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´╗┐Title: The Ballad of Ensign Joy
Author: Hornung, E.W.
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "The Ballad of Ensign Joy" ***

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THE BALLAD of ENSIGN JOY


By E.W. Hornung


E. P. Dutton & Company


1917



THE BALLAD of ENSIGN JOY


[Ill 0001]


[Ill 0007]


[Ill 9011]
IS is the story of

````Ensign Joy

````And the obsolete

`````rank withal

````That I love for each gentle English

`````boy

````Who jumped to his country's

`````call.

````By their fire and fun, and the

`````deeds they've done,

````I would gazette them Second to

`````none

````Who faces a gun in Gaul!)



|IT is also the story of Ermyntrude

````A less appropriate name

````For the dearest prig and the

`````prettiest prude!

````But under it, all the same,

````The usual consanguineous squad

````Had made her an honest child

`````of God--

````And left her to play the game.



|IT was just when the grind of

`````the Special Reserves,

````Employed upon Coast Defence,

````Was getting on every Ensign's

`````nerves--

````Sick-keen to be drafted

`````hence--

````That they met and played tennis

`````and danced and sang,

````The lad with the laugh and the

`````schoolboy slang,

````The girl with the eyes intense.



|YET it wasn't for him that she

`````languished and sighed,

````But for all of our dear deemed

`````youth;

````And it wasn't for her, but her

`````sex, that he cried,

````If he could but have probed

`````the truth !

````Did she? She would none of his

`````hot young heart;

````As khaki escort he's tall and

`````smart,

````As lover a shade uncouth.



|HE went with his draft. She

`````returned to her craft.

````He wrote in his merry vein:

````She read him aloud, and the

````Studio laughed!

````Ermyntrude bore the strain.

````He was full of gay bloodshed and

````Old Man Fritz:

````His flippancy sent her friends

`````into fits.

````Ermyntrude frowned with

`````pain.



|HIS tales of the Sergeant who

`````swore so hard

````Left Ermyntrude cold and

`````prim;

````The tactless truth of the picture

`````jarred,

````And some of his jokes were

`````grim.

````Yet, let him but skate upon

`````tender ice,

````And he had to write to her twice

`````or thrice

````Before she would answer him.



|YET once she sent him a

`````fairy's box,

````And her pocket felt the brunt

````Of tinned contraptions and

`````books and socks--

````Which he hailed as "a sporting

`````stunt!"

````She slaved at his muffler none

`````the less,

````And still took pleasure in mur-

`````muring, "Yes!

````For a friend of mine at the

````Front.")



|ONE fine morning his name

`````appears--

````Looking so pretty in print!

````"Wounded!" she warbles in

`````tragedy tears--

````And pictures the reddening

`````lint,

````The drawn damp face and the

`````draggled hair . . .

````But she found him blooming in

````Grosvenor Square,

````With a punctured shin in a

`````splint.



|IT wasn't a haunt of Ermyn-

`````trude's,

````That grandiose urban pile;

````Like starlight in arctic altitudes

````Was the stately Sister's smile.

````It was just the reverse with

````Ensign Joy--

````In his golden greeting no least

`````alloy--

````In his shining eyes no guile!



|HE showed her the bullet that

`````did the trick--

````He showed her the trick,

`````x-ray'd;

````He showed her a table timed to

`````a tick,

````And a map that an airman

`````made.

````He spoke of a shell that caused grievous loss--

````But he never mentioned a certain

`````cross

````For his part in the escapade!



|SHE saw it herself in a list next

`````day,

````And it brought her back to his

`````bed,

````With a number of beautiful

`````things to say,

````Which were mostly over his

`````head.

````Turned pink as his own pyjamas'

`````stripe,

````To her mind he ceased to em-

`````body a type--

````Sank into her heart instead.



|I WONDER that all of you

`````didn't retire!"

````"My blighters were not that

`````kind."

````"But it says _you_ 'advanced un-

`````der murderous fire,

````Machine-gun and shell com-

`````bined--'"

````"Oh, that's the regular War

````Office wheeze!"

````"'Advanced'--with that leg!--

`````'on his hands and knees'!"

````"I couldn't leave it behind."



|HE was soon trick-driving an

`````invalid chair,

`````and dancing about on a crutch;

````The _haute noblesse_ of Grosvenor

````Square

````Felt bound to oblige as such;

````They sent him for many a motor-

`````whirl--

````With the wistful, willowy wisp of

`````a girl

````Who never again lost touch.



|THEIR people were most of

`````them dead and gone.

