WEE WILLIE WINKIE
"An officer and a gentleman."
BY RUDYARD KIPLING
His full name was Percival William Williams,
but he picked up the other name in a nursery-book,
and that was the end of the christened titles.
His mother's ayah called him Willie-Baba, but
as he never paid the faintest attention to
anything that the ayah said, her wisdom did
not help matters.
His father was the Colonel of the 195th, and
as soon as Wee Willie Winkie was old enough
to understand what Military Discipline meant,
Colonel Williams put him under it. There was
no other way of managing the child. When he
was good for a week, he drew good-conduct pay;
and when he was bad, he was deprived of his
good-conduct stripe. Generally he was bad,
for India offers many chances of going wrong
to little six-year-olds.
Children resent familiarity from strangers,
and Wee Willie Winkie was a very particular
child. Once he accepted an acquaintance, he
was graciously pleased to thaw. He accepted
Brandis, a subaltern of the 195th, on sight.
Brandis was having tea at the Colonel's, and
Wee Willie Winkie entered, strong in the
possession of a good-conduct badge won for
not chasing the hens round the compound. He
regarded Brandis with gravity for at least
ten minutes, and then delivered himself of
"I like you," said he slowly, getting off
his chair and coming over to Brandis. "I
like you. I shall call you Coppy, because
of your hair. Do you mind being called Coppy?
It is because of ve hair, you know."
Here was one of the most embarrassing of
Wee Willie Winkie's peculiarities. He would
look at a stranger for some time, and then,
without warning or explanation, would give
him a name. And the name stuck. No regimental
penalties could break Wee Willie Winkie of
this habit. He lost his good-conduct badge
for christening the Commissioner's wife
"Pobs"; but nothing that the Colonel could
do made the Station forego the nickname,
and Mrs. Collen remained Mrs. "Pobs" till
the end of her stay. So Brandis was christened
"Coppy," and rose, therefore, in the estimation
of the regiment.
If Wee Willie Winkie took an interest in
anyone, the fortunate man was envied alike
by the mess and the rank and file. And in
their envy lay no suspicion of self-interest.
"The Colonel's son" was idolized on his own
merits entirely. Yet Wee Willie Winkie was
not lovely. His face was permanently freckled,
as his legs were permanently scratched, and
in spite of his mother's almost tearful
remonstrances he had insisted upon having
his long yellow locks cut short in the
military fashion. "I want my hair like
Sergeant Tummil's," said Wee Willie Winkie,
and, his father abetting, the sacrifice was
Three weeks after the bestowal of his youthful
affections on Lieutenant Brandis--henceforward
to be called "Coppy" for the sake of
brevity--Wee Willie Winkie was destined to
behold strange things and far beyond his
Coppy returned his liking with interest.
Coppy had let him wear for five rapturous
minutes his own big sword--just as tall as
Wee Willie Winkie. Coppy had promised him a
terrier puppy; and Coppy had permitted him
to witness the miraculous operation of shaving.
Nay, more--Coppy had said that even he, Wee
Willie Winkie, would rise in time to the
ownership of a box of shiny knives, a silver
soap-box, and a silver-handled "sputter-brush,"
as Wee Willie Winkie called it. Decidedly,
there was no one, except his father, who
could give or take away good-conduct badges
at pleasure, half so wise, strong, and
valiant as Coppy with the Afghan and Egyptian
medals on his breast. Why, then, should
Coppy be guilty of the unmanly weakness of
kissing--vehemently kissing--a "big girl,"
Miss Allardyce to wit? In the course of a
morning ride, Wee Willie Winkie had seen
Coppy so doing, and, like the gentleman he
was, had promptly wheeled round and cantered
back to his groom, lest the groom should
Under ordinary circumstances he would have
spoken to his father, but he felt instinctively
that this was a matter on which Coppy ought
first to be consulted.
"Coppy," shouted Wee Willie Winkie, reining
up outside that subaltern's bungalow early
one morning--"I want to see you, Coppy!"
