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"Late! A Corporal late!" In the stillness I heard her gently upbraid, while she reconstructed. Then a big bony face, like a knee, came to the bed's surface. The face looked sheepishly grateful for these so great mercies.
"We must perish if Thy rod,
That was the visible feeling. No doubt Lance Corporal Martin was vowing, within, that he would be first man in bed, from that night onward, for ever.
Her tour of inspection finished, the Sister was passing the foot of my bed, on her way to the door, when another huge frame of a man, Lance Corporal Toomey, a rug-headed Rufus, half rose from the bed on my left the end bed on our side of the ward.
"Sisther," he hailed her.
"Ye'd do right, Sisther," he said, with a clarion distinotness that seemed to me purposeful, "to be firm wi' that man beyant at th' end of the room, or ye'll not have a momint of peace." He paused for a second. Somehow I thought of an angler expecting a rise. He went on, in tones of virtuous indignation. "Flyin' into his bed like a Too Emma bomb!" Another momentary pause. No rise. "Aye, or an aigle itself," he appended.
A low thunderous noise came from the far end of the ward. The first chaos of this mass of sound was just be
ginning to receive form in the words "Is it faultin' me that he is, the conthrary toad?" when the Sister raised a reprehensive finger.
Speech, divinest work of man, relapsed into its raw material of booming sound. This sank by degrees. LanceCorporal Martin was still out to be good.
The Sister looked down at Toomey, reining him in. In him, too, mighty reservoirs of formless sound were straining against sluices. "Why don't you Corporals screen one another," she said, with the voice of the dove and the serpent's wisdom, "like Sergeants?"
"If anny Sergeant," Toomey impressively opened, "in all the wide worruld, had lived wi' the Martins of County Fermanagh these twinty years back, the way I've had to enjure
"We won't tell any tales," the Sister decided, and Toomey's conditional sentence never achieved its apodosis. "Good-night, all," the Sister said at the door. "Don't talk too long."
She gone, the ward, for a while, was all in a buzz. It is always the way at first, in night nurseries. Not for long, though. Sleep swiftly invaded one simple organism after another. Soon a few specialists only were riding their hobbies on into the night. In the bed opposite mine the ward grouser was manfully keeping it up. "Call them ole dishwashin's supper! Well, roll on, breakfus'! 'S all I 'ave to say." Three beds
away on my right-two beds him the like of a grassbeyond the moribund man-hopper!" the ward braggart, like Alexander the Great at the feast, was still routing his foes. "An Austrylian 'e was, an' 'e come powkin' 'is conk in me fice, aht in Ahmenteers. 'More'n twelve thahsand mahl ah've come,' he says, 'to sive you ticks,' 'e says, 'Well,' ah says, 'you down't come a bloody inch further,' ah says, an' knocks 'im dahn. That's wot ah done. Fair on 'is boko. Knocked 'im silly, ah did. 'Struth!"
To these shrill melodies a fortifying bass was furnished by my neighbour Toomey. Cowed, but not changed in heart, by the Sister, he still rumbled on in his bed like a distant bombardment, Like Martin's last share in debate, it was mainly a deep rolling or heaving sound, not chopped up into words; in its vague impressiveness it affected my ear somewhat as a distant range of undulating hills affects the eye. But now and then a short passage of firm artioulate commination lifted itself into clearness, as tiny islands of coral, emergent morsels of vast unexplored structures, stick out into daylight. "No peace an' quiet at all to be had!" "Lettin' on to be wounded, an' he leppin' the width of the worl' into his bed!" And I used to think once that soliloquies in plays were unnatural! "He an' his Bloody Han' of Ulsther!
him put it in his pookut, th' owl' miser!" "Boundin' into his bed wid a thrajeothry on
Toomey always seemed to return to that vision of Martin's retirement for the night as if it were fuel wherewith to stoke important fires. I cannot think that Martin's jump was intrinsically offensive to Toomey. All jumping, by man or beast, is highly valued in Ireland. Was it that any salient gesture of a fee's helped to make the whole abhorred image of him more provocatively vivid? I leave it to you: I am not a psychologist, only a reporter.