````They had only themselves to

````His pay was enough to marry

`````upon,

````As every Ensign sees.

````They would muddle along (as

`````in fact they did)

````With vast supplies of the _tertium

`````quid_

````You bracket with bread-and-

`````cheese.

`````please.



|THEY gave him some leave

`````after Grosvenor Square--

````And bang went a month on

`````banns;

````For Ermyntrude had a natural

`````_flair_

````For the least unusual plans.

````Her heaviest uncle came down

`````well,

````And entertained, at a fair hotel,

````The dregs of the coupled clans.



|A CERTAIN number of

`````cheques accrued

````To keep the wolf from the

`````door:

````The economical Ermyntrude

````Had charge of the dwindling

`````store,

````When a Board reported her

`````bridegroom fit

````As--some expression she didn't

`````permit . . .

````And he left for the Front once

`````more.



|HIS crowd had been climbing

`````the jaws of hell:

````He found them in death's dog-

`````teeth,

````With little to show but a good

`````deal to tell

````In their fissure of smoking

`````heath.

````There were changes--of course

`````--but the change in him

````Was the ribbon that showed on

`````his tunic trim

````And the tumult hidden be-

`````neath!



|FOR all he had suffered and

`````seen before

````Seemed nought to a husband's

`````care;

````And the Chinese puzzle of mod-

`````ern war

````For subtlety couldn't compare

````With the delicate springs of the

`````complex life

````To be led with a highly sensitised

`````wife

````In a slightly rarefied air!



|YET it's good to be back with

`````the old platoon--

````"A man in a world of men"!

````Each cheery dog is a henchman

`````boon--

````Especially Sergeant Wren!

````Ermyntrude couldn't endure his

`````name--

````Considered bad language no lien

`````on fame,

````Yet it's good to--hear it

`````again!



|BETTER to feel the Ser-

`````geant's grip,

````Though your fingers ache to

`````the bone!

````Better to take the Sergeant's tip

````Than to make up your mind

`````alone.

````They can do things together, can

````Wren and Joy--

````The bristly bear and the beard-

`````less boy--

````That neither could do on his

`````own.



|BUT there's never a word

`````about Old Man Wren

````In the screeds he scribbles

`````to-day--

````Though he praises his N.C.O.'s

`````and men

````In rather a pointed way.

````And he rubs it in (with a knitted

`````brow)

````That the war's as good as a pic-

`````nic now,

````And better than any play!



|HIS booby-hutch is "as safe

`````as the Throne,"

````And he fares "like the C.-in-

````Chief,"

````But has purchased "a top-hole

`````gramophone

````By way of comic relief."

````(And he sighs as he hears the

`````men applaud,

````While the Woodbine spices are

`````wafted abroad

````With the odour of bully-beef.)



|HE may touch on the latest

`````type of bomb,

````But Ermyntrude needn't

`````blench,

````For he never says where you hurl

`````it from,

````And it might be from your

`````trench.

````He never might lead a stealthy

`````band,

````Or toe the horrors of No Man's

````Land,

````Or swim at the sickly stench. . . .



|HER letters came up by

`````ration-cart

````As the men stood-to before

`````dawn:

````He followed the chart of her

`````soaring heart

````With face transfigured yet

`````drawn:

````It filled him with pride, touched

`````with chivalrous shame.

````But--it spoilt the war, as a first-

`````class game,

````For this particular pawn.



|THE Sergeant sees it, and

`````damns the cause

````In a truly terrible flow;

````But turns and trounces, without

`````a pause,

````A junior N. C. O.

````For the crime of agreeing that

````Ensign Joy

````Isn't altogether the officer boy

````That he was four months ago!



|AT length he's dumfounded

`````(the month being May)

````By a sample of Ermyntrude's

`````fun!

````"You will kindly get leave _over

````Christmas Day_,

````Or make haste and finish the

````But Christmas means presents,

`````she bids him beware:

````"So what do you say to a son and

`````heir?

````I'm thinking of giving you

````Hun!"



|WHAT, indeed, does the

````Ensign say?

````What does he sit and write?

````What do his heart-strings drone all day?

