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Title: The Mudlarks
Author: Garstin, Crosbie
Language: English
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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.

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  THE
  MUD LARKS


  BY

  CROSBIE GARSTIN

  LIEUTENANT, 1st KING EDWARD'S HORSE



  NEW YORK
  GEORGE H. DORAN COMPANY



  COPYRIGHT, 1919,
  BY GEORGE H. DORAN COMPANY


  PRINTED IN THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA



  TO THE MEMORY OF

  MY BROTHER
  CAPTAIN DENIS NORMAN GARSTIN,
  D.S.O., M.C.
  ORDER OF ST. ANNE OF RUSSIA
  (10th ROYAL HUSSARS)
  KILLED IN ACTION
  NEAR ARCHANGEL, RUSSIA
  AUGUST 17th, 1918


  "You gallop on unfooted asphodel...
  And wave beyond the stars that all is well."



  CONTENTS

  CHAPTER

  I. The "Ferts"
  II. Otto
  III. A. E.'S Bath and Brock's Benefit
  IV. The Messless Mess
  V. Climate at the Front
  VI. The Padre
  VII. The Riding-Master
  VIII. National Anthem
  IX. Horse Sense
  X. "Convey," the Wise It Call
  XI. Our Mess President
  XII. Funny Cuts
  XIII. Leave
  XIV. "Harmony, Gents!"
  XV. The Mule and the Tank
  XVI. War Paint
  XVII. The Pinch of War
  XVIII. The Regimental Mascot
  XIX. War Vegetation
  XX. A Change of Front
  XXI. Antonio Giuseppe
  XXII. "I Spy"
  XXIII. A Faux Pas
  XXIV. Mon Repos
  XXV. "Fly, Gentle Dove"
  XXVI. There and Back
  XXVII. Hot Air
  XXVIII. The Convert
  XXIX. A Best Cure
  XXX. The Harriers (I)
  XXXI. The Harriers (II)
  XXXII. The Camera Cannot Lie
  XXXIII. Lionel Trelawney
  XXXIV. The Booby Trap
  XXXV. The Phantom Army



THE MUD LARKS


I

THE "FERTS"

When I was young, my parents sent me to a boarding school, not in any
hopes of getting me educated, but because they wanted a quiet home.

At that boarding school I met one Frederick Delano Milroy, a chubby
flame-coloured brat who had no claims to genius, excepting as a
_littérateur_.

The occasion that established his reputation with the pen was a
Natural History essay.  We were given five sheets of foolscap, two
hours and our own choice of subject.  I chose the elephant, I
remember, having once been kind to one through the medium of a bag of
nuts.

Frederick D. Milroy headed his effort "The Fert" in large capitals,
and began, "The fert is a noble animal----"  He got no further, the
extreme nobility of the ferret having apparently blinded him to its
other characteristics.

The other day, as I was wandering about on the "line," dodging Boche
crumps with more agility than grace, I met Milroy (Frederick Delane)
once more.

He was standing at the entrance of a cosy little funk-hole, his boots
and tunic undone, sniffing the morning nitro-glycerine.  He had
swollen considerably since our literary days, but was wearing his
hair as red as ever, and I should have known it anywhere--on the
darkest night.  I dived for him and his hole, pushed him into it, and
re-introduced myself.  He remembered me quite well, shook my
chilblains heartily, and invited me further underground for tea and
talk.

It was a nice hole, cramped and damp, but very deep, and with those
Boche love-tokens thudding away upstairs I felt that the nearer
Australia the better.  But the rats!  Never before have I seen rats
in such quantities; they flowed unchidden all over the dug-out,
rummaged in the cupboards, played kiss-in-the-ring in the shadows,
and sang and bawled behind the old oak panelling until you could
barely hear yourself shout.  I am fond of animals, but I do not like
having to share my tea with a bald-headed rodent who gets noisy in
his cups, or having a brace of high-spirited youngsters wrestle out
the championship of the district on my bread-and-butter.

Freddy apologised for them; they were getting a bit above themselves,
he was afraid, but they were seldom dangerous, seldom attacked one
unprovoked.  "Live and let live" was their motto.  For all that they
did get a trifle _de trop_ sometimes; he himself had lost his temper
when he awoke one morning to find a brawny rat sitting on his face
combing his whiskers in mistake for his own (a pardonable error in
the dark); and, determining to teach them a lesson, had bethought him
of his old friend, the noble fert.  He therefore sent home for two of
the best.

The ferrets arrived in due course, received the names Burroughs and
Welcome, were blessed and turned loose.

They had had a rough trip over at the bottom of the mail sack, and
were looking for trouble.  An old rat strolled out of his club to see
what all the noise was about, and got the excitement he needed.
Seven friends came to his funeral and never smiled again.  There was
great rejoicing in that underground Mess that evening; Burroughs and
Welcome were fêted on bully beef and condensed milk, and made
honorary members.

For three days the good work went on; there was weeping in the
cupboards and gnashing of teeth behind the old oak panelling.  Then
on the fourth day Burroughs and Welcome disappeared, and the rats
swarmed to their own again.  The deserters were found a week later;
they had wormed through a system of rat-holes into the next dug-out,
inhabited by the Atkinses, and had remained there, honoured guests.

It is the nature of the British Atkins to make a pet of anything,
from a toad to a sucking-pig--he cannot help it.  The story about St.
George, doyen of British soldiers, killing that dragon--nonsense!  He
would have spanked it, maybe, until it promised to reform, then given
it a cigarette, and taken it home to amuse the children.  To return
to our ferrets, Burroughs and Welcome provided no exception to the
rule; they were taught to sit up and beg, and lie down and die, to
turn handsprings and play the mouth-organ; they were gorged with
Maconochie, plum jam and rum ration; it was doubtful if they ever
went to bed sober.  Times out of number they were borne back to the
Officers' Mess and exhorted to do their bit, but they returned
immediately to their friends the Atkinses, via their private route,
not unnaturally preferring a life of continuous carousal and
vaudeville among the flesh-pots, to sapping and mining down wet
rat-holes.

Freddy was of opinion that, when the battalion proceeded up Unter den
Linden, Burroughs and Welcome would be with it as regimental mascots,
marching behind the band, bells on their fingers, rings on their
toes.  He also assured me that if he ever again has to write an essay
on the Fert, its characteristics, the adjective "noble" will not
figure so prominently.



II

OTTO

In the long long ago, Frobisher and I, assisted by a handful of
native troopers, kept the flag flying at M'Vini.

We hoisted it to the top of a tree at sun-up, where it remained,
languidly flapping its tatters over leagues of Central Africa bush
till sunset, when we hauled it down again--an arduous life.  After we
had been at M'Vini about six months, had shot everything worth
shooting, and knew one another's funny stories off by heart,
Frobisher and I grew bored with each other, hated in fact the sight,
sound and mere propinquity of each other, and, shutting ourselves up
in our separate huts, communicated only on occasions of the direst
necessity, and then by the curtest of official notes.  Thus a further
three months dragged on.

Then one red-hot afternoon came Frobisher's boy to my wattle-and-dab,
bearing a note.

"Visitor approaching from S.W. got up like a May Queen; think it must
be the Kaiser.  Lend me a bottle of whisky, and mount a guard--must
impress the blighter."

I attached my last bottle of Scotch to the messenger and sallied
forth to mount a guard, none too easy a job, as the Army had gone to
celebrate somebody's birthday in the neighbouring village.  However,
I discovered one remaining trooper lying in the shade of a
loquat-tree.  He was sick--dying, he assured me; but I persuaded him
to postpone his demise for at least half an hour, requisitioned his
physician (the local witch doctor) and two camp followers, and,
leaving my cook-boy to valet them, dashed to my hut to make my own
toilet.  A glimpse through the cane mats five minutes later showed me
that our visitors had arrived.

A fruity German officer in full gala rig (white gloves and all) was
cruising about on mule-back before our camp, trying to discover
whether it was inhabited or not.  We let him cruise for a quarter of
an hour without taking any steps to enlighten him.  Then, at a given
signal, Frobisher, caparisoned in every fal-lal he could collect,
issued from his hut, and I turned out the improvised guard.  A
stirring spectacle; and it had the desired effect, for the German
afterwards admitted to being deeply impressed, especially by the
local wizard, who paraded in his professional regalia, and, coming to
cross-purposes with his rifle, bayoneted himself and wept bitterly.
The ceremonies over and the casualty removed, we adjourned to
Frobisher's _kya_, broached the whisky and sat about in solemn state,
stiff with accoutrements, sodden with perspiration.  Our visitor kept
the Red, White and Black flying on a tree over the border, he
explained; this was his annual ceremonial call.  He sighed and
brushed the sweat from his nose with the tips of a white glove--"the
weather was warm, _nicht wahr_?"  I admitted that we dabbled in
flag-flying ourselves and that the weather was all he claimed for it
(which effort cost me about four pounds in weight).  Tongues lolling,
flanks heaving, we discussed the hut tax, the melon crop, the
monkey-nut market, the nigger--and the weather again.

Suddenly Frobisher sprang up, cast loose the shackles of his Sam
Browne, hurled it into a corner, and began tearing at his tunic
hooks.  I stared at him in amazement--such manners before visitors!
But our immaculate guest leapt to his feet with a roar like a freed
lion, and, stripping his white gloves, flung them after the Sam
Browne, whereupon a fury of undressing came upon us.  Helmets, belts,
tunics, shirts were piled into the corner, until at length we stood
in our underclothes, laughing and unashamed.  After that we got on
famously, that Teuton and we, and three days later, when he swarmed
aboard his mule and left for home (in pyjamas this time) it was with
real regret we waved him farewell.

But not for long.  Within a month we were surprised by a hail from
the bush, and there was Otto, mule, pyjamas and all.

"'Ullo, 'ullo, 'ullo!" he carolled.  "'Ere gomes ze Sherman invasion!
Burn out ze guard!"  He roared with laughter, fell off his palfrey
and bawled for his batman, who ambled up, balancing a square box on
his woolly pate.

His mother in Munich had sent him a case of Lion Brew, Otto
explained, so he had brought it along.

We wassailed deep into that night and out the other side, and we
liked our Otto more than ever.  We had plenty in common, the same
loneliness, fevers, climate, and niggers to wrestle with; moreover he
had been in England, and liked it; he smoked a pipe; he washed.
Also, as he privily confided to us in the young hours of one morning,
he had his doubts as to the divinity of the Kaiser, and was not quite
convinced that Richard Strauss had composed the music of the spheres.

He was a bad Hun (which probably accounted for his presence at the
uttermost, hottermost edge of the All-Highest's dominions), but a
good fellow.  Anyhow, we liked him, Frobisher and I; liked his
bull-mouthed laughter, his drinking songs and full-blooded anecdotes,
and, on the occasions of his frequent visits, put our boredom from
us, pretended to be on the most affectionate terms, and even laughed
uproariously at each other's funny stories.  Up at M'Vini, in the
long long ago, the gleam of pyjamas amongst the loquats, and "'Ere
gomes ze Sherman invasion!" booming through the bush, became a signal
for general goodwill.

In the fullness of time Otto went home on leave, and, shortly
afterwards, the world blew up.

And now I have met him again, a sodden, muddy, bloody, shrunken,
saddened Otto, limping through a snow-storm in the custody of a
Canadian corporal.  He was the survivor of a rear-guard, the Canuck
explained, and had "scrapped like a bag of wild-cats" until knocked
out by a rifle butt.  As for Otto himself, he hadn't much to say; he
looked old, cold, sick and infinitely disgusted.  He had always been
a poor Hun.

Only once did he show a gleam of his ancient form of those old hot,
happy, pyjama days on the Equator.

A rabble of prisoners--Jägers, Grenadiers, Uhlans, whatnots--came
trudging down the road, an unshorn, dishevelled herd of cut-throats,
propelled by a brace of diminutive kilties, who paused occasionally
to treat them to snatches of flings and to hoot triumphantly.

Otto regarded his fallen compatriots with disgusted lack-lustre eyes,
then turning to me with a ghost of his old smile, "'Ere gomes ze
Sherman invasion," said he.



III

A. E.'S BATH AND BROCK'S BENEFIT

Never have I seen a kiltie platoon wading through the cold porridge
of snow and slush of which our front used to be composed, but I have
said, with my French friend, "_Mon Dieu les currents d'air!_" and
thank Fate that I belong to a race which reserves its national
costume for fancy-dress balls.

It is very well for MacAlpine of Ben Lomond, who has stalked his
haggis and devoured it raw, who beds down on thistles for preference
and grows his own fur; but it is very hard on Smith of Peckham, who
through no fault of his own finds himself in a Highland regiment,
trying to make his shirt-tails do where his trousers did before.  But
the real heather-mixture, double-distilled Scot is a hardy bird with
different ideas from _nous autres_ as to what is cold: also as to
what is hot.  Witness the trying experience of our Albert Edward.

Our Albert Edward and a Hun rifle grenade arrived at the same place
at the same time, intermingled and went down to the Base to be
sifted.  In the course of time came a wire from our Albert Edward,
saying he had got the grenade out of his system and was at that
moment at the railhead; were we going to send him a horse or weren't
we?

Emma was detailed for the job, which was a mistake, because Emma was
not the mount for a man who had been softening for five months in
hospital.  She had only two speeds in her rimg-cap-pertoire, a walk
which slung you up and down her back from her ears to her croup, and
a trot which jarred your teeth loose and rattled the buttons off your
tunic.  However, she went to the railhead and Albert Edward mounted
her, threw the clutch into the first speed and hammered out the ten
miles to our camp, arriving smothered in snow and so stiff we had to
lift him down, so raw it was a mockery to offer him a chair, and
therefore he had to take his tea off the mantelpiece.

