie did not trot after her she would immediately reappear.
When Horrie was not chasing this provocative miss he sat at my feet voicelessly admiring her.
"Go your hardest, Horrie," I advised. "She is only kidding you!" and Horrie would trot after her, catch her up and sit beside her while both intently gazed at the horizon.
"Just a bit of finesse!" grinned Mac.
Horrie, anxious at getting nowhere, sniffed inquiringly at her face. she disdainfully turned her cheek.
Horrie playfully took hold of her ear but Imshi scornfully turned her head aside. Horrie playfully tugged her ear but she snapped at him and he bashfully shuffled back to squat and view her inquiringly, little head to one side.
"No ordinary street pick-up, this lass," I grinned at Mac.
He grinned back with a wink.
"I bet she lands him!" he said confidently.
Horrie, puzzled by Imshi's attitude, trotted back to me with comical look of inquiry. Imshi gave a sudden yelp and raced after some mystical object in the distance. Horrie wheeled around and excitedly raced after her.
"He's a goner!" said Mac with finality.
The two little white figures gradually disappeared across the sandy waste.
"That's done it!" said Mac in triumph.
I returned to camp.
Very late that night I felt Horrie quietly climbing up to the foot of my bunk.
"Imshi's a nice little dog," I said, and felt his stub tail wagging in agreement.
The two became inseparable. If Horrie was missing I'd find him with Imshi away across at the Anti-tank regiment. If Imshi was missing from her rightful camp, she'd be playing with Horrie at our camp. It was sweet romance but the practical Horrie combined belly love with it; he invited Imshi to come across and share his bone. she accepted somewhat disdainfully. Then she invited him across to her camp to taste real meat. Horrie accepted with an alacrity that hinted of planned purpose beforehand.
"He's a little strategist," laughed Poppa. "He angled for that! He knows Imshi's cook boss can give him much more tasty meat than we can."
"And plenty of it," added Gordie. "Horrie will be a regular visitor at the Anti-tank cookhouse."
And he was.
As the days passed Horrie found himself torn between his desire to accompany us on our route marches and his longing to dally with Imshi. He tried his hardest to coax Imshi to accompany us but she was adamant; active service experience had evidently taught her that camp was the safest place and she was determined to stick to it. Away we would march, with Horrie gazing longingly at the column and then running back to Imshi in a last effort to persuade her to come along. He would coax all he knew until we were a long way off; then, with a resigned "Well, will be seeing you tonight!" he would come scampering after us as fast as his funny little legs could carry him. At the head of the column he would take his place beside Big Jim and gaze up with little tongue hanging out, and trusting brown eyes full of wisdom as he waddled his quaint little body into step.
"So you've decided to join the parade!" Big Jim would growl down at the tiny dog. And Horrie would gaze up with a wag of his tail and knowing wink that plainly said "After all, soldiering must come before pleasure". Then he'd look back at the grinning Rebels, his tiny feet and comical waddling body keeping time to the tramp, tramp, tramp, tramp .
"You're a dinkum Rebel all right," Big Jim would scold. "'Shun! Eyes front!" and the Wog-dog would pay attention to the job ahead.
But we had to put our foot down on Horrie's midnight romances, on the score of pressing military necessity. To enjoy a full issue of sleep and at the same time save our rifles from Arab thieves we now found it necessary to chain Horrie up every evening. Otherwise the night would call and he would throw duty to the winds and vanish to the desert with Imshi.
Antony and Cleopatra caught the moon madness upon these very sands. Our hearts were all with the little Wog-dog and Imshi but - we had to safeguard those rifles.
Imshi, once assured it was now impossible for Horrie to escape at night, very sensibly remained in her comfortable quarters near the cook in the Anti-tank regiment. But first thing in the morning she would call for him, we would let him loose, and away she would take him to her friend the cook for breakfast. When they could eat no more, away they would trot on a lizard-hunting expedition for the day. At least I hope so.
Time drifted on with all troops engaged in strenuous training. Then - into the idyll of the Wog-dog came the Big Bad Wolf. A huge, gaunt, savage Alsatian.
He came prowling into the lines of the Light Aid Detachment, a famished outcast. No man would turn a homeless, hungry dog away, at least not until he had given him a feed. And the Alsatian was so glad of a meal that he simply refused to leave. So the L.A.D. adopted him. He immediately repaid it by becoming an excellent watchdog; no prowler dare enter the L.A.D. lines even on the darkest night, he would have been torn to pieces.