````What do they throb all night?

````What does he add to his piteous

`````prayers?--

````"Not for my own sake, Lord, but

`````--_theirs_,

````See me safe through ..."



|THEY talk--and he writhes

`````--"of our spirit out here,

````Our valour and all the rest!

````There's my poor, lonely, delicate

`````dear,

````As brave as the very best!

````We stand or fall in a cheery

`````crowd,

````And yet how often we grouse

`````aloud!

````She faces _that_ with a jest!"



|HE has had no sleep for a day

`````and a night;

````He has written her half a

`````ream;

````He has Iain him down to wait for

`````the light,

````And at last come sleep--and a

`````dream.

````He's hopping on sticks up the

`````studio stair:

````A telegraph-boy is waiting there,

````And--that is his darling's

`````scream!



|HE picks her up in a tender

`````storm--

````But how does it come to pass

````That he cannot see his reflected

`````form

````With hers in the studio glass?

````"What's wrong with that mir-

`````ror?"' he cries.

````But only the Sergeant's voice

`````replies:

````"Wake up, Sir! The Gas--

`````the Gas!"



|IS it a part of the dream of

`````dread?

````What are the men about?

````Each one sticking a haunted

`````head

````Into a spectral clout!

````Funny, the dearth of gibe and

`````joke,

````When each one looks like a pig

`````in a poke,

````Not omitting the snout!



|THERE'S your mask, Sir! No

`````time to lose!"

````Ugh, what a gallows shape!

````Partly white cap, and partly

`````noose!

````Somebody ties the tape.

````Goggles of sorts, it seems, inset:

````Cock them over the parapet,

````Study the battlescape.



|ENSIGN JOY'S in the second

`````line--

````And more than a bit cut off;

````A furlong or so down a green

`````incline

````The fire-trench curls in the

`````trough.

````Joy cannot see it--it's in the bed

````Of a river of poison that brims

`````instead.

````He can only hear--a cough!



|NOTHING to do for the

````Companies there--

````Nothing but waiting now,

````While the Gas rolls up on the

`````balmy air,

````And a small bird cheeps on a

`````bough.

````All of a sudden the sky seems full

````Of trusses of lighted cotton-wool

````And the enemy's big bow-

`````wow!



|THE firmament cracks with

`````his airy mines,

````And an interlacing hail

````Threshes the clover between our

`````lines,

````As a vile invisible flail.

````And the trench has become a

`````mighty vice

````That holds us, in skins of molten

`````ice,

````For the vapors that fringe the

`````veil.



|IT'S coming--in billowy swirls

`````--as smoke

````From the roof a world on fire.

````It--comes! And a lad with a

`````heart of oak

````Knows only that heart's de-

`````sire!

````His masked lips whimper but one

`````dear name--

````And so is he lost to inward shame

````That he thrills at the word:

````"_Re-tire!_"



|WHOSE is the order, thrice

`````renewed?

````Ensign Joy cannot tell :

````Only, that way lies Ermyntrude,

````And the other way this hell!

````Three men leap from the pois-

`````oned fosse,

````Three men plunge from the para-

`````dos,

````And--their--officer--as well!



|NOW, as he flies at their fly-

`````ing heels,

````He awakes to his deep dis-

`````grace,

````But the yawning pit of his shame

`````reveals

````A way of saving his face:

````He twirls his stick to a shep-

`````herd's crook,

````To trip and bring one of them

`````back to book,

````As though he'd been giving

`````chase!



|HE got back gasping--

````"They'd too much start!"

````"I'd've shot 'em instead!"

`````said Wren.

````"That was your job, Sir, if you'd

`````the 'eart--

````But it wouldn't 've been you,

`````then.

````I pray my Lord I may live to see

````A firing-party in front o' them

`````three!"

````(That's what he said to the

`````men.)



|NOW, Joy and Wren, of

`````Company B,

````Are a favourite firm of mine;

````And the way they reinforced A,

````C, and D

````Was, perhaps, not unduly fine;

````But it meant a good deal both to

````Wren and Joy--

````That grim, gaunt man, but that

`````desperate boy!--

````And it didn't weaken the Line.



|NOT a bad effort of yours,

`````my lad,"

````The Major deigned to declare.

````"My Sergeant's plan, Sir"--

````"And that's not bad--

````But you've lost that ribbon

`````you wear?"

````"It--must have been eaten away

`````by the Gas!"

````"Well--ribbons are ribbons--

`````but don't be an ass!