We advised a visit to Sandy.  Sandy was the hot-bath merchant.  He
lurked in a dark barn at the end of the village, and could be found
there at any time of any day, brooding over the black cauldrons in
which the baths were brewed, his Tam-o'shanter drooped over one eye,
steam condensing on his blue nose.  Theoretically the hot baths were
free, but in practice a franc pressed into Sandy's forepaw was found
to have a strong calorific effect on the water.

So down the village on all fours, groaning like a Dutch brig in a
cross sea, went our Albert Edward.  He crawled into the dark barn
and, having no smaller change, contributed a two-franc bill to the
forepaw and told Sandy about his awful stiffness.  His eloquence and
the double fee broke Sandy's heart.  With great tears in his eyes he
assured Albert Edward that the utmost resources of his experience and
establishment should be mobilised on his (Albert Edward's) behalf,
and ushered him tenderly into that hidden chamber, constructed of
sacking screens, which was reserved for officers.  Albert Edward
peeled his clothes gingerly from him, and Sandy returned to his
cauldrons.

The peeling complete, Albert Edward sat in the draughts of the inner
chamber and waited for the bath.  The outer chamber was filled with
smoke, and the flames were leaping six feet above the cauldrons; but
every time Albert Edward holloaed for his bath Sandy implored another
minute's grace.

Finally Albert Edward could stand the draughts no longer and ordered
Sandy, on pain of court martial and death, to bring the water, hot or
not.

Whereupon Sandy reluctantly brought his buckets along, and, grumbling
that neither his experience nor establishment had had a fair chance,
emptied them into the tub.  Albert Edward stepped in without further
remark and sat down.

The rest of the story I had from my groom and countryman, who, along
with an odd hundred other people, happened to be patronising the
outer chamber tubs at the time.  He told me that suddenly they heard
"a yowl like a man that's afther bein' bit be a mad dog," and over
the screen of the inner chamber came our Albert Edward in his
birthday dress.  "Took it in his sthride, Sor, an' coursed three laps
round the bathhouse cursin' the way he'd wither the Divil," said my
groom and countryman; "then he ran out of the door into the snow an'
lay down in it."  He likewise told me that Albert Edward's
performance had caused a profound sensation among the other bathers,
and they inquired of Sandy as to the cause thereof; but Sandy shook
his Tam-o'shanter and couldn't tell them; hadn't the vaguest idea.
The water he had given Albert Edward was hardly scalding, he said;
hardly scalding, with barely one packet of mustard dissolved in it.

Our Albert Edward is still taking his meals off the mantelpiece.

* * * * * * * *

I met my friend, the French battery commander, yesterday.  He was
cantering a showy chestnut mare over the turf, humming a tune aloud.
He looked very fit and very much in love with the world.  I asked him
what he meant by it.  He replied that he couldn't help it; everybody
was combining to make him happy; his C.O. had fallen down a gun-pit
and broken a leg; he had won two hundred francs from his pet enemy;
he had discovered a jewel of a cook; and then there was always the
Boche, the perfectly priceless, absolutely ridiculous, screamingly
funny little Boche.  The Boche, properly exploited, was a veritable
fount of joy.  He dreaded the end of the War, he assured me, for a
world without Boches would be a salad sans the dressing.

I inquired as to how the arch-humorist had been excelling himself
lately.

The Captain passaged his chestnut alongside my bay, chuckled and told
me all about it.  It appeared that one wet night he was rung up by
the Infantry to say that the neighbouring Hun was up to some funny
business, and would he stand by for a barrage, please?

What sort of funny business was the Hun putting up?

Oh, a rocket had gone up over the way and they thought it was a
signal for some frightfulness or other.

He stood by for half an hour, and then, as nothing happened, turned
in.  Ten minutes later the Infantry rang up again.  More funny
business; three rockets had gone up.

He stood by for an hour with no result, then sought his bunk once
more, cursing all men.  Confound the Infantry getting the jumps over
a rocket or two!  Confound them two times!  Then a spark of
inspiration glowed within him, glowed and flamed brightly.  If his
exalted poilus got the wind up over a handful of rockets, how much
more also would the deteriorating Boche?

Gurgling happily, he brushed the rats off his chest and the beetles
off his face, turned over and went to sleep.  Next morning he wrote a
letter to his "god-mother" in Paris ("_une petite femme, très
intelligente, vous savez_"), and ten days later her parcels came
tumbling in.  The first night (a Monday) he gave a modest display,
red and white rockets bursting into green stars every five minutes.
Tuesday night more rockets, with a few Catherine-wheels thrown in.
Wednesday night, Catherine-wheels and golden rain, and so on until
the end of the week, when they finished up with a grand special
attraction and all-star programme, squibs, Catherine-wheels, Roman
candles, Prince of Wales' feathers, terminating in a blinding,
fizzing barrage of coloured rockets, and "God bless our Home" in
golden stars.

"All very pretty," said I, "but what were the results?"

"Precisely what I anticipated.  A deserter came over yesterday who
was through it all and didn't intend to go through it again.  They
had got the wind up properly, he said, hadn't had a wink of sleep for
a week.  His officers had scratched themselves bald-headed trying to
guess what it was all about.  All ranks stood to continuously, up to
their waists in mud, frozen stiff and half drowned, while my brave
little rogues of _poilus_, mark you, slept in their dug-outs, and the
only man on duty was the lad who was touching the fireworks off.  O
friend of mine, there is much innocent fun to be got out of the Boche
if you'll only give him a chance!"



IV

THE MESSLESS MESS

Our mess was situated on the crest of a ridge, and enjoyed an
uninterrupted view of rolling leagues of mud; it had the appearance
of a packing-case floating on an ocean of ooze.

We and our servants, and our rats and our cockroaches, and our other
bosom-companions slept in tents pitched round and about the mess.

The whole camp was connected with the outer world by a pathway of
ammunition boxes, laid stepping-stonewise; we went to and fro,
leaping from box to box as leaps the chamois from Alp to Alp.  Should
you miss your leap there would be a swirl of mud, a gulping noise,
and that was the end of you; your sorrowing comrades shed a little
chloride of lime over the spot where you were last seen, posted you
as "Believed missing" and indented for another Second Lieutenant (or
Field-Marshal, as the case might be).

Our mess was constructed of loosely piled shell boxes, and roofed by
a tin lid.  We stole the ingredients box by box, and erected the
house with our own fair hands, so we loved it with parental love; but
it had its little drawbacks.  Whenever the field guns in our
neighbourhood did any business, the tin lid rattled madly and the
shell boxes jostled each other all over the place.  It was quite
possible to leave our mess at peep o' day severely Gothic in design,
and to return at dewy eve to find it rakishly Rococo.

William, our Transport Officer and Mess President, was everlastingly
piping all hands on deck at unseemly hours to save the home and push
it back into shape; we were householders in the fullest sense of the
term.

Before the War, William assures us, he was a bright young thing, full
of merry quips and jolly practical jokes, the life and soul of any
party, but what with the contortions of the mess and the vagaries of
the transport mules he had become a saddened man.

Between them--the mules and the mess--he never got a whole night in
bed; either the mules were having bad dreams, sleep-walking into
strange lines and getting themselves abhorred, or the field guns were
on the job and the mess had the jumps.  If Hans, the Hun, had not
been the perfect little gentleman he is, and had dropped a shell
anywhere near us (instead of assiduously spraying a distant ridge
where nobody ever was, is, or will be) our mess would have been with
Tyre and Sidon; but Hans never forgot himself for a moment; it was
our own side we distrusted.  The Heavies, for instance.  The Heavies
warped themselves laboriously into position behind our hill,
disguised themselves as gooseberry bushes, and gave an impression of
the crack of doom at 2 a.m. one snowy morning.

Our mess immediately broke out into St. Vitus's dance, and William
piped all hands on deck.

The Skipper, picturesquely clad in boots (gum, high) and a goat's
skin, flung himself on the east wing, and became an animated
buttress.  Albert Edward climbed aloft and sat on the tin lid, which
was opening and shutting at every pore.  Mactavish put his shoulder
to the south wall to keep it from working round to the north.  I
clung to the pantry, which was coming adrift from its parent stem,
while William ran about everywhere, giving advice and falling over
things.  The mess passed rapidly through every style of architecture,
from a Chinese pagoda to a Swiss châlet, and was on the point of
confusing itself with a Spanish castle when the Heavies switched off
their hate and went to bed.  And not a second too soon.  Another
moment and I should have dropped the pantry, Albert Edward would have
been sea-sick, and the Skipper would have let the east wing go west.

We pushed the mess back into shape, and went inside it for a peg of
something and a consultation.  Next evening William called on the
Heavies' commander and decoyed him up to dine.  We regaled him with
wassail and gramophone and explained the situation to him.  The Lord
of the Heavies, a charming fellow, nearly burst into tears when he
heard of the ill he had unwittingly done us, and was led home by
William at 1.30 a.m., swearing to withdraw his infernal machines, or
beat them into ploughshares, the very next day.  The very next night
our mess, without any sort of preliminary warning, lost its balance,
sat down with a crash, and lay littered about a quarter of an acre of
ground.  We all turned out and miserably surveyed the ruins.  What
had done it?  We couldn't guess.  The field guns had gone to bye-bye,
the Heavies had gone elsewhere.  Hans, the Hun, couldn't have made a
mistake and shelled us?  Never!  It was a mystery; so we all lifted
up our voices and wailed for William.  He was Mess President; it was
his fault, of course.

At that moment William hove out of the night, driving his tent before
him by bashing it with a mallet.

According to William there was one "Sunny Jim," a morbid transport
mule, inside the tent, providing the motive power.  "Sunny Jim" had
always been something of a somnambulist, and this time he had
sleepwalked clean through our mess and on into William's tent, where
the mallet woke him up.  He was then making the best of his way home
to lines again, expedited by William and the mallet.

So now we are messless; now we crouch shivering in tents and talk
lovingly of the good old times beneath our good old tin roof-tree, of
the wonderful view of the mud we used to get from our window, and of
the homely tune our shell boxes used to perform as they jostled
together of a stormy night.

And sometimes, as we crouch shivering in our tents, we hear a strange
sound stealing uphill from the lines.  It is the mules laughing.



V

CLIMATE AT THE FRONT

If there is one man in France whom I do not envy it is the G.H.Q.
Weather Prophet.  I can picture the unfortunate wizard sitting in his
bureau gazing into a crystal, _Old Moore's Almanack_ in one hand, a
piece of seaweed in the other, trying to guess what tricks the
weather will be up to next.

For there is nothing this climate cannot do.  As a quick-change
artist it stands _sanspareil_ (French) and _nulli secundus_ (Latin).

And now it seems to have mislaid the Spring altogether.  Summer has
come at one stride.  Yesterday the staff-cars smothered one with mud
as they whirled past; to-day they choke one with dust.  Yesterday the
authorities were issuing precautions against frostbite; to-day they
are issuing precautions against sunstroke.  Nevertheless we are not
complaining.  It will take a lot of sunshine to kill us; we like it,
and we don't mind saying so.

The B.E.F. has cast from it its mitts and jerkins and whale-oil,
emerged from its subterranean burrows into the open, and in every
wood a mushroom town of bivouacs has sprung up over-night.  Here and
there amateur gardeners have planted flower-beds before their tents;
one of my corporals is nursing some radishes in an ammunition box and
talks crop prospects by the hour.  My troop-sergeant found two palm
plants in the ruins of a chateau glass-house, and now has them
standing sentry at his bivouac entrance.  He sits between them after
evening stables, smoking his pipe and fancying himself back in
Zanzibar; he expects the coker-nuts along about August, he tells me.

Summer has come, and on every slope graze herds of winter-worn gun
horses and transport mules.  The new grass has gone to the heads of
the latter and they make continuous exhibitions of themselves,
gambolling about like ungainly lambkins and roaring with unholy
laughter.  Summer has come, and my groom and countryman has started
to whistle again, sure sign that Winter is over, for it is only
during the Summer that he reconciles himself to the War.  War, he
admits, serves very well as a light gentlemanly diversion for the
idle months, but with the first yellow leaf he grows restless and
hints indirectly that both ourselves and the horses would be much
better employed in the really serious business of showing the little
foxes some sport back in our own green isle.  "That Paddy," says he,
slapping the bay with a hay wisp, "he wishes he was back in the
county Kildare, he does so, the dear knows.  Pegeen, too, if she
would be hearin' the houn's shoutin' out on her from the kennels
beyond in Jigginstown she'd dhrop down dead wid the pleasure wid'in
her, an' that's the thrue word," says he, presenting the chestnut
lady with a grimy army biscuit.  "Och musha, the poor foolish
cratures," he says and sighs.

However, Summer has arrived, and by the sound of his cheery whistle
at early stables shrilling "Flannigan's Wedding," I understand that
the horses are settling down once more and we can proceed with the
battle.

If my groom and countryman is not an advocate of war as a winter
sport, our Mr. Mactavish, on the other hand, is of the directly
opposite opinion.  "War," he murmured dreamily to me yesterday as we
lay on our backs beneath a spreading parasol of apple-blossom and
watched our troop-horses making pigs of themselves in the young
clover--"war! don't mention the word to me.  Maidenhead, Canader,
cushions, cigarettes, only girl in the world doing all the heavy
paddle-work--that's the game in the good ole summer-time.  Call round
again about October and I'll attend to your old war."  It is
fortunate that these gentlemen do not adorn any higher positions than
those of private soldier and second lieutenant, else, between them,
they would stop the War altogether and we should all be out of jobs.