"Come in, young 'un," returned Coppy, who
was at early breakfast in the midst of his
dogs. "What mischief have you been getting
Wee Willie Winkie had done nothing notoriously
bad for three days, and so stood on a pinnacle
"I've been doing nothing bad," said he,
curling himself into a long chair with a
studious affectation of the Colonel's langour
after a hot parade. He buried his freckled
nose in a tea-cup and, with eyes staring
roundly over the rim, asked: "I say, Coppy,
is it pwoper to kiss big girls?"
"By Jove! You're beginning early. Who do
you want to kiss?"
"No one. My muvver's always kissing me if
I don't stop her. If it isn't pwoper, how
was you kissing Major Allardyce's big girl
last morning, by ve canal?"
Coppy's brow wrinkled. He and Miss Allardyce
had with great craft managed to keep their
engagement secret for a fortnight. There were
urgent and imperative reasons why Major
Allardyce should not know how matters stood
for at least another month, and this small
marplot had discovered a great deal too much.
"I saw you," said Wee Willie Winkle calmly.
"But ve sais didn't see. I said, 'Hut jao!'"
"Oh, you had that much sense, you young Rip,"
groaned poor Coppy, half amused and half angry.
"And how many people may you have told about
"Only me myself. You didn't tell when I twied
to wide ve buffalo ven my pony was lame; and
I fought you wouldn't like."
"Winkie," said Coppy enthusiastically, shaking
the small hand, "you're the best of good fellows.
Look here, you can't understand all these things.
One of these days--hang it, how can I make you
see it!--I'm going to marry Miss Allardyce, and
then she'll be Mrs. Coppy, as you say. If your
young mind is so scandalized at the idea of
kissing big girls, go and tell your father."
"What will happen?" said Wee Willie Winkie, who
firmly believed that his father was omnipotent.
"I shall get into trouble," said Coppy, playing
his trump card with an appealing look at the
holder of the ace.
"Ven I won't," said Wee Willie Winkie briefly.
"But my faver says it's un-man-ly to be always
kissing, and I didn't fink you'd do vat, Coppy."
"I'm not always kissing, old chap. It's only
now and then, and when you're bigger you'll
do it too. Your father meant it's not good for
"Ah!" said Wee Willie Winkle, now fully
enlightened. "It's like ve sputter-brush?"
"Exactly," said Coppy gravely.
"But I don't fink I'll ever want to kiss big
girls, nor no one, 'cept my muvver. And I must
vat, you know."
There was a long pause, broken by Wee Willie
"Are you fond of vis big girl, Coppy?"
"Awfully!" said Coppy.
"Fonder van you are of Bell or ve Butcha--or
"It's in a different way," said Coppy. "You
see, one of these days Miss Allardyce will
belong to me, but you'll grow up and command
the Regiment and--all sorts of things. It's
quite different, you see."
"Very well," said Wee Willie Winkie, rising.
"If you're fond of ve big girl, I won't tell
anyone. I must go now."
Coppy rose and escorted his small guest to
the door, adding: "You're the best of little
fellows, Winkie. I tell you what. In thirty
days from now you can tell if you like--tell
anyone you like."
Thus the secret of the Brandis-Allardyce
engagement was dependent on a little child's
word. Coppy, who knew Wee Willie Winkie's
idea of truth, was at ease, for he felt that
he would not break promises. Wee Willie Winkie
betrayed a special and unusual interest in
Miss Allardyce, and, slowly revolving round
that embarrassed young lady, was used to
regard her gravely with unwinking eye. He
was trying to discover why Coppy should have
kissed her. She was not half so nice as his
own mother. On the other hand, she was Coppy's
property, and would in time belong to him.
Therefore it behoved him to treat her with
as much respect as Coppy's big sword or
The idea that he shared a great secret in
common with Coppy kept Wee Willie Winkie
unusually virtuous for three weeks. Then
the Old Adam broke out, and he made what
he called a "camp-fire" at the bottom of
the garden. How could he have foreseen that
the flying sparks would have lighted the
Colonel's little hay-rick and consumed a
week's store for the horses? Sudden and
swift was the punishment--deprivation of
the good-conduct badge and, most sorrowful
of all, two days' confinement to barracks--the
house and veranda--coupled with the withdrawal
of the light of his father's countenance.
