Page images

Diokybush after-kem into the homestid. 'Gawd save,' he says, 'all in this place. Two volunteers to go wirin'?'

"We had been out for a while, so there wasn't th' ugly rush that there was in the wil' early days at anny word of the kin'-every man for some sport for himself before they'd have a peace signed on him. Ev'rywan knew be now he'd be kilt in his turn, widout leppin' out of his place in the cue. Every wan knew ut except a few lads jus' come out on a draf'. I had to spake quickly be raison of them. But I'd have given me sowl for an hour's quiet that minnut, out of range of that Orangeman's endluss haranguin'. An' so I let a yell that won be a head: 'Ye promust me, Sergeant, the time that I misbehaved in the lorry.'

"The same instiant minnut Shane nodded at me, an' an' Martin's owl' creak of a voice kem in 8 good second. 'Here's wan, Sergeant,' he said. The boys from the draf' also ran. A Jook that was wan of thim had a very good argymint nearly ready why he should go. But they hadn't an owl' soljer's rapid rayaction und her a schimulus. So I stept down before thim into the pool. An' they hadn' enjured howl gen'rations of livin' nex' door to the Martins. An' now, Gawd help me! Martin was in for ut too, an' me qui-ut day in the country rooned before ut had started. "Dad, if he hadn' been an actin' Lance Corpril, onpaid, I'd have been in comman' of

[ocr errors]

the party, me bein' th' owldest soljer be four days. Then I'd have put him through ut, be eripes. As ut was, I had on'y me tongue to come to me


"Why was ut,' said I, whin Shane had tuk lave of us, 'why was ut, Corp., that I got in before ye? Aye, in a canter.'

"Ye're a liar,' says he, with his teejus habit of missin' the point of annythin' that a person would say. 'I was as wishful to go as yerself,'

666 were that,' says I. 'Your on'y trouble was, when the time came for a good burst of speed, ye were thinkin' in English, a foreign language instinctively quare to your min', an' you a son of the Gael, however pervarted.'

"An' how long wud ye be, your own self, ye fantastic owld antiquarium,' says Martin, 'in spittin' out even as much as "Here, Sergeant " itself, in the Gaelio? From this out till to-morra, mebbe, an' then needin' a pencil an' slate brought to ye before ye'd compose ut.'

"Very fort'nut was it that I knew me fac's. The mere gabbin',' says I, 'is nothin' at all. It's the thinkin' that matters.

Learn your own native language that's hangin' about at the back of your min', an' think in it bowldly. There's no other way ye'll escape from this habit of sthrikin' in late in th' hour of trile-the way a hen 'ud be in an' she attemptin' to neigh or to bark it all out in her min', instead of eluekin', before

she'd quit out of the way of a cart. She'd be swif'ly run


"He didn't answer me then.

"At elivin we p'raded for ordhers, relatin' to th' innemy's wire. The Captain himself he was kilt at High Woodwas out an' about in the trench whin we quitted for Germ'ny. Be that we knew we'd be safe from behin'. The m'ral of the men was that high they'd be loosin' off all night at anny owl' olod they'd percaive, in the hope it might be a good action. As for annythin' movin', Gawd help ut! An' so we were glad. If annythin' human oud hol' back our sentries from makin' good groups on our sterns, Shane an' the Cap. were the





"Th' innemy's wire was siventy paces away, an', as you know, siventy paces routemarch on your belly, the way of the snake in the garden, is no good to anny wan, ever. we went about an' about. not a good mot'rin' road. Martin niver stopped but wanst to take breath. Mebbe ye've observed, when takin' a walk with a friend, there are men that go faster an' faster the more they're intint, in their seorut insides, on inventin' the divil's own repartees, all ready to fire, an' whin they're gettin' on gran'ly within, forgin' all the munitions they'd want, they're fit to gallop itself. Jawn was wan of the breed.

"Th' on'y time he tuk iver a pull, he turned on me sudden an' ven'mus.

"Ye an' yer preestoric owl' Gaelic !' he whispers. 'A

match for th' owl' women that won't use a ha'porth of linen that's med with anny machine that was new since the Flood!'

"For a man,' says I, 'tryin' to marshal his thoughts in an outlandish tongue, ye've not dawdled at all,' says I, 'in devisin' that smashin' retort. Very barely four hours.'

"An' why stop at the Gaelic?' he says, pantin'. 'Why not go back to the reel startin' gate while ye're at ut, an' think in Persian or Greek or some owld yappin' noise your forefawthers med, an' they monkeys leppin' about in the trees?'