VI

THE PADRE

You have all seen it in the latest V.C. list--"The Reverend Paul
Grayne, Chaplain to the Forces, for conspicuous bravery and gallant
example in the face of desperate circumstances."

You have all pictured him, the beau-ideal of muscular Christian, the
Fighting Parson, eighteen hands high, terrific in wind and limb, with
a golden mane and a Greek profile; a Pekinese in the drawing-room, a
bulldog in the arena; a soupçon of Saint Francis with a dash of John
L. Sullivan--and all that.

But we who have met heroes know that they are very seldom of the type
which achieves the immortality of the picture post card.

The stalwart with pearly teeth, lilac eyes and curly lashes is C3 at
Lloyd's (Sir Francis), and may be heard twice daily at the Frivolity
singing, "My Goo-goo Girl from Honolulu" to entranced flappers; while
the lad who has Fritzie D. Hun backed on the ropes, clinching for
time, is usually gifted with bow legs, freckles, a dented proboscis
and a coiffure after the manner of a wire-haired terrier.

The Reverend Paul Grayne, v.c., sometime curate of Thorpington Parva,
in the county of Hampshire, was no exception to this rule.
Æsthetically he was a blot on the landscape; among all the heroes I
have met I never saw anything less heroically moulded.

He stood about five feet nought and tipped the beam at seven stone
nothing.  He had a mild chinless face, and his long beaky nose, round
large spectacles, and trick of cocking his head sideways when
conversing, gave him the appearance of an intelligent little
dicky-bird.

I remember very well the occasion of our first meeting.  I was in my
troop lines one afternoon, blackguarding a farrier, when a loud
nicker sounded on the road and a black cob, bearing a feebly
protesting Padre upon his fat back, trotted through the gate, up to
the lines and began to swop How d'y' do's with my hairies.  The
little Padre cocked his head on one side and oozed apologies from
every pore.

He hadn't meant to intrude, he twittered; Peter had brought him; it
was Peter's fault; Peter was very eccentric.

Peter, I gathered, was the fat cob, who by this time had butted into
the lines and was tearing at a hay net as if he hadn't had a meal for
years.

His alleged master looked at me hopeless, helpless.  What was he to
do?  "Well, since Peter is evidently stopping to tea with my horses,"
said I, "the only thing you can do is to come to tea with us."  So I
lifted him down and bore him off to the cowshed inhabited by our mess
at the time and regaled him on chlorinated Mazawattee, marmalade and
dog biscuit.  An hour later, Peter willing, he left us.

We saw a lot of the Padre after that.  Peter, it appeared, had taken
quite a fancy to us and frequently brought him round to meals.  The
Padre had no word of say in the matter.  He confessed that, when he
embarked upon Peter in the morning, he had not the vaguest idea where
mid-day would find him.  Nothing but the black cob's fortunate rule
of going home to supper saved the Padre from being posted as a
deserter.

He had an uneasy feeling that Peter would one day suddenly sicken of
the War and that he would find himself in Paris or on the Riviera.
We had an uneasy feeling that Peter would one day develop a curiosity
as to the Boche horse rations, and stroll across the line, and we
should lose the Padre, a thing we could ill afford to do, for by this
time he had taken us under his wing spiritually and bodily.  On
Sundays he would appear in our midst dragging a folding harmonium and
hold Church Parade, leading the hymns in his twittering bird-like
voice.

Then the spinster ladies of his old parish of Thorpington Parva gave
him a Ford car, and with this he scoured back areas for provisions
and threaded his tin buggy in and out of columns of dusty infantry
and clattering ammunition limbers, spectacles gleaming, cap slightly
awry, while his batman (a wag) perched precariously atop of a rocking
pile of biscuit tins, cigarette cases and boxes of tinned fruit, and
shouted after the fashion of railway porters, "By your leave!  Fags
for the firin' line.  Way for the Woodbine Express."

But if we saw a lot of the Padre it was the Antrims who looked upon
him as their special property.  They were line infantry, of the type
which gets most of the work and none of the Press notices, a
hard-bitten, unregenerate crowd, who cared not a whit whether Belgium
bled or not, but loved fighting for its own sake and put their faith
in bayonet and butt.  And wherever these Antrims went, thither went
the Padre also, harmonium and his Woodbines.  I have a story that,
when they were in a certain part of the line where the trenches were
only thirty yards apart (so close indeed that the opposing forces
greeted each other by their first names and borrowed one another's
wiring tools), the Padre dragged the harmonium into the front line
and held service there, and the Germans over the way joined lustily
in the hymns.  He kept the men of the Antrims going on canteen
delicacies and their officers in a constant bubble of joy.  He
swallowed their tall stories without a gulp; they pulled one leg and
he offered the other; he fell headlong into every silly trap they set
for him.  Also they achieved merit in other messes by peddling yarns
of his wonderful innocence and his incredible absent-mindedness.

"Came to me yesterday, the Dicky Bird did," one of them would relate;
"wanted advice about that fat fraud of his, Peter.  'He's got an
abrasion on the knob of his right-hand front paw,' says he.  'Dicky
Bird,' says I, 'that is no way to describe the anatomy of a horse
after all the teaching I've given you.'  'I am so forgetful and horsy
terms are so confusing,' he moans.  'Oh, I recollect now--his
starboard ankle!'  The dear babe!"

In the course of time the Antrims went into the Push, but on this
occasion they refused to take the Padre with them, explaining that
Pushes were noisy affairs, with messy accidents happening in even the
best regulated battalions.

The Padre was up at midnight to see them go, his spectacles misty.
They went over the bags at dawn, reached their objective in twenty
minutes and scratched themselves in.  The Padre rejoined them ten
minutes later, very badly winded, but bringing a case of Woodbines
along with him.

My friend Patrick grabbed him by the leg and dragged him into a
shell-hole.  Nothing but an inherent respect for his cloth restrained
Patrick from giving the Dicky Bird the spanking of his life.  At 8
a.m. the Hun countered heavily and hove the Antrims out.  Patrick
retreated in good order, leading the Padre by an ear.  The Antrims
sat down, licked their cuts, puffed some of the Woodbines, then went
back and pitchforked the Boche in his tender spots.  The Boche
collected fresh help and bobbed up again.  Business continued brisk
all day, and when night fell the Antrims were left masters of the
position.

At 1 a.m. they were relieved by the Rutland Rifles, and a dog-weary
battered remnant of the battalion crawled back to camp in a sunken
road a mile in the rear.  One or two found bivouacs left by the
Rutlands, but the majority dropped where they halted.  My friend
Patrick found a bivouac, wormed into it and went to sleep.  The next
thing he remembers was the roof of his abode caving in with the
weight of two men struggling violently.  Patrick extricated himself
somehow and rolled out into the grey dawn to find the sunken road
filled with grey figures, in among the bivouacs and shell-holes,
stabbing at the sleeping Antrims.  Here and there men were locked
together, struggling tooth and claw; the air was vibrant with a
ghastly pandemonium of grunts and shrieks; the sunken road ran like a
slaughter-house gutter.  There was only one thing to do, and that was
to get out, so Patrick did so, driving before him what men he could
collect.

A man staggered past him, blowing like a walrus.  It was the Padre's
batman, and he had his master tucked under one arm, in his
underclothes, kicking feebly.

Patrick halted his men beyond the hill crest, and there the Colonel
joined him, trotting on his stockinged feet.  Other officers arrived,
herding men.  "They must have rushed the Ruts., Sir," Patrick panted;
"must be after those guns just behind us."  "They'll get 'em too,"
said the Colonel grimly.  "We can't stop 'em," said the Senior
Captain.  "If we counter at once we might give the Loamshires time to
come up--they're in support, Sir--but--but, if they attack us,
they'll get those guns--run right over us."

The Colonel nodded.  "Man, I know, I know; but look at 'em"--he
pointed to the pathetic remnant of his battalion lying out behind the
crest--"they're dropping asleep where they lie--they're beat to a
finish--not another kick left in 'em."

He sat down and buried his face in his hands.  The redoubtable
Antrims had come to the end.

Suddenly came a shout from the Senior Captain, "Good Lord, what's
that fellow after?  Who the devil is it?"

They all turned and saw a tiny figure, clad only in underclothes,
marching deliberately over the ridge towards the Germans.

"Who is it?" the Colonel repeated.  "Beggin' your pardon, the
Reverend, Sir," said the Padre's batman as he strode past the group
of officers.  "'E give me the slip, Sir.  Gawd knows wot 'e's up to
now."  He lifted up his voice and wailed after his master, "'Ere, you
come back this minute, Sir.  You'll get yourself in trouble again.
Do you 'ear me, Sir?"  But the Padre apparently did not hear him, for
he plodded steadily on his way.  The batman gave a sob of despair and
broke into a double.

The Colonel sprang to his feet.  "Hey, stop him, somebody!  Those
swine'll shoot him in a second--child murder!"

Two subalterns ran forward, followed by a trio of N.C.O.'s.  All
along the line men lifted their weary heads from the ground and saw
the tiny figure on the ridge silhouetted against the red east.

"Oo's that blinkin' fool?"

"The Padre."

"Wot's 'e doin' of?"

"Gawd knows."

A man rose to his knees, from his knees to his feet, and stumbled
forward, mumbling, "'E give me a packet of fags when I was broke."
"Me too," growled another, and followed his chum.  "They'll shoot 'im
in a minute," a voice shouted, suddenly frightened.  "'Ere, this
ain't war, this is blasted baby-killin'."

In another five seconds the whole line was up and jogging forward at
a lurching double.  "And a little child shall lead them," murmured
the Colonel happily, as he put his best sock forwards; a miracle had
happened, and his dear ruffians would go down in glory.

But as they topped the hill crest, came the shrill of a whistle from
the opposite ridge, and there was half a battalion of the Rutlands
back casting for the enemy that had broken through their posts.  With
wild yells both parties charged downwards into the sunken road.

When the tumult and shouting had died Patrick went in quest of the
little Padre.

He discovered him sitting on the wreck of his bivouac of the night;
he was clasping some small article to his bosom, and the look on his
face was that of a man who had found his heart's desire.

Patrick sat himself down on a box of bombs, and looked humbly at the
Reverend Paul.  It is an awful thing for a man suddenly to find he
has been entertaining a hero unawares.

"Oh, Dicky Bird, Dicky Bird, why did you do it?" he inquired softly.

The Padre cocked his head on one side and commenced to ooze apologies
from every pore.

"Oh dear--you know how absurdly absent-minded I am; well, I suddenly
remembered I had left my teeth behind."



VII

THE RIDING-MASTER

The scene is a School of Instruction at the back of the Western Front
set in a valley of green meadows bordered by files of plumy poplars,
and threaded through by a silver ribbon of water.

On the lazy afternoon breeze come the concerted yells of a bayonet
class, practising frightfulness further down the valley; also the
staccato chatter of Lewis guns punching holes in the near hillside.

In the centre of one meadow is a turf _manège_.  In the centre of the
_manège_ stands the villain of the piece, the Riding-Master.

He wears a crown on his sleeve, tight breeches, jackboots, vicious
spurs and sable moustachios.  His right hand toys with a long, long
whip, his left with his sable moustachios.  He looks like Diavolo,
the lion-tamer, about to put his man-eating chums through hoops of
fire.

His victims, a dozen infantry officers, circle slowly round the
_manège_.  They are mounted on disillusioned cavalry horses who came
out with Wellington and know a thing or two.  Now and again they wink
at the Riding-Master and he winks back at them.

The audience consists of an ancient Gaul in picturesque blue pants,
whose _mètier_ is to totter round the meadows brushing flies off a
piebald cow; the School Padre, who keeps at long range so that he may
see the sport without hearing the language, and ten little _gamins_,
who have been splashing in the silver stream and are now sitting
drying on the bank like ten little toads.

They come every afternoon, for never have they seen such fun, never
since the great days before the War when the circus with the boxing
kangaroo and the educated porks came to town.

Suddenly the Riding-Master clears his throat.  At the sound thereof
the horses cock their ears and their riders grab handfulls of leather
and hair.

_R.-M._  "Now, gentlemen, mind the word.  Gently away--tra-a-a-at."
The horses break into a slow jog-trot and the cavaliers into a cold
perspiration.  The ten little gamins cheer delightedly.

_R.-M._  "Sit down, sit up, 'ollow yer backs, keep the hands down,
backs foremost, even pace.  Number Two, Sir, 'ollow yer back; don't
sit 'unched up like you'd over-ate yourself.  Number Seven, don't
throw yerself about in that drunken manner, you'll miss the saddle
altogether presently, coming down--can't expect the 'orse to catch
you every time.

"Number Three, don't flap yer helbows like an 'en; you ain't laid an
hegg, 'ave you?

"'Ollow yer backs, 'eads up, 'eels down; four feet from nose to croup.

"Number One, keep yer feet back, you'll be kickin' that mare's teeth
out, you will.

"Come down off 'is 'ead, Number Seven; this ain't a monkey-'ouse.

"Keep a light an' even feelin' of both reins, backs of the 'ands
foremost, four feet from nose to croup.

"Leggo that mare's tail, Number Seven; you're goin', not comin', and
any'ow that mare likes to keep 'er tail to 'erself.  You've upset 'er
now, the tears is fair streamin' down 'er face--'ave a bit of feelin'
for a pore dumb beast.

"'Ollow yer backs, even pace, grip with the knees, shorten yer reins,
four feet from nose to croup.  Number Eight, restrain yerself, me
lad, restrain yerself, you ain't shadow-sparrin', you know.

