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Title: How Rifleman Brown Came to Valhalla
Author: Frankau, Gilbert
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 "How Rifleman Brown Came to Valhalla" ***

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                          HOW RIFLEMAN BROWN
                           CAME TO VALHALLA

                                  BY
                            GILBERT FRANKAU

                               NEW YORK
                       FEDERAL PRINTING COMPANY
                                 1916

                            Copyright, 1916

                            Gilbert Frankau

                         _All rights reserved_



                  How Rifleman Brown Came to Valhalla

                          By GILBERT FRANKAU


    To the lower Hall of Valhalla, to the heroes of no renown,
    Relieved from his spell at the listening-post, came Rifleman Joseph Brown.
    With never a rent in his khaki, nor smear of blood on his face,
    He flung his pack from his shoulders and made for an empty place.
    The Killer-men of Valhalla looked up from the banquet board
    At the unfouled breech of his rifle, at the unfleshed point of his sword,
    And the unsung dead of the trenches, the kings who have never a crown,
    Demanded his pass to Valhalla from Rifleman Joseph Brown.
    “_Who comes, unhit, to the party?_” A one-legged Corporal spoke,
    And the gashed heads nodded approval through the rings of the Endless
        Smoke.
    “_Who comes for the beer and the Woodbines of the never-closed Canteen_
    _With the barrack shine on his bayonet and a full-charged magazine?_”
    Then Rifleman Brown looked round him at the nameless men of The Line,
    At the wounds of the shell and the bullet, at the burns of the bomb
        and the mine;
    At the khaki, virgin of medals but crimson-clotted of blood;
    At the ankle-boots and the puttees caked stiff with the Flanders mud;
    At the myriad short Lee-Enfields that crowded the rifle rack,
    Each with its blade to the sword-boss brown and its muzzle powder-black.
    And Rifleman Brown said never a word, but he felt in the soul of his soul
    His right to the beer of the lower Hall though he came to drink of
        it whole;
    His right to the fags of the free Canteen, to a seat at the banquet board,
    Though he came to the men who had killed their man with an unfleshed point
       to his sword.
    “_Who speaks for the stranger riflemen, O boys of the free Canteen?_
    _Who passes the chap with the unmaimed limbs and the kit that is far
        too clean?_”
    The gashed heads eyed him above their beers, the gashed lips sucked at
        their smoke;
    There were three at the board of his own platoon, but not a man of
        them spoke.
    His mouth was mad for the tankard froth and the biting whiff of a fag,
    But he knew that he might not speak for himself to the dead men who do not
       brag.
    A gun butt crashed on the portals, a man came staggering in;
    His head was cleft with a great red wound from the temple bone to
        the chin,
    His blade was dyed to the bayonet boss with the clots that were scarcely
        dry,
    And he cried to the men who had killed their man, “Who passes the
        rifleman? I!
    By the four I slew and the shell I stopped, if my feet be not too late,
    I speak the word for Rifleman Brown that a chap may speak for his
        mate!”
    The dead of lower Valhalla, the heroes of dumb renown,
    They pricked up their ears to a tale of the earth as they set their
        tankards down.
    “We were both on sentry this morning, when the General happened along.
    He asked us our job in a gas attack. Joe told him, ‘Beat on the gong.’
    ‘What else?’
        ‘Nothing else, sir,’ Joe answered.
            ‘Good God, man,’ our General said,
    ‘By the time you’d beaten that bloodstained gong the chances are you’d be
       dead.
    You’d put on your gas helmet, blast you, and you’d damn well
        put it on _first_!’
    And Joe stood dumb to attention, and wondered why he’d been cursed.”
    The gashed heads turned to the Rifleman, and now it seemed that they knew
    Why the face that had never a smear of blood was stained to the
        jawbones blue.
    “It was black to-night in the trenches.” The scarred heads craned
        to the voice,
    As the man with the blood-red bayonet spoke up for the mate of his choice.
    “You know what it’s like in the listening-post, with the very candles
        aflare,
    Their bullets smacking the sandbags, our Vickers combing your hair;
    How your ears and your eyes get jumpy, till each known tuft that you scan
    Moves and crawls in the shadows till you’d almost swear it was man.
    You know how you peer and snuff at the night when the Northeast gas winds
       blow.”
    “_By the One who made us and maimed us_,” quoth lower Valhalla,
        “_we know!_”
    “He was forty yards from the Bosches when, sudden as Hell, there came
    The crash of a dozen machine guns, the orange spurts of their flame,
    And Joe stood up in the whistling spray to try and fathom their game.
    Sudden their guns cease firing, sudden his nostrils sniff
    The sickening reek of the rotten pears, the death that kills with a whiff.
    Sniffs, and spots what their game is, and bangs on his cartridge case,
    With the gas cloud’s teeth in his windpipe and the gas cloud’s
        claws on his face.
    We heard his gong in our dugout--he only whacked on it twice--
    We whipped our gas bags over our heads and tucked them down in a trice.
    For the gas would have got us as sure as God if he’d taken the
        Staff’s advice!”
    His head was cleft with a great red wound from the chin to the
        temple bone,
    But his voice was as clear as a sounding gong, “I’ll be damned
        if I’ll drink alone,
    Not even in lower Valhalla! Is he free of the free Canteen,
    My mate who comes with the unfleshed point and the full-charged magazine?”
    The gashed heads rose at the Rifleman o’er the rings of the Endless Smoke,
    And loud as the roar of a thousand guns Valhalla’s answer broke,
    And loud as the crash of a thousand shells their tankards clashed
        on the board:
    “_He is free of the mess of the Killer-men, your mate of the
        unfleshed sword,_
    _For we know the worth of the thing he did, as we know the speed
        of the death_
    _Which catches its man by the back of the throat and gives him
        water for breath;_
    _As we know how the hand at the helmet cloth may tarry seconds too long,_
    _When the very life of the front-line trench is staked on the
        beat of a gong._
    _By the four you slew, by the case he smote, by the red gas cloud and the
       green,_
    _We pass your mate for the Endless Smoke and the beer of the
        free Canteen._”
    In the lower hall of Valhalla, with the heroes of no renown,
    With our nameless dead of the Marne and the Aisne, of Mons and
        of Wipers town,
    With the men who killed ere they died for us, sits Rifleman Joseph Brown.

                                                       GILBERT FRANKAU.

18-6-16.





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