He took the sentence like the man he strove
to be, drew himself up with a quivering
under-lip, saluted, and, once clear of the
room, ran to weep bitterly in his nursery--called
by him "my quarters." Coppy came in the
afternoon and attempted to console the
"I'm under awwest," said Wee Willie Winkie
mournfully, "and I didn't ought to speak to
Very early the next morning he climbed on
to the roof of the house--that was not
forbidden--and beheld Miss Allardyce going
for a ride.
"Where are you going?" cried Wee Willie
"Across the river," she answered, and trotted
Now the cantonment in which the 195th lay
was bounded on the north by a river--dry
in the winter. From his earliest years, Wee
Willie Winkie had been forbidden to go
across the river, and had noted that even
Coppy--the almost almighty Coppy--had never
set foot beyond it. Wee Willie Winkie had
once been read to, out of a big blue book,
the history of the Princess and the
Goblins--a most wonderful tale of a land
where the Goblins were always warring with
the children of men until they were defeated
by one Curdie. Ever since that date it
seemed to him that the bare black and
purple hills across the river were inhabited
by Goblins, and, in truth, everyone had
said that there lived the Bad Men. Even
in his own house the lower halves of the
windows were covered with green paper on
account of the Bad Men who might, if allowed
clear view, fire into peaceful drawing-rooms
and comfortable bedrooms. Certainly, beyond
the river, which was the end of all the
Earth, lived the Bad Men. And here was
Major Allardyce's big girl, Coppy's
property, preparing to venture into their
borders! What would Coppy say if anything
happened to her? If the Goblins ran off
with her as they did with Curdie's Princess?
She must at all hazards be turned back.
The house was still. Wee Willie Winkie
reflected for a moment on the very terrible
wrath of his father; and then--broke his
arrest! It was a crime unspeakable. The
low sun threw his shadow, very large and
very black, on the trim garden-paths, as
he went down to the stables and ordered
his pony. It seemed to him in the hush
of the dawn that all the big world had
been bidden to stand still and look at
Wee Willie Winkie guilty of mutiny. The
drowsy sais gave him his mount, and,
since the one great sin made all others
insignificant, Wee Willie Winkie said that
he was going to ride over to Coppy Sahib,
and went out at a foot-pace, stepping on
the soft mould of the flower-borders.
The devastating track of the pony's feet
was the last misdeed that cut him off from
all sympathy of Humanity. He turned into
the road, leaned forward, and rode as fast
as the pony could put foot to the ground
in the direction of the river.
But the liveliest of twelve-two ponies can
do little against the long canter of a Waler.
Miss Allardyce was far ahead, had passed
through the crops, beyond the Police-post,
when all the guards were asleep, and her
mount was scattering the pebbles of the
river-bed as Wee Willie Winkie left the
cantonment and British India behind him.
Bowed forward and still flogging, Wee
Willie Winkie shot into Afghan territory,
and could just see Miss Allardyce a black
speck, flickering across the stony plain.
The reason of her wandering was simple
enough. Coppy, in a tone of too-hastily-assumed
authority, had told her overnight that
she must not ride out by the river. And
she had gone to prove her own spirit and
teach Coppy a lesson.
Almost at the foot of the inhospitable hills,
Wee Willie Winkie saw the Waler blunder and
come down heavily. Miss Allardyce struggled
clear, but her ankle had been severely twisted,
and she could not stand. Having fully
demonstrated her spirit, she wept, and was
surprised by the apparition of a white,
wide-eyed child in khaki, on a nearly spent
"Are you badly, badly hurted?" shouted Wee
Willie Winkie, as soon as he was within
range. "You didn't ought to be here."
"I don't know," said Miss Allardyce ruefully,
ignoring the reproof. "Good gracious, child,
what are you doing here?"