"You too, Number Nine; if you don't calm yer action a bit you'll
burst somethin'.

"Now, remember, a light feelin' of the right rein and pressure of the
left leg.  Ride--wa-a-alk!  Ri'--tur-r-rn!  'Alt--'pare to
s'mount--s'mount!  Dismount, I said, Number Five; that means get
down.  No, don't dismount on the flat of yer back, me lad, it don't
look nice.  Try to remember you're an horfficer and be more dignified.

"Now listen to me while I enumerate the parts of a norse in language
so simple any bloomin' fool can understand.  This'll be useful to
you, for if you ever 'ave a norse to deal with and he loses one of
'is parts you'll know 'ow to indent for a new one.

"The 'orse 'as two ends, a fore-end--so called from its tendency to
go first, and an 'ind-end or rear rank.  The 'orse is provided with
two legs at each end, which can be easily distinguished, the fore
legs being straight and the 'ind legs 'avin' kinks in 'em.

"As the 'orse does seventy-five per cent of 'is dirty work with 'is
'ind-legs it is advisable to keep clear of 'em, rail 'em off or strap
boxing-gloves on 'em.  The legs of the 'orse is very delicate and
liable to crock up, so do not try to trim off any unsightly knobs
that may appear on them with a hand-axe--a little of that 'as been
known to sour a norse for good.

"Next we come to the 'ead.  On the south side of the 'ead we discover
the mouth.  The 'orse's mouth was constructed for mincing 'is
victuals, also for 'is rider to 'ang on by.  As the 'orse does the
other forty-five per cent of 'is dirty work with 'is mouth it is
advisable to stand clear of that as well.  In fact, what with his
mouth at one end and 'is 'ind-legs at t'other, the middle of the
'orse is about the only safe spot, _and that is why we place the
saddle there_.  Everything in the Harmy is done with a reason,
gentlemen.

"And now, Number ten, tell me what coloured 'orse you are ridin'?

"A chestnut?  No, 'e ain't no chestnut and never was, no, nor a
raspberry roan neither; 'e's a bay.  'Ow often must I tell you that a
chestnut 'orse is the colour of lager beer, a brown 'orse the colour
of draught ale, and a black 'orse the colour of stout.

"And now, gentlemen, stan' to yer 'orses, 'pare to mount--mount!

"There you go, Number Seven, up one side and down the other.  Try to
stop in the saddle for a minute if only for the view.  You'll get
yourself 'urted one of these days dashing about all over the 'orse
like that; and s'posing you was to break your neck, who'd get into
trouble?  _Me_, not you.  'Ave a bit of consideration for other
people, please.

"Now mind the word.  Ride--ri'--tur-r-rn.  Walk march.  Tr-a-a-at.
Helbows slightly brushing the ribs--_your_ ribs, not the 'orse's,
Number Three.

"Shorten yer reins, 'eels down, 'eads up, 'ollow yer backs, four feet
from nose to croup.

"Get off that mare's neck, Number Seven, and try ridin' in the saddle
for a change; it'll be more comfortable for everybody.

"You oughter do cowboy stunts for the movin' pictures, Number Six,
you ought really.  People would pay money to see you ride a norse
upside down like that.  Got a strain of wild Cossack blood in you, eh?

"There you are, now you've been and fell off.  Nice way to repay me
for all the patience an' learning I've given you!

"What are you lyin' there for?  Day dreaming?  I s'pose you're goin'
to tell me you're 'urted now?  Be writing 'ome to Mother about it
next: 'Dear Ma,--A mad mustang 'as trod on me stummick.  Please send
me a gold stripe.  Your loving child, Algy.'

"Now mind the word.  Ride--can--ter!"

He cracks his whip; the horses throw up their heads and break into a
canter; the cavaliers turn pea-green about the chops, let go the
reins and clutch saddle-pommels.

The leading horse, a rakish chestnut, finding his head free at last
and being heartily fed-up with the whole business, suddenly bolts out
of the _manège_ and legs it across the meadow, _en route_ for stables
and tea.  His eleven mates stream in his wake, emptying saddles as
they go.

The ten little gamins dance ecstatically upon the bank, waving their
shirts and shrilling "_A Berlin!  A Berlin!_"

The ancient Gaul props himself up against the piebald cow and shakes
his ancient head.  "_C'est la guerre_," he croaks.

The deserted Riding-Master damns his eyes and blesses his soul for a
few moments; then sighs resignedly, takes a cigarette from his cap
lining, lights it and waddles off towards the village and his
favourite _estaminet_.



VIII

NATIONAL ANTHEM

Out here the telephone exists largely as a vehicle for the _jeux
d'esprit_ of the Brass Lids.  It is a one-way affair, working only
from the inside out, for if you have a trifle of repartee to impart
to the Brazen Ones, the apparatus is either indefinitely engaged, or
_Na poo_ (as the French say).  If you are one of these bulldog lads
and are determined to make the thing talk from the outside in, you
had better migrate _chez_ Signals, taking your bed, blankets, beer,
tobacco and the unexpired portion of next week's ration, and camp at
the telephone orderly's elbow.  After a day or two it will percolate
through to the varlet's intelligence that you are a desperate dog in
urgent need of something, and he will bestir himself, and mayhap in a
further two or three days' time he will wind a crank, pull some
strings, and announce that you are "on," and you will find yourself
in animated conversation with an inspector of cemeteries, a jam
expert at the Base, or the Dalai Lama.  If you want to give back-chat
to the Staff you had best take it there by hand.

A friend of mine by name of Patrick once got the job of Temporary
Assistant Deputy Lance Staff Captain (unpaid), and before he tumbled
to the one-way idea, his telephone worked both ways and gave him a
lot of trouble.  People were always calling him up and asking him
questions, which of course wasn't playing the game at all.  Sometimes
he never got to bed before 10 p.m., answering questions; often he was
up again at 9 a.m., answering more questions--and such questions!

A sample.  On one occasion he rang up his old battalion.  One Jimmy
was then Acting Assistant Vice-Adjutant.  "Hello, wazzermatter?" said
Jimmy.  "Staff Captain speaking," said Patrick sternly.  "Please
furnish a return of all cooks, smoke-helmets, bombs, mules, Yukon
packs, tin bowlers, grease-traps and Plymouth Brothers you have in
the field!"

"Easy--beg pardon, yes, Sir," said Jimmy and hung up.

Presently the 'phone buzzed and there was Jimmy again.

"Excuse me, Sir, but you wanted a return of various commodities we
have in the field.  What field?"

"Oh, the field of Mars, fat-head!" Patrick snapped and rang off.  A
quarter of an hour later he was called to the 'phone once more and
the familiar bleat of Jimmy tickled his ear.  "Excuse me, Sir--whose
mother?"

On the other hand the great Brass Hat is human and makes a slip, a
clerical error, now and again, sufficient to expose his flank.  And
then the humble fighting man can draw his drop of blood if he is
quick about it.  To this same long-suffering Jimmy was vouchsafed the
heaven-sent opportunity, and he leapt at it.  He got a chit from
H.Q., dated 6/7/17, which ran thus:--

"In reference to 17326 Pte. Hogan we note that his date of birth is
10/7/17.  Please place him in his proper category."

To which Jimmy replied:--

"As according to your showing 17326 Pte. Hogan will not be born for
another four days we are placed in a position of some difficulty.

Signed --------

"P.S.--What if, when the interesting event occurs 17326 Pte. Hogan
should be a girl?

"P.S.S.--Or twins?"


Our Albert Edward is just back from one of those Army finishing
schools where the young subaltern's knowledge of Shakespeare and the
use of the globes is given a final shampoo before he is pushed over
the top.  Albert Edward's academy was situated in a small town where
schools are maintained by all our brave Allies; it is an educational
centre.  The French school does the honours of the place and keeps a
tame band, which gives tongue every Sunday evening in the Grand
Place.  Thither repair all the young ladies of the town to hear the
music.  Thither also repair all the young subalterns, also for the
purpose of hearing the music.

At the end of every performance the national anthems of all our brave
Allies are played, each brave Ally standing rigidly to attention the
while, in compliment to the others.  As we have a lot of brave Allies
these days, all with long national war-whoops, this becomes somewhat
of a strain.

One morning the French bandmaster called on the Commandant of the
English school.

"Some Americans have arrived," said he.  "They are naturally as
welcome as the sunshine, but" (he sighed) "it means yet another
national anthem."

The Commandant sighed and said he supposed so.

"By the way," said the _chef d'orchestre_, "what is the American
national anthem?"

"'Yankee Doodle,'" replied the Commandant.

The Chief Instructor said he'd always understood it was "Hail,
Columbia."

The Adjutant was of the opinion that "The Star-Spangled Banner"
filled the bill, while the Quartermaster cast his vote for "My
Country, 'tis of thee."

The _chef d'orchestre_ thrashed his bosom and rent his coiffure.
"Dieu!" he wailed, "I can't play all of them--_figurez-vous_!"

Without stopping to do any figuring they heartily agreed that he
couldn't.  "Tell you what," said the Commandant at length, "write to
your music merchant in Paris and leave it to him."

The _chef d'orchestre_ said he would, and did so.

Next Sunday evening, as the concert drew to a close, the band flung
into the _Marseillaise_, and the subalterns of all nations leapt to
attention.  They stood to attention through "God Save the King,"
through the national anthems of Russia, Italy, Portugal, Rumania,
Serbia, Belgium, Montenegro and Monte Carlo, all our brave Allies.
Then the _chef d'orchestre_ suddenly sprang upon a stool and waved
above his head the stripes and stars of our newest brave Ally, while
the band crashed into the opening strains of "When the midnight
choo-choo starts for Alabam."  It speaks volumes for the discipline
of the Allied armies that their young subalterns stood to attention
even through that.



IX

HORSE SENSE

Time--NIGHT

SCENE.--_A shell-pitted plain and a cavalry regiment under canvas
thereon.  It is not yet "Lights out," and on the right hand the
semi-transparent tents and bivouacs glow like giant Chinese lanterns
inhabited by shadow figures.  From an Officers' mess tent comes the
twinkle of a gramophone, rendering classics from "Keep Smiling."  In
a bivouac an opposition mouth-organ saws at "The Rosary."  On the
left hand is a dark mass of horses, picketed in parallel lines.  They
lounge, hips drooping, heads low, in a pleasant after-dinner doze.
The Guard lolls against a post, lantern at his feet, droning a fitful
accompaniment to the distant mouth-organ.  "The hours I spent wiv
thee, dear 'eart, are.--Stan' still, Ginger--like a string of pearls
ter me--ee ... Grrr, Nellie, stop kickin!"  The range of desolate
hills in the background is flickering with gun-flashes and grumbling
with drum-fire--the Boche evensong._


_A bay horse_ (_shifting his weight from one leg to the other_).
Somebody's catching it in the neck to-night.

_A chestnut_.  Yep.  Now if this was 1914, with that racket loose,
we'd be standing to.

_A gun-pack horse_.  Why?

_Chestnut_.  Wind up, sonny.  Why in 1914 our saddles grew into our
backs like the ivy and the oak.  In 1914----

_A black horse_.  Oh, dry up about 1914, old soldier; tell us about
the Battle of Hastings and how you came to let William's own Mounted
Blunderbusses run all over you.

_A bay horse_.  Yes, and how you gave the field ten stone and a
beating in the retreat to Corunna.  What are your personal
recollections of Napoleon, Rufus?

_Chestnut_.  You blinkin' conscripts, you!

_Black_.  Shiss! no bad language, Rufus--ladies present.

_Chestnut_.  Ladies, huh.  Behave nice and ladylike when they catch
sight of the nosebags, don't they?

_A skewbald mare_.  Well, we gotta stand up for our rights.

_Chestnut_.  'Struth you do, tooth and hoof.  What were you in civil
life, Baby?  A Suffragette?

_Skewbald_.  No, I wasn't, so there.

_Bay_.  No, she was a footlights favourite; wore her mane in plaits
and a star-spangled bearing-rein and surcingle to improve her
fig-u-are; did pretty parlour tricks to the strains of the banjo and
psaltery.  _N'est-ce pas, cherie_?

Skewbald.  Well, what if I did?  There's scores of circus gals is
puffect lydies.  I don't require none of your familiarity any'ow,
Mister.

_Bay_.  Beg pardon.  Excuse my bluff soldierly ways; but nevertheless
take your nose out of my hay net, please.

_A Canadian dun_.  Gee! quit weavin' about like that, Tubby.  Can't
you let a guy get some sleep.  I'll hand you a cold rebuff in the
ribs in a minute.  Wazzer matter with you, anyhow?

_Tubby_.  Had a bad dream.

_Black_.  Don't wonder, the way you over-eat yourself.

_Bay_.  Ever know a Quartermaster's horse that didn't?  He's the only
one that gets the chance.

_Skewbald_.  And the Officers' chargers.

_Voice from over the way_.  Well, we need it, don't we?  We do all
the bally headwork.

_Bay_.  Hearken even unto the Honourable Montmorency.  Hello, Monty
there!  Never mind about the bally headwork, but next time you're out
troop-leading try to steer a course somewhat approaching the
straight.  You had the line opening and shutting like a concertina
this morning.

_An iron-grey_.  Begob, and that's the holy truth!  I thought my ribs
was goin' ivery minnut, an' me man was cursin' undher his breath the
way you'd hear him a mile away.  Ye've no more idea of a straight
line, Monty avic, than a crab wid dhrink taken.

_Monty_.  Sorry, but the flies were giving me gyp.