````It's better to do than dare."



|DARE! He has dared to de-

`````sert his post--

````But he daren't acknowledge

`````his sin!

````He has dared to face Wren with

`````a lying boast--

````But Wren is not taken in.

````None sings his praises so long

`````and loud--

````With look so loving and loyal

`````and proud!

````But the boy sees under his

`````skin.



|DAILY and gaily he wrote to

`````his wife,

````Who had dropped the beati-

`````fied droll

````And was writing to him on the

````Meaning of Life

````And the Bonds between Body

`````and Soul.

````Her courage was high--though

`````she mentioned its height;

````She was putting upon her the

````Armour of Light--

````Including her aureole!



|BUT never a helm had the lad

`````we know,

````As he went on his nightly raids

````With a brace of his Blighters, an

````N. G O.

````And a bagful of hand-grenades

````And the way he rattled and

`````harried the Hun--

````The deeds he did dare, and the

`````risks he would run--

````Were the gossip of the Bri-

`````gades.



|HOW he'd stand stockstill as

`````the trunk of a tree,

````With his face tucked down

`````out of sight,

````When a flare went up and the

`````other three

````Fell prone in the frightening

`````light.

````How the German sandbags, that

`````made them quake,

````Were the only cover he cared to

`````take,

````But he'd eavesdrop there all

`````night.



|MACHINE-GUNS, tapping

`````a phrase in Morse,

````Grew hot on a random quest,

````And swarms of bullets buzzed

`````down the course

````Like wasps from a trampled

`````nest.

````Yet, that last night!

````They had just set off

````When he pitched on his face with

`````a smothered cough,

````And a row of holes in his chest.



|HE left a letter. It saved

`````the lives

````Of the three who ran from the

````Gas;

````A small enclosure alone survives,

````In Middlesex, under glass:

````Only the ribbon that left his

`````breast

````On the day he turned and ran

`````with the rest,

````And lied with a lip of brass!



|BUT the letters they wrote

`````about the boy,

````From the Brigadier to the

`````men!

````They would never forget dear

````Mr. Joy,

````Not look on his like again.

````Ermyntrude read them with dry,

`````proud eye.

````There was only one letter that

`````made her cry.

````It was from Sergeant Wren:



|THERE never was such a fear-

`````less man,

````Or one so beloved as he.

````He was always up to some daring

`````plan,

````Or some treat for his men and

`````me.

````There wasn't his match when he

`````went away;

````But since he got back, there has

`````not been a day

````But what he has earned a

````V. C



|A CYNICAL story? That's

`````not my view.

````The years since he fell are

`````twain.

````What were his chances of coming

`````through?

````Which of his friends remain?

````But Ermyntrude's training a

`````splendid boy

````Twenty years younger than En-

`````sign Joy.

````On balance, a British gain!



|AND Ermyntrude, did she

`````lose her all

````Or find it, two years ago?

````O young girl-wives of the boys

`````who fall,

````With your youth and your

`````babes to show!

````No heart but bleeds for your

`````widowhood.

````Yet Life is with you, and Life is

`````good.

````No bone of _your_ bone lies low!



|YOUR blessedness came--as

`````it went--in a day.

````Deep dread but heightened

`````your mirth.

````Your idols' feet never turned to

`````clay--

````Never lit upon common earth.

````Love is the Game but is _not_ the

````Goal:

````You played it together, body and

`````soul,

````And you had your Candle's

`````worth.



|YES! though the Candle light

`````a Shrine,

````And heart cannot count the

`````cost,

````You are Winners yet in its tender

`````shine!

````Would _they_ choose to have

`````lived and lost?

````There are chills, you see, for the

`````finest hearts;

````But, once it is only old Death

`````that parts,

````There can never come twinge

`````of frost.



|AND this be our comfort for

````Every Boy

````Cut down in his high heyday,

````Or ever the Sweets of the Morn-

`````ing cloy,

````Or the Green Leaf wither

`````away;

````So a sunlit billow curls to a crest,

````And shouts as it breaks at its

`````loveliest,

````In a glory of rainbow spray!



|BE it also the making of

````Ermyntrude,

````And many a hundred more--

````Compact of foibles and forti-

`````tude--

````Woo'd, won, and widow'd, in

````War.

````God, keep us gallant and unde-

`````filed,

````Worthy of Husband, Lover, or

`````--Child...

````Sweet as themselves at the

`````core!





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