As this was the Khassa area, the L.A.D. named their huge wolf-dog "Khassa". The name fitted him to a T., his giant, gaunt frame, his snarling teeth, the glare in his eye all fitted in to "Khassa the Goliath". Worthily he guarded the camp of his benefactors, the L.A.D.
However, those insignificant insects, the Wog-dogs Horrie and Imshi, were in opposite camps, hence they and Khassa were enemies in Dogland. And the cheeky Horrie made no bones about his dislike for the new arrival.
"I hope that little wretch doesn't buy a fight with Khassa," remarked Fitz one day.
"If he does there'll only be one mouthful in it," said the Gogg grimly, "and that mouthful will be Horrie."
I was very uneasy, as were all the Rebels, for the little Wog-dog's safety. He had long since grown the idea that he was an army on his own.
"If Khassa should take a fancy to Imshi," laughed the irrepressible Feathers, "there'll be skin and hair flying."
Even as we were talking Khassa on giant legs came boldly towards our tent. Horrie leapt up with hackles erect, growling menacingly In no uncertain manner he warned Khassa keep clear of the tent. Khassa stood and glared down at him.
"He's wondering whether the Wog-dog is worth just one bite," said Poppa. "Don't do anything, perhaps they may be content with an armed neutrality."
But they were determined on fight and war was declared a week later. It came about through a lady.
Imshi was trotting across to visit Horrie when she was waylaid by Khassa. Horrie was dozing when Imshi's yelp for help urged him out the tent. He saw his girl friend in distress and charged straight at Khassa who wheeled from the cowering Imshi to face the insignificant hero. The big dog stumbled and Horrie gripped his hind paw and used war service and tactics to escape annihilation. As the big dog yelped and snarled, Horrie hung on, dragging the leg round. The long body followed round and round, the Alsatian's fangs striving to reach the tiny tormentor. Horrie clung on like a vicious rat to a lion's hind paw; try as Khassa would, his snapping fangs could not reach him. Imshi had backed away to watch the gallant Horrie, but now she flew to the rescue and sank her teeth in the neck of the big dog. As his neck straightened out in fury, she darted away. The instant his head snapped back towards Horrie that instant she flew back at his neck. It was perfect team-work and in the first swift scurry of attack the Goliath was mercilessly outwitted. But in a matter of moments the powerful Khassa would turn the tables and here Frank Bruce came running to the rescue with shouts and blows trying to break the mix-up. Frank separated them but received a nasty gash in the arm from the infuriated Khassa. The big dog limped away snarling with Horrie standing protectingly in front of Imshi, growling to Khassa to "Keep moving!" When the danger had faded away Horrie received a pat from Frank in recognition of his bravery; then with his tail mast-high and hackles erect, he proudly escorted Imshi back to the Anti-tank lines. Poor Frank, nursing a very painful arm made his way across to the R.A.P. to get the wound stitched.
But life is a whirligig of hopes and sorrows, of joys and setbacks, and even lovers must part. The Anti-tank regiment was ordered to Syria and Imshi marched with it.
A woebegone lover, Horrie haunted the abandoned camp site. As the days passed and she did not return he even refused his tucker, and grew thin, scrawny and miserable. Then he took to roaming the countryside, visiting the scattered camps and searching for his lost love.
"We'll have to do something with that young Romeo," declared Poppa, "or he'll fade away into the desert dust."
"What did you do under similar circumstances!" grinned Feathers.
"Took it like a man!" declared Poppa.
"A fine mess it's made of you!" remarked the Gogg.
"I could point out some men," answered Poppa impressively, "and, mind you, I needn't go past the Rebels, who are such a mess that even years of soldiering will never make anything out of them!"
"How many years of soldiering?" asked Fitz innocently.
But Horrie disappeared.
We searched for him far and wide.
"Women always mean trouble!" sighed Poppa wearily, after a long, exhausting search.
"If he's followed the Anti-tank regiment, he's got a long way to go," said Feathers.
"I wish the little beggar would turn up," sighed Don.
He did, on the evening of the fifth day. Some of the boys returning from leave had picked him up on the road to Jerusalem, fifty miles away.
Horrie was in a pitiable state, skinny as a rake, footsore and weary. He tried to kiss each of us at once. He ate like a wolf and lay about and rested a few days. Soon he was on the way to becoming his old self again.
"How soon they forget Love!" sighed Poppa.
"You're forgotten long ago," grinned Fitz.
"That's something, anyway," answered Poppa dreamily; "so far as you nit-wits are concerned I don't think you've even been remembered."
But Horrie had by no means forgotten Imshi. Whenever her name was mentioned he would jump up with brightening eyes, tremblingly excited.