_Canadian dun_.  Flies?  Say, but you greenhorns make me smile.  Why,
out West we got flies that----

_Iron grey_.  Och sure we've heard all about thim.  'Tis as big as
bulldogs they are; ivery time they bite you you lose a limb.  Many a
time the traveller has observed thim flyin' away wid a foal in their
jaws, the rapparees!  F' all that I do be remarkin' that whin one of
the effete European variety is afther ticklin' you in the short hairs
you step very free an' flippant, Johnny, acushla.

_A brown horse_.  Say, Monty, old top, any news?  You've got a pal at
G.H.Q., haven't you?

_Monty_.  Oh, yes, my young brother.  He's got a job on Haig's
personal Staff now, wears a red brow-band and all that--ahem!  Of
course he tells me a thing or two when we meet, but in the strictest
confidence, you understand.

_Brown_.  Quite; but did he say anything about the end of the War?

_Monty_.  Well, not precisely, that is not exactly, excepting that he
says that it's pretty certain now that it--er--well, that it will end.

_Brown_.  That's good news.  Thanks, Monty.

_Monty_.  Not a bit, old thing.  Don't mention it.

_Iron-grey_.  'Tis a great comfort to us to know that the War will
ind, if not in our day, annyway sometime.

_Canadian dun_.  You bet.  Gee, I wish it was all over an' I was home
in the foothills with the brown wool and pink prairie roses
underfoot, and the Chinook layin' my mane over.

_Iron-grey_.  Faith, but the County Cork would suit me completely; a
roomy loose-box wid straw litter an' a leak-proof roof.

_Tubby_.  Yes, with full meals coming regularly.

_A bay mare_.  I've got a two-year-old in Devon I'd like to see again.

_Monty_.  I've no quarrel with Leicestershire myself.

_Gunpack horse_.  Garn!  Wot abaht good old London?

_Chestnut_.  Steady, Alf, what are you grousing about?  You never had
a full meal in your life until Lord Derby pulled you out of that
coster barrow and pushed you into the Army.

_Tubby_.  A full meal in the Army--help!

_Brown_.  Listen to our living skeleton.  Do you chaps remember that
afternoon he had to himself in an oat field up Plug Street way?  When
the grooms found him he was lying on his back, legs in the air, blown
up like a poisoned pup.  "Blimy," says one lad to t'other, "'ere's
one of our observation bladders the 'Un 'as brought down."

_Chestnut_.  I heard the Officer boy telling the Troop Sergeant that
he'd buy a haystack some day and try to burst you, Tubby.  The
Sergeant bet him a month's pay it couldn't be done.

_Tubby_.  Just because I've got a healthy appetite----

_Brown_.  Healthy appetites aren't being worn this season, Sir--bad
form.  How are the politicians' park hacks to be kept sleek if the
troop-horse don't tighten his girth a bit?  Be patriotic, old dear;
eat less oats.

_Chestnut_.  That mess gramophone must be redhot by now.  It's been
running continuous since First Post.  I suppose somebody's mamma has
sent him a bottle of ginger-pop, and they're seeing life while the
bubbles last.

_Monty_.  Yes, and I suppose my young gentleman will be parading
to-morrow morning with a _camouflage_ tunic over his pyjamas, looking
to me to pull him through squadron drill.

_Iron-grey_.  God save us, thin!

_A Mexican roan_.  _Buenas noches!_

_Gunpack horse_.  Hish!  Orderly Officer.  'E's in the Fourth Troop
lines nah; you can 'ear 'im cursin' as he trips over the heel
shackles.

_Monty_.  Hush, you fellows.  Orderly Officer.  _Bong swar_.

* * * * * * * *

_Once more heads and hips droop.  They pose in attitudes of sleep
like a dormitory of small boys on the approach of a prefect.  The
line Guard comes to life, seizes his lantern and commences to march
up and down as if salvation depended on his getting in so many laps
to the hour.  From the guard-tent a trumpet wails, "Lights out."_



X

"CONVEY," THE WISE IT CALL

I am living at present in one of those villages in which the
retreating Hun has left no stone unturned.  With characteristic
thoroughness he fired it first, then blew it up, and has been
shelling it ever since.  What with one thing and another, it is in an
advanced state of dilapidation; in fact, if it were not that one has
the map's word for it, and a notice perched on a heap of brick-dust
saying that the Town Major may be found within, the casual wayfarer
might imagine himself in the Sahara, Kalahari, or the south end of
Kingsway.

Some of these French towns are very difficult to recognise as such;
only the trained detective can do it.  A certain Irish regiment was
presented with the job of capturing one.  The scheme was roughly
this.  They were to climb the parapet at 5.25 a.m. and rush a quarry
some one hundred yards distant.  After half an hour's breather they
were to go on to some machine-gun emplacements, dispose of these,
wait a further twenty minutes, and then take the town.  Distance
barely one thousand yards in all.  Promptly at zero the whole field
spilled over the bags, as the field spills over the big double at
Punchestown, paused at the quarry only long enough to change feet on
the top, and charged yelling at the machine-guns.  Then being still
full of fun and _joie de vivre_, and having no officers left to
hamper their fine flowing style, they ducked through their own
barrage and raced all out for the final objective.  Twenty minutes
later, two miles further on, one perspiring private turned to his
panting chum, "For the love of God, Mike, aren't we getting in the
near of this damn town yet?"

I have a vast respect for Hindenburg (a man who can drink the
mixtures he does, and still sit up and smile sunnily into the jaws of
a camera ten times a day, is worthy of anybody's veneration), but if
he thought that by blowing these poor little French villages into
small smithereens he would deprive the B.E.F. of head-cover and cause
it to catch cold and trot home to mother, he will have to sit up late
and do some more thinking.  For Atkins of to-day is a knowing bird;
he can make a little go the whole distance and conjure plenty out of
nothingness.  As for cover, two bricks and his shrapnel hat make a
very passable pavilion.  Goodness knows it would puzzle a guinea-pig
to render itself inconspicuous in our village, yet I have watched
battalion after battalion march into it and be halted and dismissed.
Half an hour later there is not a soul to be seen.  They have all
gone to ground.  My groom and countryman went in search of
wherewithal to build a shelter for the horses.  He saw a respectable
plank sticking out of a heap of débris, laid hold on it and pulled.
Then--to quote him verbatim--"there came a great roarin' from in
undernath of it, Sor, an' a black divil of an infantryman shoved his
head up through the bricks an' drew down sivin curses on me for
pullin' the roof off his house.  Then he's afther throwin' a bomb at
me, Sor, so I came away.  Ye wouldn't be knowin' where to put your
fut down in this place, Sor, for the dhread of treadin' in the belly
of an officer an' him aslape."

Some people have the bungalow mania and build them bijoux maisonettes
out of biscuit tins, sacking and whatnot, but the majority go to
ground.  I am one of the majority; I go to ground like a badger, for
experience has taught me that a dug-out--cramped, damp, dark though
it may be--cannot be stolen from you while you sleep; that is to say,
thieves cannot come along in the middle of the night, dig it up
bodily by the roots and cart it away in a G.S. waggon without you,
the occupant, being aware that some irregularity is occurring to the
home.  On the other hand, in this country, where the warrior, when he
falls on sleep suffers a sort of temporary death, bungalows can be
easily purloined from round about him without his knowledge; and what
is more, frequently are.

For instance, a certain bungalow in our village was stolen as
frequently as three times in one night.  This was the way of it.  One
Todd, a foot-slogging lieutenant, foot-slogged into our midst one
day, borrowed a hole from a local rabbit, and took up his residence
therein.  Now this mud-pushing Todd had a cousin in the same
division, one of those highly trained specialists who trickle about
the country shedding coils of barbed wire and calling them "dumps"--a
sapper, in short.  One afternoon the sapping Todd, finding some old
sheets of corrugated iron that he had neglected to dump, sent them
over to his gravel-grinding cousin with his love and the request of a
loan of a dozen of soda.  The earth-pounding Todd came out of his
hole, gazed on the corrugated iron and saw visions, dreamed dreams.
He handed the hole back to the rabbit and set to work to evolve a
bungalow.  By evening it was complete.  He crawled within and went to
sleep, slept like a drugged dormouse.  At 10 p.m. a squadron of the
Shetland ponies (for the purpose of deceiving the enemy all names in
this article are entirely fictitious) made our village.  It was
drizzling at the time, and the Field Officer in charge was getting
most of it in the neck.  He howled for his batman, and told the
varlet that if there wasn't a drizzle-proof bivouac ready to enfold
him by the time he had put the ponies to bye-byes, there would be no
leave for ten years.  The batman scratched his head, then slid softly
away into the night.  By the time the ponies were tilting the last
drops out of their nosebags the faithful servant had scratched
together a few sheets of corrugated, and piled them into a rough
shelter.  The Major wriggled beneath it and was presently putting up
a barrage of snores terrible to hear.  At midnight a battalion of the
Loamshire Light Infantry trudged into the village.  It was raining in
solid chunks, and the Colonel Commanding looked like Victoria Falls
and felt like a submarine.  He gave expression to his sentiments in a
series of spluttering bellows.  His batman trembled and faded into
the darkness _à pas de loup_.  By the time the old gentleman had
halted his command and cursed them "good night" his resourceful
retainer had found a sheet or two of corrugated iron somewhere and
assembled them into some sort of bivouac for the reception of his
lord.  His lord fell inside, kicked off his boots and slept
instantly, slept like a wintering bear.

At 2 a.m. three Canadian privates blundered against our village and
tripped over it.  They had lost their way, were mud from hoofs to
horns, dead beat, soaked to the skin, chilled to the bone, fed up to
the back teeth.  They were not going any further, neither were they
going to be deluged to death if there was any cover to be had
anywhere.  They nosed about, and soon discovered a few sheets of
corrugated iron, bore them privily hence and weathered the night out
under some logs further down the valley.  My batman trod me underfoot
at seven next morning.  "Goin' to be blinkin' murder done in this
camp presently, Sir," he announced cheerfully.  "Three officers went
to sleep in bivvies larst night, but somebody's souvenired 'em since,
an' they're all lyin' hout in the hopen now, Sir.  Their blokes
daresent wake 'em an' break the noos.  All very 'asty-tempered gents,
so I'm told.  The Colonel is pertickler mustard.  There'll be some
fresh faces on the Roll of Honour when 'e comes to."

I turned out and took a look at the scene of impending tragedy.  The
three unconscious officers on three camp beds were lying out in the
middle of a sea of mud like three lone islets.  Their shuddering
subordinates were taking cover at long range, whispering among
themselves and crouching in attitudes of dreadful expectancy like men
awaiting the explosion of a mine or the cracking of Doom.  As
explosions of those dimensions are liable to be impartial in their
attentions I took horse and rode afield.  But according to my batman,
who braved it out, the Lieutenant woke up first, exploded noisily and
detonated the Field Officer who in turn detonated the Colonel.  In
the words of my batman--"They went orf one, two, three, Sir, for orl
the world like a machine-gun, an eighteen-pounder and an How-pop-pop!
Whizz-bang!  Boom!--very 'eavy casu-alities, Sir."



XI

OUR MESS PRESIDENT

Nobody out here seems exactly infatuated with the politicians
nowadays.  The Front Trenches have about as much use for the Front
Benches as a big-game hunter for mosquitoes.  The bayonet professor
indicates his row of dummies and says to his lads, "Just imagine they
are Cabinet Ministers--go!" and in a clock-tick the heavens are
raining shreds of sacking and particles of straw.  The demon bomber
fancies some prominent Parliamentarian is lurking in the opposite
sap, grits his teeth, and gets an extra five yards into his bowling.

But I am not entirely of the vulgar opinion.  The finished politician
may not be a subject for odes, but a political education is a great
asset to any man.  Our Mess President, William, once assisted a
friend to lose a parliamentary election, and his experience has been
invaluable to us.  The moment we are tired of fighting and want
billets, the Squadron sits down where it is and the Skipper passes
the word along for William.  William dusts his boots, adjusts his tie
and heads for the most prepossessing farm in sight.  Arrived there,
he takes off his hat to the dog, pats the pig, asks the cow after the
calf, salutes the farmer, curtsies to the farmeress, then turning to
the inevitable baby, exclaims in the language of the country, "Mong
Jew, kell jolly ongfong" (Gosh, what a topping kid!), and bending
tenderly over it imprints a lingering kiss upon its india-rubber
features and wins the freedom of the farm.  The Mess may make use of
the kitchen; the spare bed is at the Skipper's disposal; the cow will
move up and make room for the First Mate; the pig will be only too
happy to welcome the Subalterns to its modest abode.

Ordinary billeting officers stand no chance against our William and
his political education.  "That fellow," I heard one disgruntled
competitor remark to him, "would hug the devil for a knob of coke."
Once only did he meet his match, and a battle of Titans resulted.

In pursuit of his business he entered a certain farmhouse, to find
the baby already in possession of another officer, a heavy red
creature with a monocle, who was rocking the infant's cradle
seventy-five revolutions per minute and making dulcet noises on a
moustache comb.

William's heart fell to his field boots; he recognised the red
creature's markings immediately.  This was another politician; no
bloodless victory would be his; fur would fly first, powder burn--Wow!

The red person must have tumbled to William as well, for he increased
the revolutions to one hundred and forty per minute and broke into a
shrill lullaby of his own impromptu composition:

  "Go to sleep, Mummy's liddle Did-ums;
  Go to sleep, Daddy's liddle Thing-me-jig."


