Imágenes de página

of goin' on from the las' word he'd said, f'r all the worl' as though you'd not spoken at all-'Ye'll hear,' he says, 'the deep hummin' sound of scores of guthral voices.'

"I was ineinsed be that triok that he had of seornin' me little irrel'vance,

"Guthral indeed!' says I. 'Worse than the English, bedad! A good slam of the Gaelic I'll want, to clean me ears after ut.'

"Are ye faultin' th' English again,' says he, 'an' you helpin' thim now?'


[ocr errors]

Aye, to come to come to their senses!' says I. They that set up the Prooshans in life, at th' expinse of the Frinch, when the Honezolluns hadn't the strenth of the Great Joyces in Galway. They that went to the Germans for fiddlers an' waiters an' kings, an' a cap for their troops, an' a new religion itself, an' whatever they'd want. An' why not at all, an' they all cousins an' Chewtons together?'

"Aye, an' fightin' like cousins,' says he. Kape yer head down,' he says. But he didn' say 'Kape your mouth shut.' A quar❜lsome man, wil' to be at an argyment always, An' there we lay, he on his right cheek an' me on me left, nuzzlin' the wet groun' while I towld him the fao's, subjooin' me voice because of th' inn'my. The two front lines were sendin' up lights all along, an' they intersiotin' wan another above us, the way we seemed to be lyin' out on the floor of a church with a great aroh over our heads

an' the lines of ut all drawn be the tracks of the lights.

"I give th' English all criddit,' says I, 'for comin' at lenth to thimselves, the same as Friday, the black, that turned friendly at last an' assisted the traveller, Robinson Crusoe, against the manaitin' souts that he had in his fam❜ly.'

"Downright fawnin' ye are righ on th' Englishry now,' says Martin. 'Ye'd do right to get a good Blighty, the first wan that offers, an' off with ye home, an' preach your new Gospil to hay thens like Casemint.'

"Such bein's are mere than half English,' says I, 'be descent, or they'd see the gran' laugh we have now at th' English, an' they comin' roun' at last to detist all that's German as much as ourselves. Begob but th' English are entered now to the vermin they had for their cousins, an', plaze Gawd! they'll nivver return to their vommut.'

"I oud have gone on a great while, bein' up in me fac's, but ye'll understand I was speakin' in that place under some disadvantij. Still, I'd got me word in, an' I felt aisier after. But, if ye'll believe me, he wasn't convinced, not a tittle. He tuk out the bomb from his pookut. 'Before

ye have me distroyed,' he says, 'be soreechin' an' hullabalooin' across to your fellow-inn'mies of Englan', we'll bring an event into those quiet lives.'

"Wishful I was for ut too, after the teejum we'd had, an'

an' the Cap., that had ordered
us not to dhraw fire. 'Have
we author'ty for ut?' says I.
"God help ye! Author'ty!'
says he, "If ye hadn't turned
the Reformaysh'n away from
the door ye'd have some in-
divijjle judgmen' to-day an' a
modhern soljer's inish'tive in
an immergenoy.'

yet fritened to think of Shane "Canter,' says he, 'canter along on your bowils.' There was a great seren'ty, for wanst, in his voice. An' I was the same way meself-at peace with mankin'. Ye know how ye are, after prosp'rin', at hom'cide. 'Canter,' says he, almost civ'lly. I cantered. An' reason enough. The howl concern was lookin' apt to diginnerate into a war of attrishn. Fritz was dead tired of havin' the night that he's had. Dead set agin anny more secrut diplom'oy. The hivvins above an' th' earth beneath, he illuminated thim all. 'Twas as though he'd tuk Paris. If he'd have done ut in London he'd have been fined.

"Reformaysh'n be damned!' says I. 'We'll have the Cap. up on his hin' legs, tellin' us off for self-actin' mules.'

"Ye're a chile of author'ty,' says he. 'So strike out for the comfor's of home, the while I'll be leavin' me card, an' then after you.'