"The both'ration I've had wi' the Martins, the whole of the pack!" "If our Lady of Siven Sorras oud set eyes upon thim she'd know what it is to be vexed!" You have heard the low seismic swallowings, pantings, and gulps of a big locomotive held in leash at a station. Toomey, making a good recovery from gunshot wounds and wrestling in spirit with a friend, was rather like that-a volcano tied down with string. Then reverie fell back on the old refrain. "An' he descindin' into his bed the match for an airiplane landin'!" "The spit of some owl' hivvinly body bruk loose an' traversin' a big share of the firmimint!" The obsession of Toomey by this haunting spectacle was becoming ungovernable. He had communicate it.
"Did y'ever see the like of ut ever?" he said across to my bed.
"No," said I, feeling my diction somewhat jejune, where
so much picturesque figuration was going.
"'Faith, then, I have," said Toomey-"the time that I seen his mother's starved hens flyin' in at me own mother's door, the vulchers, fit to grab all the nourishment out of me plate, an' I a young child."
"Bit of a war on," I asked, "over there?" I wanted to sleep. I am only an Englishman. I do not hold two turbulent quarts of tireless life in the modest pint pot of my body. It seemed the shorter way to sleep-just to open the dykes and let the whole narrative flood escape and be done with, rather than lie there all night being splashed with these interjectional spurts from the dammed seething_waters. "Bit of a war on?" I asked. "Ye'd not know," he impressively said, "hwat war is till ye'd visit the County Fermanagh. Talk of this little onpleasantnuss wi' the Germans! Ooh, nothin' at all! Here wan day an', mebbe, gone in the mornin'! Th' owl' wars of Troy'd be hard set to match hwat we have in Dhromore, where the Martins are nex'-door neighbours to us, an' not respected by anny excipt black Prod'stunts the like of thimselves. To crown all, Jawn Martin beyant had no sooner grown up than nothin' ud de him but join the police. Mind, there's manny a decent lad in the force; the way ye'd pity thim on a summer night in Dhromore-we in the licensed prem'ses, all at our aise, an' they walkin' this way an' that in the street, wi' the tongues
hangin' out of their mouths, till the hour 'ud come they'd be free to lep in at the door an' tell the boys they mus' shout or come out of ut. Martin beyant 'ad not give ye the choice. He'd liefer lose drink than not cause human mis'ry. A narra-spirited man an' a bigoted peeler!
"I thanked God for this tiff wi' the Germans. Ye see, in a sense, it gev Martin, boun' an' gagged, into me han'. 'Jawn,' I said-I was just after enlistin' 'Jawn, I'll be back before long. I'm on'y steppin' over to France, to destroy,' says I, 'the greatest Prod❜stunt Pow'r in Europe.'
"I might be at him before ye,' says he, pensive like, an' that made me onaisy. Ye'll understan' I'd always taken me own part the best way I could in this chat that we had, wan day an' the next, an' yet I'd the wish in me min' to have peace an' quiet awhile, away out of Dhromore, leavin' that plague of the worl' confined where he was. An' so I'd thanked God for th' affair wi' the Germans. But now I was not aisy at all.
"Ye wudden't sneak off,' says I, 'eut of the country, an' lave all the poor German bands in the streets onprotected from pop'lar voilence-an' they niver safe in Irelan' yit since eighteen-sivinty.' If I'd have had more diplom'oy, God help me! I wudden't have said it. But I had me quarrel to mind. I've ped for it since.
"Says Jawn, 'There's a sowl of good, as they say, in annything aivil. I see be the papers
these Germans are smashin' afther lookin' away with the every Romish cathaidral howl force of your eyes while
they'd meet on the road.' Half thinkin' it out, he seemed to be, for an' against, an' half stickin' the knife into me bow'ls. The same as meself.
"Don't fear to spake,' says I, 'of '98, an' of all that the Hessians done for ye then.' Madness it was to say that. I was dhrivin' him into the army, that might have been a haven of rest for meself for the howl of the war, with him out of ut. Lavin' all was I, an' bafflin' meself, to have the wan dig at him.
"Jawn looked at me quarely. 'An' so ye'll fight for th' English,' he says, says, 'afther all? Ye're penitint, are ye?'
"However, I knew me fac's
"Th' English are givin' free thransport,' says I, 'to this Wipers beyant, to see th' owl' flag hangin' up in a ohurch that the French an' th' Irish tuk off thim in Malbury's wars. There's the fine penitince for ye,' says I.