Nevertheless this did not baffle our William.  He approached from a
flank, deftly twitched the infant out of its cradle by the scruff of
its neck, and commenced to plaster it with tender kisses.  However
the red man tailed it as it went past and hung on, kissing any bits
he could reach.  When the mother reappeared they were worrying the
baby between them as a couple of hound puppies worry the hind leg of
a cub.  She beat them faithfully with a broom and hove both of them
out into the wide wet world, and we all slept in a bog that night,
and William was much abused and loathed.  But that was his only
failure.

If getting billets is William's job, getting rid of them is the
Babe's affair.  William, like myself, has far too great a mastery of
the patois to handle delicate situations with success.  For instance,
when the farmer approaches me with tidings that my troopers have
burnt two ploughshares and a crowbar, and my troop-horses have
masticated a brick wall, I engage him in palaver, with the result
that we eventually part, I under the impression that the incident is
closed, and he under the impression that I have promised to buy him a
new farm.  This leads to all sorts of international complications.

The Babe, on the other hand, regards a knowledge of French as immoral
and only knows enough of it to order himself a drink.  He is also
gifted with a slight stutter, which under the stress of a foreign
language becomes chronic.  So when we evacuate a billet William
furnishes the Babe with enough money to compensate the farmer for all
damages we have not committed, and then effaces himself.  Donning a
bright smile the Babe approaches the farmer and presses the lucre
into his honest palm.

"Hi," says the worthy fellow, "what is this, then?  One hundred
francs!  Where is the seventy-four francs, six centimes for the fleas
your dog stole?  The two hundred francs, three centimes for the
indigestion your rations gave my pig?  The eight thousand and
ninety-nine francs, five centimes insurance money I should have
collected if your brigands had not stopped my barn from burning?--and
all the other little damages, three million, eight hundred thousand
and forty-four francs, one centime in all--where is it, hein?"

"Ec-c-coutez une moment," the Babe begins.  "Jer p-p-poovay expliquay
tut--tut--tut--tut--sh-sh-shiss----" says he, loosening his stammer
at rapid fire, popping and hissing, rushing and hitching like a
red-hot machine-gun with a siphon attachment.  In five minutes the
farmer is white in the face and imploring the Babe to let bygones be
bygones.  "N-n-not a b-bit of it, old t-top," says the Babe.  "Jer
p-p-poovay exp-p-pliquay b-b-bub-bub-bub----" and away it goes again
like a combined steam riveter and shower bath, like the water coming
down at Lodore.  No farmer however hardy has been known to stand more
than twenty minutes of this.  A quarter of an hour usually sees him
bolting and barring himself into the cellar, with the Babe blowing
him kisses of fond farewell through the key-hole.

We are billeted on a farm at the present moment.

The Skipper occupies the best bed; the rest of us are doing the al
fresco touch in tents and bivouacs scattered about the surrounding
landscape.  We are on very intimate terms with the genial farmyard
folk.  Every morning I awake to find half a dozen hens and their
gentleman friend roosting along my anatomy.  One of the hens laid an
egg in my ear this morning.  William says she mistook it for her
nest, but I take it the hen, as an honest bird, was merely paying
rent for the roost.

The Babe turned up at breakfast this morning wearing only half a
moustache.  He said a goat had browsed off the other half while he
slept.  The poor beast has been having fits of giggles ever since--a
moustache must be very ticklish to digest.

Yesterday MacTavish, while engaged in taking his tub in the open,
noticed that his bath-water was mysteriously sinking lower and lower.
Turning round to investigate the cause of the phenomenon he beheld a
gentle milch privily sucking it up behind his back.  There was a
strong flavour of Coal Tar soap in the _cafè au lait_ to-day.

This morning at dawn I was aroused by a cold foot pawing at my face.
Blinking awake, I observed Albert Edward in rosy pyjamas capering
beside my bed.  "Show a leg, quick," he whispered.  "Rouse out, and
Uncle will show boysey pretty picture."

Brushing aside the coverlet of fowl, I followed him tiptoe across the
dewy mead to the tarpaulin which he and MacTavish call "home."

Albert Edward lifted a flap and signed me to peep within.  It was, as
he had promised, a pretty picture.

At the foot of our MacTavish's mattress, under a spare blanket lifted
from that warrior in his sleep, lay a large pink pig.  Both were
occupied in peaceful and stertorous repose.

"Heads of Angels, by Sir Joshua Reynolds," breathed Albert Edward in
my ear.



XII

FUNNY CUTS

All the world has marvelled at "the irrepressible good humour" of old
Atkins.  Every distinguished tripper who comes Cook's touring to the
Front for a couple of days devotes at least a chapter of his
resultant book to it.  "How in thunder does Thomas do it?" they ask.
"What the mischief does he find to laugh at?"  Listen.

Years ago, when the well-known War was young, a great man sat in his
sanctum exercising his grey matter.  He said to himself, "There is a
war on.  Men, amounting to several, will be prised loose from
comfortable surroundings and condemned to get on with it for the term
of their unnatural lives.  They will be shelled, gassed, mined and
bombed, smothered in mud, worked to the bone, bored stiff and scared
silly.  Fatigues will be unending, rations short, rum diluted,
reliefs late and leave nil.  Their girls will forsake them for
diamond-studded munitioneers.  Their wives will write saying, 'Little
Jimmie has the mumps; and what about the rent?  You aren't spending
all of five bob a week on yourself, are you?'  This is but a tithe
(or else a tittle) of the things that will occur to them, and their
sunny natures will sour and sicken if something isn't done about it."

The great man sat up all night chewing penholders and pondering on
the problem.  The Big Idea came with the end of the eighth penholder.

He sprang to his feet, fires of inspiration flashing from his eyes,
and boomed, "Let there be _Funny Cuts!_"--then went to bed.  Next
morning he created "I." (which stands for Intelligence), carefully
selected his Staff, arrayed them in tabs of appropriate hue, and told
them to go the limit.  And they have been going it faithfully ever
since.  What the Marines are to the Senior Service, "I." is to us.
Should a Subaltern come in with the yarn that the spook of Hindenburg
accosted him at Bloody Corner and offered him a cigar, or a balloon
cherub buttonhole you with the story of a Boche tank fitted with
rubber tyres, C-springs and hot and cold water, that he has seen
climbing trees behind St. Quentin, we retort, "Oh, go and tell it to
'I.'" and then sit back and see what the inspired official organ of
the green tabs will make of it.  A hint is as good as a wink to them,
a nudge ample.  Under the genius of these imaginative artists the
most trivial incident bourgeons forth into a Le Queux spell-binder,
and the whole British Army, mustering about its Sergeant-Majors, gets
selected cameos read to it every morning at roll-call, laughs
brokenly into the jaws of dawn and continues chuckling to itself all
day.  Now you know.

Our Adjutant had a telephone call not long ago.  "Army speaking,"
said a voice.  "Will you send somebody over to Courcelles and see if
there is a Town Major there?"

The Adjutant said he would, and a N.C.O. was despatched forthwith.
He returned later, reporting no symptoms of one, so the Adjutant rang
up Exchange and asked to be hooked on to Army Headquarters.  "Which
branch?" Exchange inquired.  "Why, really I don't know--forgot to
ask," the Adjutant confessed.  "I'll have a try at 'A.''

"Hello," said "A."  "There is no Town Major at Courcelles," said the
Adjutant.  "You astound me, Fair Unknown," said "A."; "but what about
it, anyway?"  The Adjutant apologised and asked Exchange for "Q."
department, "Hello," said "Q."  "There is no Town Major at
Courcelles," said the Adjutant.  "Sorry, old thing, whoever you are,"
said "Q.," "but we don't stock 'em.  Rations, iron; perspirators,
box; oil, whale, delivered with promptitude and civility, but not
Town Majors--sorry."  The Adjutant sighed and consulted with Exchange
as to who possibly could have rung him up.

Exchange couldn't guess unless it was "I."--no harm in trying, anyhow.

"Hello!" said "I."  "There is no Town Major at Courcelles," the
Adjutant droned somewhat wearily.  "Wha-t!" "I." exclaimed, suddenly
interested.  "Say it again, clearer."
"Cour-celles--No--Town--Major," the Adjutant repeated.  There was a
pause; then he heard the somebody give off an awed "Good Lord!" and
drop the receiver.  Next morning in _Funny Cuts_ (the organ of
Intelligence) we learned that "_Corps_ Headquarters was heavily
_Shelled_ last night.  The Town Major is missing.  This is evidence
that the enemy has brought long-range guns into the opposite sector."
Followed masses of information as to the probable make of the guns,
the size of shell they preferred, the life-story of the Battery
Commander, his favourite flower and author.

The Boche, always on the alert to snaffle the paying devices of an
opposition firm, now has his "I." staff and _Funny Cuts_ as well.
From time to time we capture a copy and read this sort of thing:

"From agonised screeches heard by one of our intrepid airmen while
patrolling over the enemy's lines yesterday, it is evident that the
brutal and relentless British are bayoneting their prisoners."

A Highland Division, whose star pipers were holding a dirge and
lament contest on that date, are now ticking off the hours to the
next offensive.

The Antrims had a _cordon bleu_ by the name of Michael O'Callagan.
He was a sturdy rogue, having retreated all the way from Mons, and
subsequently advanced all the way back to the Yser with a huge
stock-pot on his back, from which he had furnished mysterious stews
to all comers, at all hours, under any conditions.  For this, and for
the fact that he could cook under water, and would turn out hot meals
when other _chefs_ were committing suicide, much was forgiven him,
but he was prone to look upon the _vin_ when it was _rouge_ and was
habitually coated an inch thick with a varnish of soot and pot-black.
One morning he calmly hove himself over the parapet and, in spite of
the earnest attentions of Hun snipers, remained there long enough to
collect sufficient débris to boil his dixies.  Next day the Boche
_Funny Cuts_ flared forth scareheads:

"SAVAGES ON THE SOMME.

"The desperate and unprincipled British are employing black cannibal
Zulus in the defence of their system.  Yesterday one of them, a chief
of incredibly depraved appearance, was observed scouting in the open."


The communiqué ended with a treatise on the Zulu, its black
man-eating habits, and an exhortation to "our old Brandenburgers" not
to be dismayed.



XIII

LEAVE

The Babe went to England on leave.  Not that this was any new
experience for him; he usually pulled it off every twelve
months--influence, and that sort of thing, you know.  He went down to
the coast in a carriage containing seventeen other men, but he got a
fat sleepy youth to sit on, and was passably comfortable.  He crossed
over in a wobbly boat packed from cellar to attic with Red Tabs
invalided with shell shock, Blue Tabs with trench fever, and Green
Tabs with brain-fag; Mechanical Transporters in spurs and stocks, jam
merchants in revolvers and bowie-knives, Military Police festooned
with _pickelhaubes_, and here and there a furtive fighting man who
had got away by mistake, and would be recalled as soon as he landed.

The leave train rolled into Victoria late in the afternoon.  Cab
touts buzzed about the Babe, but he would have none of them; he would
go afoot the better to see the sights of the village--a leisurely
sentimental pilgrimage.  He had not covered one hundred yards when a
ducky little thing pranced up to him, squeaking, "Where are your
gloves, Sir?"  "I always put 'em in cold storage during summer along
with my muff and boa, dear," the Babe replied pleasantly.  "Moreover,
my mother doesn't like me to talk to strangers in the streets, so
ta-ta."  The little creature blushed like a tea-rose and stamped its
little hoof.  "Insolence!" it squeaked.  "You--you go back to France
by the next boat!" and the Babe perceived to his horror that he had
been witty to an Assistant Provost-Marshal!  He flung himself down on
his knees, licking the A.P.M.'s boots and crying in a loud voice that
he would be good and never do it again.

The A.P.M. pardoned the Babe (he wanted to save the polish on his
boots) on condition that he immediately purchased a pair of gloves of
the official cut and hue.  The Babe did so forthwith and continued on
his way.  He had not continued ten yards when another A.P.M. tripped
him up.  "That cap is a disgrace, Sir!" he barked.  "I know it, Sir,"
the Babe admitted, "and I'm awfully sorry about it; but that hole in
it only arrived last night--shrapnel, you know--and I haven't had
time to buy another yet.  I don't care for the style they sell in
those little French shops--do you?"

The A.P.M. didn't know anything about France or its little shops, and
didn't intend to investigate; at any rate not while there was a war
on there.  "You will return to the Front to-morrow," said he.  The
Babe grasped his hand from him and shook it warmly.  "Thank
you--thank you, Sir," he gushed; "I didn't want to come, but they
made me.  I'm from Fiji; have no friends here, and London is somehow
so different from Suva it makes my head ache.  I am broke and
couldn't afford leave, anyway.  Thank you, Sir--thank you."

"Ahem--in that case I will revoke my decision," said the A.P.M.  "Buy
yourself an officially-sanctioned cap and carry on."

The Babe bought one with alacrity; then, having tasted enough of the
dangers of the streets for one afternoon, took a taxi, and, lying in
the bottom, well out of sight, sped to his old hotel.  When he
reached his old hotel he found it had changed during his absence, and
was now headquarters of the Director of Bones and Dripping.  He
abused the taxi-driver, who said he was sorry, but there was no
telling these days; a hotel was a hotel one moment, and the next it
was something entirely different.  Motion pictures weren't in it, he
said.

Finally they discovered a hotel which was still behaving as such, and
the Babe got a room.  He remained in that room all the evening,
beneath the bed, having his meals pushed in to him under the door.  A
prowling A.P.M. sniffed at the keyhole, but did not investigate
further, which was fortunate for the Babe, who had no regulation
pyjamas.