"It was an ordher. I set out an' squirmed a good four paces westward. Then I thought hadn't I got a good right to disobey Jawn, an' he disobeyin' a comp'ny commander? So I checked in me course an' tuk the pin out of the second bomb that I had, an' lay on me back, with me feet to the foe an' me head illivated, to see what Jawn 'ud be at. Black agin the full shine of the moon, I saw his arrum, an' it swingin' back for the throw. Thin I loosed me own trigger an' held on for two seconds good, to mek sure of a burst before Fritz 'ud return the ball to the bowler.

"Jawn was a natty bomber, no quistion. His cracker had burst fair in th' inn'my's trench be the time I sent mine speedin' after its collaigue. The ories that there were in that trench! An' then Martin kem west, wrigglin' headlong, the back of him ripplin' the like of a caterpillar tryin' to gallop.

"All the way Martin behin' me was gruntin' out steerin' diriotions. 'Half-right,' he'd nivver done sayin', 'ye owld Maryolath'r-anny patch of dead groun' in this wiekud worl' is half-right.' Or Gallop,' he'd say, an' we close on our wire, 'nivver mind yer owld vitals. Gallop before they put the lanthern on our posteriors.'

"Then it kem on us. Aye, like the judgmint of Gawd fallin' down. There was but the wan lane through the wire, an' straight an' narrow the way, an' that fi'ry sword flamin' down on the gate. No use shammin' dead like the beetles ye'd bring to the light wid your spade. We'd ha' been filled as full of howls as a net. Fritz had got the addriss, an' already the stuff was not bein' far misdelivered.

"I lep in at th' op'nin' an' on toords the par'put. 'Rowl yerself over ut! Bowl yerself

over ut, anny owld way,' yells Martin behin' me, an' then I knew he was hit, be the traces of voilent effort there were in the voice of him.

[ocr errors]

"Now I'll engage ye'll think me a fool. I that had got, be the act of Gawd an' the King's inn'mies, a chanst to be shut of him howlly, for ever, relievin' th' entire platoon of the ourse of Hivvin that Martin was nivver done callin' down be his godlussnuss on us all. A man's a quare thing. I'm tol' be a firs' class dentist beyant at Dromore, if a tooth hasn' got a tooth the match of itself for to bite on, its apt to grow weaker an' weaker, an' fall out evensh'ly. Mebbe it's like that. An' Jawn was as bad. 'Off wid ye to hell!' he says, houndin' me on into safety, th' instiant I halted. Mebbe it was just me resintment at him givin' orders an' ourses an' biznuss as usu'l wid all the pride of a Corp'ril ixpirin' on jooty. Be damned,' thinks I, 'if ye're goin' to stay out there actin' hayroes an' martyrs all night,' an' I wint back an' gev him a fireman's lift an' away with me lovely burden. He was the weight o' the worl'. Be eripes, it's a good horse wins the Gran' Nashnal.

"All the dammij I felt on the road was a sting in me unemployed arm. Then I tuk wan flyin' lep, the like of his own way of goin' to bed, an' the two of us landed, in wan knot of arms an' legs, into the trench, alightin' first on the firin' step an' then in th' owl' stablewashin's of water there was

in the fairway below, an' savin' the life of an inexpairienced sentry be knockin' him down off the step an' out of the way of the muck that was flippin' ivvery where into the parodus, quiet an' vishus.

""Glory,' says I, as we rowled in the sy ooij together, 'be to the Saints!'

"The Saints!' says he, scornful.

"The Cap. saw us before we went down the C.T. on two stretchers. He said we done right. 'But why all the bombin?' he says.

"We found wan of our bombs, sorr,' says Jawn, 'in a dang'rus condition.'

"Yes?' says the Cap. 'An' the other?'

"Mebbe, sorr,' says Jawn, pensive-like, ''twas a kin' ef infection.'

"Hum,' says the Cap. I feared you'd be re-unitin' the Churches.' A good off'cer. He knew all about the two of us. Knew every man's trade in the comp'ny, an' married or single, an' how manny in family.

"Gawd forbid ut!' the two of us said in a breath. An' that ended the talk."

“And what brought the two of you here?" I sleepily asked.