"Oh, ye'll see Waterloo yit, me fine touris',' says he, jus' to howld me in play, an' he puzzlin' it out what to do.
"I may that,' says I, 'if it's annyways near Fontenoy.' "Dad!' says he irrel'vantly, soratohin' the back of his head in the ag'ny an' sweat of his thinkin' about somethin' else, 'haven't I got a better right not to be friends wi' the English than you, an' they jus' afther passin' Home Rule?'
"What way'd ye be friends,' says I in me anger an' folly, 'wid English or Irish, an' you
VOL. CCVII.-NO. MCCLVI.
th' Orangeys landed their Mausers from Hamburg, to slaughter the wan as lief as th' other?'
"We bruk away then, he to-Hellin' the reel Pope an' I doin' the like be ivry weeny black Pope in his wrinkly tin Vatioun all over Ulsther. It was a kin' of s'lute we had always, meetin' an' partin'.
"Begob, if the nex' Monday mornin' he didn' come shankin' on to parade on the wan barrick square with meself. We were formin' B Comp'ny that day, an' th' owl' SergeantMajor, Yorke, was expoundin': 'Sixteen men I'll have now, for Number Wan Seotion, Who-iver they are, they'll work together, eat together, sleep together, an' fight together, from this out to th' end of the war. So anny man wishful to be with his pal, let him look to it now, or howld his peace afther. Men off'rin' for Number Wan Section, two paces step forrud.'
"Jawn gev me wan vinegar glanst an' stept out. 'Good!' thinks I, 'the sky's clearin' wanst more. Num'er Sixteen Section's the boys for me money.' I sted where I was.
"A big man on me right was gazin' melancholy at Jawn standin' out there be himself. 'Be the grace of Gawd,' says the big man under his breath, he may not be lousy,' an' then he steps forrud.
"Another tall man, on me lef' flank, was a big grazier from Antrim. "The two of thim's evenly fed,' he says 3 G
soft an' low, an' he steps forrud opposut Quinshy, a good place
'Anny more Tiny Tims?' says Yorke, sizin' up wid his eye the ten gi'nts he'd collected be now. A good man he was, an' had his joke always. Kilt in the Railway Thriangle, east of Arras, an' the las' thing he said was, 'Get on wid ye, men! I'm makin' a separut peace.'
"Be now he had fifteen ver'table monsthers. 'Wan more Little Tich is required,' he says; 'gran' featherweight boxin' we'll have in this seotion.'
"Ye'll think me an ijjut. Me that had the chanst to be shut of him, for the duration, be the howl len'th of a comp'ny! I dunno. Was it the wicked conceit of me statoher? Was it the shame of me bein' left there stickin' out of the ranks like a lamppos' surrounded be childher? Was it that word of the boxin', an' all the good ut might bring? Dear knows. We're the quare craytures, I stept out, be some divil's guidance.
"I'll not trouble ye with a report on our trainin'. Ye've had it yerself. It was six months for all an' six years for th' onfort'nates condemned to the wan hut wi' Jawn. We came out to the trenches above be the briekstacks,
in itself, wi' the makin's in it of quiet an' peace-the dugouts more Christianable than manny; some derelic' trucks on a line pretty handy with more or less coal ye ond pinch; our QuarthermastherSergeant had genius-he gev us the firs' plum-duff ever et be British troops in a firin' trench. Nothin' to trouble at all, on'y Jawn's clapper tongue, ud deafen a miller, murdh'rin' the life of the home.
"Wan night he bet all. He went beyant the beyants. In the depth of the perishin' spring it was, that they have in those parts, an' a nasty thin evenin' - mist at the time an' a cowld rain, an' the moon not risin' over La Bassy till later a night the monkeys ye'd see in a Zoo 'ud be huggin' each other to keep off the chill. An' Jawn there in the dug-out, settin' a little apart, hottin' his nose wid a short pipe ye'd be sick an' tired of seein' before ye all day, an' all th' off-jooty men round him good practical Cath'lics, an' he just gabbin' an' gabbin' on about the wil' doin's of some wiokud medjeevul Pope he'd invented.
"Of corse I was settin' him right. Why wuddent I, knowin' me fac's. But not enjoyin' ut. Weary I was of ut all. I'd liefest have had the man dead, an' all the worl' tranquul.
"Near direct action we were when Shane, our platoon Sergeant then he was kilt at