Next morning, crouched on the bottom boards of another taxi, he was
taken to his tailor, poured himself into the faithful fellow's hands,
and only departed when guaranteed to be absolutely A.P.M.-proof.  He
went to the "Bolero" for lunch, ordered some oysters for a start,
polished them off and bade the waiter trot up the _consommé_.  The
waiter shook his head.  "Can't be done, Sir.  Subaltern gents are
only allowed three and six-penceworth of food and you've already had
that, Sir.  If we was to serve you with a crumb more, we'd be
persecuted under the Trading with the Enemy Act, Sir.  There's an
A.P.M. sitting in the corner this very moment, Sir, his eyeglass
fixed on your every mouthful, very suspicious-like----"

"Good Lord!" said the Babe, and bolted.  He bolted as far as the next
restaurant, had a three-and-sixpenny _entrée_ there, went on to
another for sweets, and yet another for coffee and trimmings.  These
short bursts between courses kept his appetite wonderfully alive.

That afternoon he ran across a lady friend in Bond Street, "a War
Toiler enormously interested in the War" (see the current number of
_Social Snaps_).  She had been at Yvonne's trying on her gauze for
the Boccaccio Tableaux in aid of the Armenians and needed some
relaxation.  So she engaged the Babe for the play, to be followed by
supper with herself and her civilian husband.  The play (a War drama)
gave the Babe a fine hunger, but the Commissionaire (apparently a
Major-General) who does odd jobs outside the Blitz took exception to
him.  "Can't go in, Sir."  "Why not?" the Babe inquired; "my friends
have gone in."  "Yessir, but no hofficers are allowed to obtain
nourishment after 10 p.m. under Defence of the Realm Act, footnote
(_a_) to para. 14004."  He leaned forward and whispered behind his
glove, "There's a Hay Pee Hem under the portico watching your
movements, Sir."  The Babe needed no further warning; he dived into
his friend's Limousine and burrowed under the rug.

Some time later the door of the car was opened cautiously and the
moon-face of the Major-General inserted itself through the crack.
"Hall clear for the moment, Sir; the Hay Pee Hem 'as gorn orf dahn
the street, chasin' a young hofficer in low shoes.  'Ere, tyke this;
I'm a hold soldier meself."  He thrust a damp banana in the Babe's
hand and closed the door softly.

Next morning the Babe dug up an old suit of 1914 "civies" and put
them on.  A woman in the Tube called him "Cuthbert" and informed him
gratuitously that her husband, twice the Babe's age, had volunteered
the moment Conscription was declared and had been fighting bravely in
the Army Clothing Department ever since.  Further she supposed the
Babe's father was in Parliament and that he was a Conscientious
Objector.  In Hyde Park one urchin addressed him as "Daddy" and asked
him what he was doing in the Great War; another gambolled round and
round him making noises like a rabbit.  In Knightsbridge a Military
Policeman wanted to arrest him as a deserter.  The Babe hailed a taxi
and, cowering on the floor, fled back to his hotel and changed into
uniform again.

That night, strolling homewards in the dark, immersed in thought, he
inadvertently took a pipe out of his pocket and lit it.  An A.P.M.
who had been sleuthing him for half a mile leapt upon him, snatched
the pipe and two or three teeth out of his mouth and returned him to
France by the next boat.

* * * * * * * *

His groom, beaming welcome, met him at the rail-head with the horses.

"Hello, old thing, cheerio and all the rest of it," Huntsman whinnied
lovingly.

Miss Muffet rubbed her velvet muzzle against his pocket.  "Brought a
lump of sugar for a little girl?" she rumbled.

He mounted her and headed across country, Miss Muffet pig-jumping and
capering to show what excellent spirits she enjoyed.

Two brigades of infantry were under canvas in Mud Gully, their cook
fires winking like red eyes.  The guards clicked to attention and
slapped their butts as the Babe went by.  A subaltern bobbed out of a
tent and shouted to him to stop to tea.  "We've got cake," he lured,
but the Babe went on.

A red-hat cantered across the stubble before him waving a friendly
crop, "Pip" Vibart the A.P.M.  homing to H.Q.  "Evening, boy!" he
holloaed; "come up and Bridge to-morrow night," and swept on over the
hillside.  A flight of aeroplanes, like flies in the amber of sunset,
droned overhead _en route_ for Hunland.  The Babe waved his official
cap at them: "Good hunting, old dears."

They had just started feeding up in the regimental lines when he
arrived; the excited neighing of five hundred horses was music to his
ears.  His brother subalterns hailed his return with loud and
exuberant noises, made disparaging remarks about the smartness of his
clothes, sat on him all over the floor and rumpled him.  On sighting
the Babe, The O'Murphy went mad and careered round the table
wriggling like an Oriental dancer, uttering shrill yelps of delight;
presently he bounced out of the window, to enter some minutes later
by the same route, and lay the offering of a freshly slain rat at his
best beloved's feet.

At this moment the skipper came in plastered thick with the mud of
the line, nodded cheerfully to his junior sub and instantaneously
fell upon the buttered toast.

"Have a good time, Son?" he mumbled.  "How's merrie England?"

"Oh, England's all right, Sir," said the Babe, tickling The
O'Murphy's upturned tummy--"quite all right; but it's jolly to be
home again among one's ain folk."



XIV

"HARMONY, GENTS!"

No one, with the exception of the Boche, has a higher admiration for
the scrapping abilities of the Scot than I have, but in matters
musical we do not hear ear to ear.  It is not that I have no soul; I
have.  I fairly throb with it.  I rise in the mornings trilling
trifles of Monckton and croon myself to sleep o' nights with snatches
of Novello.

I do not wish to boast, but to hear me pick the "Moonlight Sonata"
out of a piano with one hand (the other strapped behind my back) is
an unforgettable experience.

I would not yield to Paderewski himself on the comb, bones or Jew's
harp, and I could give A. Gabriel a run for his money on the
coachhorn.  But these bagpipes!

It is not so much the execution of the bagpiper that I object to as
his restricted repertoire.  He can only play one noise.  It is quite
useless a Scot explaining to me that this is the "Lament of Sandy
Macpherson" and that the "Dirge of Hamish MacNish"; it all sounds the
same to me.

The brigade of infantry that is camped in front of my dug-out ("Mon
Repos") is a Scots brigade.  Not temporary Scots from the Highlands
of Commissioner Street, Jo'burg, and Hastings Street, Vancouver
(about whom I have nothing to say), but real _pukka_, law-abiding,
kirk-going, God-fearing, bayonet-pushing Gaels, bred among the crags
of the Grampians and reared on thistles and illicit whuskey.  And
every second man in this brigade is a confirmed bagpiper.

They have massed pipes for breakfast, lunch, tea and dinner; pipes
solos before, during, and after drinks.  If one of them goes across
the road to borrow a box of matches, a piper goes with him raising
Cain.  Their Officers' Mess is situated just behind "Mon Repos," so
we live in the orchestra stalls, so to speak, and hear all there is
to be heard.

One evening, while Sandy Macpherson's (or Hamish MacNish's) troubles
were being very poignantly aired next door, Albert Edward came to the
conclusion that the limit had been reached.  "They've been killing
the pig steadily for ten days and nights now," said he; "something's
got to be done about it."

"I'm with you," said I; "but what are we two against a whole brigade?
If they were to catch you pushing an impious pin into one of their
sacred joy-bags there'd be another Second Lieutenant missing."

"Desist and let me think," said Albert Edward, and for the next hour
he lay on his bed rolling and groaning--the usual signs that his
so-called brain is active.

The following morning he rode over to the squadron, returning later
with the Mess gramophone and a certain record.  There are records and
records, but for high velocity, armour-piercing and range this one
bangs Banagher.  It is a gem out of that "sparkling galaxy of melody,
mirth and talent" (Press Agent speaking), "_I Don't Think_," which
scintillates nightly at the Frivolity Theatre.

"When the Humming-birds are singing" is the title thereof, and Miss
Birdie de Maie renders it--renders it as she alone can, in a voice
like a file chafing corrugated iron.

We started the birds humming at 4 p.m., and let it rip steadily until
11.15 p.m., only stopping to change needles.

Albert Edward's batman unleashed the hub-bub again at six next
morning; my batman relieved him at eight, and so on throughout the
day in two-hour shifts.  At night the line guards carried on.  The
following morning, as our batmen threatened to report sick, we crimed
a trooper for "dumb insolence" and made him expiate his sin by
tending the gramophone.  O'Dwyer, of one of the neighbouring
ammunition columns, came over in the afternoon to complain that his
mules couldn't get a wink of sleep and were muttering among
themselves; but we gave him a bottle of whiskey and he went away
quietly.

Monk of the other column called an hour later to ask if we wanted to
draw shell-fire; but we bought him off with a snaffle bit and a
bottle of hair lotion.

The whole neighbourhood grew restive.  Somebody under cover of the
dark took a pot at the gramophone with a revolver and winged it in
the trumpet.  Even the placid observation balloon which floats above
our camp grew nasty and dropped binoculars and sextants on us.  We
built a protective breastwork of sandbags about it and carried on.
As for ourselves we didn't mind the racket in the least, having taken
the precaution of corking our ears with gunners' wax.

Then one evening we discovered a Highland bomber worming up a drain
on his stomach towards our instrument.  Cornered, he excused himself
on the plea that it was a form of Swedish exercise he always took at
twilight for the benefit of his digestion.  An ingenious explanation,
but it hardly covered the live Mills bomb he was endeavouring to
conceal in a fold of his kilt.  We drove him away with a barrage of
peg-mallets; but secretly we were very elated, for it was clear that
the strain was telling on the hardy Scot.

As a precautionary measure we now surrounded the gramophone with a
barbed-wire entanglement, and so we carried on.

Next day we saw a score of kiltie officers grouped outside their
Mess, heads together, apparently in earnest consultation.  Every now
and again they would turn and glare darkly in our direction.

"The white chiefs hold heap big palaver over yonder," Albert Edward
remarked.  "They're tossing up now to decide who shall come over and
beard us.  The braw bairn with the astrakhan knees has lost; he's
cocking his bonnet and asking his pals if he's got his sporran on
straight.  Behold he approacheth, stepping delicately.  I leave it to
you, partner."

I lay in the grass and waited for the deputation.  The gramophone,
safe behind its sandbags and wire, was doing business as usual, Miss
Birdie yowling away like a wild cat on hot cinders.  The deputation
picked his way round the horse lines, nodded to me and sat down on
the oil-drum we keep for the accommodation of guests.  He nervously
opened the ball by remarking that the weather was fine.

I did not agree with him, but refused to argue.  That baffled him for
some seconds, but he recovered by maintaining that it was anyway
finer than it had been in 1915.  After that outburst he seemed at a
loss for a topic of conversation, and sat scratching his ear as if he
expected to get inspiration out of it as a conjurer gets rabbits.

"Ye seem verra pairtial to music?" he ventured presently.

"Passionately," said I.

"Ah--hem!  Ye seem verra pairtial to that one selection," he
continued.

"Passionately devoted to it," said I.  "Lovely little thing; I adore
its sentiment, tempo, tremolo and timbre, its fortissimo and allegro.
Just listen to the part that's coming now--

    'When the humming birds are singing
    And the old church bells are ringing
  We'll canoodle, we'll canoodle 'neath the moon.
    Down in Alabama
    You'll be my starry-eyed charmer;
  On my white-haired kitten's grave we'll sit and spoon, spoon,
        spoo-oo-oon.'

Nifty bit of allegro work that--eh, what?"

He nodded politely.  "Ay--of course, sairtainly; but--er--er--don't
ye find it grows a wee monotonous in time?"

"Never," I retorted stoutly.  "Not in the least.  No more than you
find the Lament or Dirge of Sandy Macpherson or Hamish MacNish
monotonous."

He cocked his ears suddenly and stared at me.  Then his chubby face
split slowly from ear to ear in the widest grin I ever saw, and up
went both his hands.

"Kamerad!" said he.



XV

THE MULE AND THE TANK

The ammunition columns on either flank provide us with plenty of
amusement.  They seem to live by stealing each other's mules.  My
line-guards tell me that stealthy figures leading shadowy donkeys are
crossing to and fro all night long through my lines.  The respective
C.O.'s, an Australian and an Irishman, drop in on us from time to
time and warn us against each other.  I remain strictly neutral, and
so far they have respected my neutrality.  I have taken steps toward
this end by surrounding my horses with barbed wire and spring guns,
tying bells on them and doubling the guard.

Monk, the Australian, dropped in on us two or three days ago.  "That
darn Sinn Feiner is the limit," said he; "lifted my best moke off me
last night while I was up at the batteries.  He'd pinch Balaam's
ass."  We murmured condolences, but Monk waved them aside.  "Oh, it's
quite all right.  I wasn't born yesterday, or the day before for that
matter.  I'll make that merry Fenian weep tears of blood before I've
finished.  Just you watch."

O'Dwyer, the merry Fenian, called next day.

"Give us a dhrink, brother-officers," said he.  "I'm wake wid
laughter."

We asked what had happened.

"Ye know that herrin'-gutted bushranger over yonder?  He'd stale the
milk out of your tea, he would, be the same token.  Well, last night
he got vicious and took a crack at my lines.  I had rayson to suspect
he'd be afther tryin' somethin' on, so I laid for him.  I planted a
certain mule where he could stale it an' guarded the rest four deep.
Begob, will ye believe me, but he fell into the thrap head first--the
poor simple divil."

"But he got your mule," said Albert Edward, perplexed.

"Shure an' he did, you bet he did--he got old Lyddite."

Albert Edward and I were still puzzled.

"Very high explosive--hence name," O'Dwyer explained.