"I was beginnin' at 'Hwat are the fac's?' when Martin adjourned th' alteroayshn be boltin' again. It had done no good to our tempers. To Martin's at all evense. Well he knew I'd have put ut across him on that new quistion he'd raised, before settin' off, about soi'nce an' religion. So nothin' would do him but plunge on ahead I'll engage he was sharp'nin already the nex' dart he'd plant in me vitals-an'not mind at all where he went till he'd slung himself hid over heels into wan of th' owld flooded bog-howls left be the shells. It was eammiflaged well, I'll admit, be the grass an' weeds growin' out long from th' edges.


"I med sure th' inn'my wud hear. How wuddent he hear a rhinoe'rus, the like of that, ent'rin' his bath? An', the nex' thing, I knew ut. Aye, be dint of a weeny olickin' noise from his trench. It's the cock of a Very pistol, thinks I, an' the light's comin' on-that

or some godluss breed of an ber ye de at these orit'oul Emma G that they have, an' momints. Thinkin' of all the it bein' called to attention be- blisth'rin' force of the chat fore it'd start the good work. I'd be givin' to Martin after An' be now the mist was liftin' lights-out. I that had come like smoke, an' a clean half to that remote place for a moon was dhrawin' itself away season of quiet, away from up the sky, informin' upon us. the janglin' an' strafes of the worl'.

"Jawn's head was stickin' out of the deep. I'll engage he was cowld. But his body was sheltered from solluds at anny rate, under th' eastern wall of the howl, an' he oud submerge for short inthervals, too, if th' inn'my shud menace his piriscope. I was the victim, out in the wide worl'. An' Jawn saw ut. 'Flatten yourself,' he whispers, over the face of the wathers. Flatter, be far, for the love of Gawd. Rowl yourself out into pastry before they put the light on ye.'

[ocr errors]

Begob, I'd been flat as a plaice from that diabolue click onward. Breadth had I been from that out; no thicknuss at all. I hadn' stopped to tilliphone to the Corps. An' when I was plast'rin the groun' the like of a poultus, I found a howl the size of a thimble an' put me nose in ut.

"Then kem the trouble. Th' inn'my was damnin' expinse. Pourin' out money. Three, four, five Very lights at wan instiant. Wan great baste of an arc light of a moon that ud illum'nate half Waterloo Station went on loiterin' over me head; I'd enjured a twelvemonth, be what I oud judge, of invijjus public'ty before ut went out. An' me there thinkin' slowly an' caref❜lly, the way ye'll remim

"In due course the fireworks ixpired. It was amazin'-the bats hadn't seen me at all. I'll own that the firs' thing I done with me new start in life was to spend a few seconds in grinnin' an' shiv'rin' with chuckles, alone with meself in the kin', friendly dark, the way I'd not done since the time that I was a boy an' snooissfully hid in the loft from me fawther.

"Me nex' thought was of others. Jawn had crep' forth from the bed of the howl an' lay on the shelvin' fore-shore like a newt.

666 Shall we shank on wid us, Corpril?' I whispered. 'Or have ye come out,' I added, 'to this rugged spot to enjoy adult baptism on'y?' I knew me fao's, an' the pistilint sect of the man.

"The game is quared on us,' he mutters discontintedlymore to himself than to anny


"It's devilloped,' says I, 'be what I can see, into ruthless subm'rine warfare.'

"Mebbe I'd do right,' says he, 'to go back for fresh ordhers. Th' innimy 'll watch an' pray from this out.'

"Aye will he,' says I-'the prayer of all sentries on earth to rest onmolested, thim an' their wire, to th' end of their

watch. An' shall we,' says I, 'grant their request? Isn't it carryin' gratiohude altogether too far, for the Reformaysh'n itself, an' the lunch that the Kaiser gev Carson?' I'd have said more, but ye know the neciss❜ty of keepin' eenoise in the field.

"Begob, in the moon comin' up I oud see the whites of his eyes very quare-shaped an' vishus at that, the like of a horse that'd offer to bite ye. 'Carry on workin', he says, an' he was off on the top gear again, lettin' her rip for th' inn'my's wire, the way I was out of me breath, beltin' after him on me intestines, before he let up all of a suddent. An' then I saw why.

"He'd his head liftud up from the groun' an' pressed back same as 'Heads backwardbend' at phys'oul drill, on'y frozen. Starin' rijjud he was, to his front-ye oud tell be the back of his neck, an' it dark night, how he had the eyes bulgin' out of him, starin' at somethin'. Then I saw ut too.