"I was brought," Toomey said, "be a bullet woun' in the liver, an' he be an insincere action, a match for me own.'


I guessed. "Oh, he got back on you then? He gave you a lift in, later on, out of the rain?"

"Aye. Onrequested. Wait an' I'll tell ye."

No doubt the story would

have been good. But I am only English. I am given life on terms. I have to take sore labour's bath now and again. "We'll go on to-morrow," I said. "A bit of shut-eye for

me now.

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

"Ye'll do right," he said. Good-night, an' the blessin' of Gawd be wid ye an' stay wid ye."

I turned over on to my right side, and snuggled in for my sleep. The only thing I could see was the horizontal profile in the next bed. Wasted, etherealised, abstract, the man who had finished joy and moan had now all but attained the remote and awful repose of a marble effigy on a tomb in a Florentine church, seen by one who lies, like itself, on the floor. The only thing to be heard was a faint tap on a window above him, the delicate whipping of some loose end of a climbing rose-tree on the glass. And then, sudden, eruptive, winged with intention and gusto, there came from afar the rush of a huge bass stage whisper: "Are ye wakin', Toomey?"

[ocr errors]

Deep called unto deep. "Is that Corp'ril Martin, mekkin' night hijjus, disturbin' the ward?"

"It is-an' Good-night to ye now, an' to hell wi' the Pope."

An' the divil take William the Second an' William the Third, an' High Dutch an' Low, and every Martin that's in ut, from Luther out, blasphemin' the howl of the day an' then late into bed, kickin' the stars of Gawd wi' the back of your heels. So go now to your rest."

My own eyes were set on the fugitive fineness of that moribund face. It just moved, turning ever so little to right and to left as the gusts of contention blew over it. Then it settled again, the eyes always fixed on the ceiling. I thought of a water weed on a deep pond, fluctuating minutely when gales race overhead, but soon dead - still again at its moorings.

[ocr errors]

But now the gale was abating. At each end of the ward a sequence of snorts of disdain was passing into a dying fall, Through a murmurous grumble it sank into the silent breathing of healthy infants asleep. Thus does high-handed nature interfere with the efforts of man to seek peace and ensue it.





WE were prisoners of war in Turkey. For six months and more my friend and I had been intriguing to get out of Constantinople. We had escaped and been recaptured, and escaped again. At the time of which this story deals (November 1918) we were something of an institution for conspirators in the city. The police had our photographs when we first got away from Psamatia Camp, and the Press its paragraphs when we were caught again, in disguise. When finally we vanished from the Military Prison in Stamboul we were the talk of the bazaars, and we were credited with all sorts of things we had never done, as well as some that we had. We had therefore a certain cachet in the city. We knew all the scoundrels in the place, and some of the respectable people. And our house-a large comfortable house, provided by a very good friend of ours-had become a centre of intrigue in Constantinople at a time when the Turk, and Greek, and Jew, and Armenian were wondering which of them would get their throats out, and which would do the cutting, when the Dardanelles were opened.

Some days after the Turkish Armistice was signed, but before the Allied fleet arrived, we learnt that a certain depart.

ment of the British Army was hampered by an insufficiency of transport and petrol, and that it would be practically immobile on arrival in Constantinople unless a good car was obtained. Was it possible, we were asked, to remedy this by buying in the local markets? We made some inquiries among our wide and polyglot acquaintance, and found it was quite possible. The first requisite for this department was a fast and powerful ear. We were given a free hand as to how to procure it, and a bag of gold to assist us in our efforts. We determined to buy the car that night. Later, we also bought petrol for it.

The parties to the transaetion were M'Tavish, the Profiteer, Francesco, Rudolph, a performing bear, and ourselves.

I include M'Tavish among these personalities, because I simply cannot imagine our ménage in Constantinople without him. He was a prisoner of war like ourselves. A day before the Armistice we had seen him in the streets, homeless and penniless, and we had taken him back with us to become our butler. Never was there 8 more Admirable Crichton. He always did the right thing in the right way, and always kept on the side of the angels, so to speak, without allowing

« AnteriorContinuar »