"You said you was going acwoss ve wiver,"
panted Wee Willie Winkie, throwing himself
off his pony. "And nobody--not even Coppy--must
go acwoss ve wiver, and I came after you ever
so hard, but you wouldn't stop, and now you've
hurted yourself, and Coppy will be angwy wiv
me, and--I've bwoken my awwest! I've bwoken
The future Colonel of the 195th sat down and
sobbed. In spite of the pain in her ankle the
girl was moved.
"Have you ridden all the way from cantonments,
little man? What for?"
"You belonged to Coppy. Coppy told me so!"
wailed Wee Willie Winkie disconsolately. "I
saw him kissing you, and he said he was fonder
of you van Bell or ve Butcha or me. And so
I came. You must get up and come back. You
didn't ought to be here. Vis is a bad place,
and I've bwoken my awwest."
"I can't move, Winkie," said Miss Allardyce,
with a groan. "I've hurt my foot. What shall
She showed a readiness to weep anew, which
steadied Wee Willie Winkie, who had been
brought up to believe that tears were the
depth of unmanliness. Still, when one is
as great a sinner as Wee Willie Winkie,
even a man may be permitted to break down.
"Winkie," said Miss Allardyce, "when you've
rested a little, ride back and tell them to
send out something to carry me back in. It
The child sat still for a little time and
Miss Allardyce closed her eyes; the pain was
nearly making her faint. She was roused by
Wee Willie Winkie tying up the reins on his
pony's neck and setting it free with a vicious
cut of his whip that made it whicker. The
little animal headed toward the cantonments.
"Oh, Winkie! What are you doing?"
"Hush!" said Wee Willie Winkie. "Vere's a
man coming--one of ve Bad Men. I must stay
wiv you. My faver says a man must always
look after a girl. Jack will go home, and
ven vey'll come and look for us. Vat's
why I let him go."
Not one man, but two or three, had appeared
from behind the rocks of the hills, and the
heart of Wee Willie Winkie sank within him,
for just in this manner were the Goblins
wont to steal out and vex Curdie's soul.
Thus had they played in Curdie's garden--he
had seen the picture--and thus had they
frightened the Princess's nurse. He heard
them talking to each other, and recognized
with joy the bastard Pushto that he had
picked up from one of his father's grooms
lately dismissed. People who spoke that
tongue could not be the Bad Men. They were
only natives, after all.
They came up to the boulders on which Miss
Allardyce's horse had blundered.
Then rose from the rock Wee Willie Winkie,
child of the Dominant Race, aged six and
three-quarters, and said briefly and emphatically
"Jao!" The pony had crossed the river-bed.
The men laughed, and laughter from natives
was the one thing Wee Willie Winkie could
not tolerate. He asked them what they wanted
and why they did not depart. Other men with
most evil faces and crooked-stocked guns
crept out of the shadows of the hills, till,
soon, Wee Willie Winkie was face to face
with an audience some twenty strong. Miss
"Who are you?" said one of the men.
"I am the Colonel Sahib's son, and my order
is that you go at once. You black men are
frightening the Miss Sahib. One of you must
run into cantonments and take the news that
the Miss Sahib has hurt herself, and that
the Colonel's son is here with her."
"Put our feet into the trap?" was the laughing
reply. "Hear this boy's speech!"
"Say that I sent you--I, the Colonel's son.
They will give you money."
"What is the use of this talk? Take up the
child and the girl, and we can at least
ask for the ransom. Ours are the villages
on the heights," said a voice in the background.
These were the Bad Men--worse than Goblins--and
it needed all Wee Willie Winkie's training
to prevent him from bursting into tears. But
he felt that to cry before a native, excepting
only his mother's ayah, would be an infamy
greater than any mutiny. Moreover, he, as
future Colonel of the 195th, had that grim
regiment at his back.
"Are you going to carry us away?" said Wee
Willie Winkie, very blanched and uncomfortable.
"Yes, my little Sahib Bahadur," said the
tallest of the men, "and eat you afterward."
"That is child's talk," said Wee Willie
Winkie. "Men do not eat men."