"It was a man, lyin' full on his belly, the like of ourselves. He was facin' at us, an' he had his head a weeny shade lower than Martin's-a better posish'n. Crouchin' outside th' innimy's wire he was, ten feet away from us.

"Wan thing I knew. Jawn 'ud do right. A quar'lsome man an' a bigot, an' yet a good soljer, the way he'd do best the time all before him'd be goin' its worst. He'd earned his stripe well. Put him in anny owld sort of a fix, with

out notus-he'd do right, the like of a cat knockin' into a dog an' she walkin' about in her sleep-she'd have th' eyes of him out before lettin' a yawn, an' Jawn was her aquil.

"There was clouds now sthravadin' over the moon, so I cudden't see all, But me heart tol' me Jawn was sof'ly exthractin' a bomb from his right tunic - pocket, an' piokin' the pin of it out, an' howldin' it ready to throw. An' so I conformed to his movemints.

"He didn' throw yet. An' then he set off orawlin' precawshusly on too'rds the man, an' the man keepin' still, the two of thim there like a dog reconnoithrin' a strange dog, an' movin' gradjul an' stiff an' Jawn collected for action. orep' an' he orep' till he'd crep' right up to the man, an' then he put out a han' an' felt the face of the man, an' the man didn' mind ut at all. An' then Jawn signalled me on.

"Ye'll have guessed how ut W88. Fritz had been dead a great while. He'll have gone on some irrand or other, the same as ourselves. There'd bin no battle there, at the time, an' dead men in the open not plintiful yet.

[blocks in formation]

"I got me head levil to Jawn's. Gran' had, behin' the dead German. 'How soon did ye know?' I whispered.

"Know hwat?' says he sourly.

"That Fritz,' says I, 'had gone west?'

"From the moment,' says

he, that he kem in me presence."

"How'd ye see ut?' says I. "I didn', says he. 'I smelt ut. The man was a Papis'. Wuddn' I know a dead Papis' at ten feet away in the good scentin' weather we're havin'?' "Thinks I, 'Ye can score yourself wan, me fine lad, but the night isn't over.' I left ut at that for the momint. 'An' BO,' says I, 'the pin is not out of your bomb?'


"It is 666 is not,' says 'Why'd I stir ut at all, an' it apt not to go back to joety when wanst demob'lised, an' have me there howldin' a mad trigger down for the rest of th' excursion?'

"Ye're lucky,' says I. 'Me own pin's out an' lost on me howlly, beyant in the grass.'

"Han' me over the bomb,' says Martin.

"I may have hizzitated a second.

"Han' ut across,' he repayted. 'We're not howldin' the firs' session after Howm Rule,'

"I handed it over. Sthrainin' it seemed to be, under me han', to be off an' at work in its station in life.

"I'll give ut a home,' he says, 'now, an' a chanst in life after.'

"How Jawn kep' ut still in his pookut I'll not conjioture-whether he med a new pin of the wire he'd always have in his pookut for snarin' a hare, or tuk out the detonathor itself, or hwat all. Annyway we went on wid our own work, an' a long hour it tuk, th' innimy not bein'

aisy about it at all. Constantly sendin' up flares an' bringin' about unimployment. We'd have had little done if the Cap. hadn't worked the lights for us the gran' way he did, makin' it black where we were, be the force of conthrast. We saw his han' in it an' thanked Hivvin for a good officer.

"At las' we were through with our job on the wire, an' then we assimbled behin' a good sizable mole-hill. We tuk the bearin's of home. Then Martin, that hadn't seemed seemed to be troubled till then, says low in me ear, 'A nice way I'm in with this engine of death that ye gev me rampin' roun' in me pookut.'

"Says I, 'Apt we'll both of us be to be kilt be a primmature burst before we'd see home.'

"We'd do right,' says he, 'to be quit of ut early.'

666 Aye, an' wan or two more,' says I, 'be way of support. It's not twinty paces,' I says, 'to the innimy's trench.'

"An aisy throw,' he says, 'an' we'd be protectin' ourselves.'

"Aye, an' wearin' down also,' says I, 'the innimy's man-pow'r.'

66 6 'They're affordin' the bes' mark,' he says, 'that we've had in the war. They're as thick in that trench as a p'litical meetin'. Lay your ear to the groun' and


'Have I ivver laid ut annywhere else,' says I, 'durin' the howl of the outin'?'

"He had an offensive way

« PreviousContinue »