A yell of laughter interrupted him, but he
went on firmly--"And if you do carry us
away, I tell you that all my regiment will
come up in a day and kill you all without
leaving one. Who will take my message to
the Colonel Sahib?"
Speech in any vernacular--and Wee Willie
Winkie had a colloquial acquaintance with
three--was easy to the boy who could not
yet manage his "r's" and "th's" aright.
Another man joined the conference, crying:
"O, foolish men! What this babe says is
true. He is the heart's heart of those white
troops. For the sake of peace let them go
both, for if he be taken, the regiment will
break loose and gut the valley. Our villages
are in the valley, and we shall not escape.
That regiment are devils. They broke Khoda
Yar's breast-bone with kicks when he tried
to take the rifles; and if we touch this
child they will fire and rape and plunder
for a month, till nothing remains. Better
to send a man back to take the message and
get a reward. I say that this child is their
God, and that they will spare none of us,
nor our women, if we harm him."
It was Din Mahommed, the dismissed groom of
the Colonel, who made the diversion, and an
angry and heated discussion followed. Wee
Willie Winkie, standing over Miss Allardyce,
waited the upshot. Surely his "wegiment,"
his own "wegiment," would not desert him if
they knew of his extremity.
. . . . .
The riderless pony brought the news to the
195th, though there had been consternation in
the Colonel's household for an hour before. The
little beast came in through the parade-ground
in front of the main barracks, where the men
were settling down to play Spoil-five till the
afternoon. Devlin, the Colour-Sergeant of
E Company, glanced at the empty saddle and
tumbled through the barrack-rooms, kicking up
each Room Corporal as he passed. "Up, ye
beggars! There's something happened to the
Colonel's son," he shouted.
"He couldn't fall off! S'elp me, 'e couldn't
fall off," blubbered a drummer-boy. "Go an'
hunt acrost the river. He's over there if he's
anywhere, an' maybe those Pathans have got
'im. For the love o' Gawd don't look for 'im
in the nullahs! Let's go over the river."
"There's sense in Mott yet," said Devlin.
"E Company, double out to the river--sharp!"
So E Company, in its shirt-sleeves mainly,
doubled for the dear life, and in the rear
toiled the perspiring Sergeant, adjuring it
to double yet faster. The cantonment was
alive with the men of the 195th hunting for
Wee Willie Winkie, and the Colonel finally
overtook E Company, far too exhausted to
swear, struggling in the pebbles of the
Up the hill under which Wee Willie Winkie's
Bad Men were discussing the wisdom of carrying
off the child and the girl, a lookout fired
"What have I said?" shouted Din Mahommed.
"There is the warning! The pulton are out
already and are coming across the plain!
Get away! Let us not be seen with the boy!"
The men waited for an instant, and then,
as another shot was fired, withdrew into
the hills, silently as they had appeared.
"The wegiment is coming," said Wee Willie
Winkie confidently to Miss Allardyce,
"and it's all wight. Don't cwy!"
He needed the advice himself, for ten
minutes later, when his father came up,
he was weeping bitterly with his head
in Miss Allardyce's lap.
And the men of the 195th carried him home
with shouts and rejoicings; and Coppy,
who had ridden a horse into a lather, met
him, and, to his intense disgust, kissed
him openly in the presence of the men.
But there was balm for his dignity. His
father assured him that not only would
the breaking of arrest be condoned, but
that the good-conduct badge would be
restored as soon as his mother could sew
it on his blouse-sleeve. Miss Allardyce
had told the Colonel a story that made
him proud of his son.
"She belonged to you, Coppy," said Wee
Willie Winkie, indicating Miss Allardyce
with a grimy forefinger. "I knew she didn't
ought to go acwoss ve wiver, and I knew
ve wegiment would come to me if I sent
"You're a hero, Winkie," said Coppy--"a
"I don't know what vat means," said Wee
Willie Winkie, "but you mustn't call me
Winkie any no more. I'm Percival Will'am
And in this manner did Wee Willie Winkie
enter into his manhood.