"Dear hearrts," he went on, "he's got my stunt mule, my family
assassin!  That long-ear has twenty-three casualties to his credit,
including a Brigadier.  I have to twitch him to harness him,
side-line him to groom him, throw him to clip him, and dhrug him to
get him shod.  Perceive the jest now?  Esteemed comrade Monk is
afther pinchin' an infallible packet o' sudden death, an' he don't
know it--yet."

"What's the next move?" I inquired.

"I'm going to lave him there.  Mind you I don't want to lose the old
moke altogether, because, to tell the truth, I'm a biteen fond of him
now that I know his thricks, but I figure Mr. Monk will be a severely
cured character inside a week, an' return the beastie himself with
tears an' apologies on vellum so long."

I met O'Dwyer again two days later on the mud track.  He reined up
his cob and begged a cigarette.

"Been havin' the fun o' the worrld down at the dressin'-station
watchin' Monk's casualties rollin' in," said he.  "Terrible
spectacle, 'nough to make a sthrong man weep.  Mutual friend Monk
lookin' 'bout as genial as a wet hen.  This is goin' to be a
wondherful lesson to him.  See you later."  He nudged his plump cob
and ambled off, whistling merrily.

But it was Monk we saw later.  He wormed his long corpse into "Mon
Repos" and sat on Albert Edward's bed laughing like a tickled hyena.
"Funniest thing on earth," he spluttered.  "A mule strayed into my
lines t'other night and refused to leave.  It was a rotten beast, a
holy terror; it could kick a fly off its ears and bite a man in half.
I don't mind admitting it played battledore and what's-'is-name with
my organisation for a day or two, but out of respect for O'Dwyer,
blackguard though he is, I..."

"Oh, so it was O'Dwyer's mule?" Albert Edward cut in innocently.

Monk nodded hastily.  "Yes, so it turned out.  Well, out of respect
for O'Dwyer I looked after it as far as it would allow me, naturally
expecting he'd come over and claim it--but he didn't.  On the fourth
day, after it had made a light breakfast off a bombardier's ear and
kicked a gap in a farrier, I got absolutely fed up, turned the damn
cannibal loose and gave it a cut with a whip for God-speed.  It made
off due east, cavorting and snorting until it reached the tank track;
there it stopped and picked a bit of grass.  Presently along comes a
tank, proceeding to the fray, and gives the mule a poke in the rear.
The mule lashes out, catching the tank in the chest, and then goes on
with his grazing without looking round, leaving the tank for dead, as
by all human standards it should have been, of course.  But instead
of being dead the box of tricks ups and gives the donk another butt
and moves on.  That roused the mule properly.  He closed his eyes and
laid into the tank for dear life; you could hear it clanging a mile
away.

"After delivering two dozen of the best, the moke turned round to
sniff the cold corpse, but the corpse was still warm and smiling.
Then the mule went mad and set about the tank in earnest.  He jabbed
it in the eye, upper-cut it on the point, hooked it behind the ear,
banged its slats, planted his left on the mark and his right on the
solar plexus, but still the tank sat up and took nourishment.

"Then the donkey let a roar out of him and closed with it; tried the
half Nelson, the back heel, the scissors, the roll, and the
flying-mare; tried Westmorland and Cumberland style, collar and
elbow, Cornish, Greece-Roman, scratch-as-scratch-can and Ju-jitsu.
Nothing doing.  Then as a last despairing effort he tried to charge
it over on its back and rip the hide off it with his teeth.

"But the old tank gave a 'good-by-ee' cough of its exhaust and
rumbled off as if nothing had happened, nothing at all.  I have never
seen such a look of surprise on any living creature's face as was on
that donk's.  He sank down on his tail, gave a hissing gasp and
rolled over stone dead.  Broken heart."

"Is that the end?" Albert Edward inquired.

"It is," said Monk; "and if you go outside and look half-right you'll
see the bereaved Mr. O'Dwyer, all got up in sackcloth, cinders and
_crêpe_ rosettes, mooning over the deceased like a dingo on an ash
heap."



XVI

WAR PAINT

After the 53rd Lancers had been in the trenches for seven
days--during which period the Boches hated them ceaselessly with
whizz-bangs, tear-shells, snipers, coal-boxes, hand and rifle
grenades, spring guns, rifle batteries, machine-guns, gas and liquid
fire; and something celestial leaked badly so that the front line
gave a muddy imitation of the Grand Canal, Venice--the infantry
relieved them and they came out looking like nothing on earth.

They were marched into an ex-dye factory, boiled, fourteen in a vat,
issued with a change of underclothes and marched on to billets.

The 53rd being a smart regiment, they were given twenty-four hours to
lick and polish themselves like unto the stars of the firmament for
brightness, or never hear the last of it.

In twenty-four hours they paraded again, according unto orders, and
the stars of the firmament also ran.

At noon the same day the party proceeding on Blighty leave was
paraded for inspection by the Orderly Officer.

Pending the arrival of the O.O., the Regimental Sergeant-Major gave
them a preliminary look over.

They were dressed by the right in file, chests thrown in the air,
faces shiny with soap and pink from razoring.  Every badge, buckle
and button twinkled a challenge back at the sun, every spur shone
like a bar of silver, their leatherwork gleamed with the polish bloom
of a plum, their puttees and tunics were without spot or blemish,
every cap raked slightly over every right ear.  They were smart men
of a smart regiment, whose boast it was that they lived and died
glitteringly.

The R.S.M. ran a grey foxy eye over and through them.  At the sixth
file from the right he paused, staggered, blanched, and broke into
tears.

The Regiment was disgraced, the name gloriously won by dashing
generations of light cavalry men was gone for ever.  Here was a
Fifty-third proposing to go home and swank about England practically
naked.  Blankety blankety blank.  O Lord!  The sixth file went
pea-green under his tan, instinctively felt for his top left-hand
pocket button and did it up.

The R.S.M. went on his way down the line, thrashing his leggings
severely with his whip and shaking with emotion.  Ten files further
down he found a speck of brass polish lurking behind a belt-hook and
didn't expect to survive it.

Sixteenth file rubbed it off with a handkerchief, trembling all over.

The O.O. came on the scene, inspected them with a swelling of pride
tightening his tunic, found a few faults as a matter of principle,
and ordered them away.

The R.S.M. escorted them to the road, dismissed them with his
blessing, adjuring them to be good little boys generally, and pay his
respects to a publican near the Elephant and Castle if they passed
that way.

At 2 p.m. they entrained at the railhead along with carolling parties
from the thousand-and-one units that go to make the B.E.F.

At 3 a.m. they detrained in the dim-lit vault of Victoria.  As they
tramped out of the gates a little man, wearing square clothes and an
accent that twanged like a banjo, bored into the crowd.

He let some squads of mud-caked line infantry go by unmolested, threw
but a cursory glance over a batch of rain-sodden gunners, then his
bright eye caught the brighter buttons of the Fifty-thirds and he
swooped upon them, thrusting pasteboards into every hand.  The
sixteenth file paused with his chum under a lamp and read his card.

It ran as follows:

OUR HEROES' SUPPLY DEPT.

Look the part and have your war-yarns believed at home.  Put
yourselves in our hands and then watch the girls gather round.


                          LIST OF CHARGES

  Mud-spray (patent mud guaranteed to stick for five days) 1s.
  Bullet-holes (punched in cap or tunic)                   3d. each.
  Blood-stains (indelible)                                 6d.
  Prayer-book (with embedded bullet)                       2s. 6.

We have also a large stock of souvenirs--shell fragments, bullets,
German caps, helmets, etc., at moderate charges.  Call and see us
right now.  Depot just round the block.


The sixteenth file looked at his chum, fingering his card uneasily.
"Well, Bob, what d'you say?  My lassie is won'erful 'ard to convince."

"I'm with you," said his friend.  "Mother is a fair terror too."

They tramped after the little man.

A quarter of an hour later they might have been seen tramping back
down Victoria Street looking like nothing on earth.



XVII

THE PINCH OF WAR

I came across him on the rim of the bog.  He stood before a
whitewashed cabin glaring fiercely over the brown world.

A coal-black dudeen hung empty and bottom up from his puckered mouth,
a rumpled frieze cap was perilously balanced atop of a fringe of
white hair.  His full figure, upholstered in a worn velvet waistcoat,
was thrust well forward as if daring Fate to hit it another blow.

At the moment he was acting as a scratching-post to a large white
billy-goat, which chafed itself luxuriously to and fro against his
straddled legs.  At the sound of my horse's hoofs he turned his head.
At the sight of my uniform his eyes brightened, he withdrew a smutty
hand from a corduroy pocket and made a travesty of a salute towards
his cap, which almost lost its balance.

"Hey!  Good day to ye, Captain!"  (I am a second lieutenant, but in
Ireland every lance-corporal has visionary batons on his
shoulder-straps.)

I replied suitably, agreed that the weather was fine for the second
and trusted, if we were good, we might have an hour of it.

"How is it wid the War this mornin', yer honour?"

I replied that, as far as I knew, it was still there, had passed a
quiet night and was doing nicely, thanks.

"Was you ever at the Front, Captain?"

I nodded, and at that his eyes gleamed.

"Begob!--then 'tis yerself has the luck.  Wait till I tell you a
minute.  I'm afther wishin' be all the Blessed Saints I was twinty
year younger, 'tis meself would be the first afther them German
Daygoes--I would so, the dirthy, desthroyin' blagyards!  Tell me now,
Captain dear, did you ever kill wan of them at all?"

He hung on my answer to such an extent that the white billy tore a
tatter from his canvas coat and ate it unrebuked.

I wagged my head.  "Don't know--couldn't say."

"Och, shure, no!  What would a grand gentleman like yourself be
wantin' wid such dirthy work--'tis a common private's job, so it is.
But was meself twinty year younger 'twould be a job I would take
great delight in the doin' of it.  I would take great delight in
landin' wan o' them blagyards a puck wid a bay'net that would let the
daylight through him.  I would have great courage an' delight in a
war wid such as they be, that's the blessed truth, the dirthy,
desthroyin', murdherin' divils!  Arragh!  I hate them!"

He shook a grimy fist in the general direction of America, and the
billy, undisturbed, reached up and ate another ribbon off his coat.

"Beggin' yer pardon, but will yer honour be goin' back to the War?"

I said I hoped so some day.

"Listen, then--I'm wishin' ye would kill a German, two Germans, d'ye
hear me now?  Two Germans I'm afther wishin' ye."

Again he brandished a trembling fist aloft and again the billy,
fearing naught, grazed its way up his back.

"Thanks, very good of you," said I.  "I'll remember.  Good day."

"Good day it is, an' God save yer honour!"

Then with an overwhelming burst of generosity he promoted me two
ranks at once and wished again.

"Colonel," he said solemnly, though shaking with passion, "I'm afther
wishin' ye three--ten--_fifteen_ Germans!"

"Thanks," I said again, and picked up the reins, wondering if tragedy
had shadowed the bogside that morning, if some grey-eyed,
black-haired boy would come home no more from Flanders to that
whitewashed cabin.

As I turned a beshawled girl poked her head round the door lintel and
smiled at me.

"Och, faith, don't be noticin' the granda', yer honour; himself was
beyond to the town this mornin', an' they've riz the price o' porther
on him wan ha'penny.  He do be as mad as the Sivinteen Divils!"



XVIII

THE REGIMENTAL MASCOT

When his honour the Colonel took the owld rigiment to France, Herself
came home bringin' the rigimental mascot with her.  A big white
long-haired billy-goat he was, the same.

"I'll not be afther lavin' him at the daypo," says Herself; "'tis no
place for a domestic animal at all, the language them little
drummer-boys uses, the dear knows," says she.

So me bowld mascot he stops up at the Castle and makes free with the
flower-beds and the hall and the drawin'-room and the domestic maids
the way he'd be the Lord-Lieutenant o' the land, and not jist a plain
human Angory goat.  A proud arrygent crature it is, be the powers!
Steppin' about as disdainy as a Dublin gerrl in Ballydehob, and if,
mebbe, you'd address him for to get off your flower-beds with the
colour of anger in your mouth he'd let a roar out of him like a Sligo
piper with poteen taken, and fetch you a skelp with his horns that
would lay you out for dead.

And sorra the use is it of complainin' to Herself.

"Ah, Delaney, 'tis the marshal sperit widin him," she'd say; "we must
be patient with him for the sake of the owld rigiment"; and with that
she'd start hand-feedin' him with warmed-up sponge cake and playin'
with his long silky hair.

"Far be it from me," I says to Mikeen, the herd, "to question the
workings o' Providence, but were I the Colonel of a rigiment, which I
am not, and had to have a mascot, it's not a raparee billy I'd be
afther havin', but a nanny, or mebbe a cow, that would step along
dacently with the rigiment and bring ye luck, and mebbe a dropeen o'
milk for the orficers' tea as well.  If it's such cratures that bring
ye fortune may I die a peaceful death in a poor-house," says I.

"I'm wid ye," says Mikeen, groanin', he bein' spotted like a leopard
with bruises by rason of him havin' to comb the mascot's silky hair
twice daily, and the quick temper of the baste at the tangles.

The long of a summer the billy stops up at the Castle, archin' his
neck at the wurrld and growin' prouder and prouder by dint of the
standin' he had with the owld rigiment and the high feedin' he had
from Herself.  Faith, 'tis a great delight we servints had of him I'm
tellin' ye!  It was as much as your life's blood was worth to cross
his path in the garden, and if the domestic maids would be meetin'
him in the house they'd let him eat the dresses off them before they
dare say a word.

In the autumn me bowld mascot gets a wee trifle powerful by dint o'
the high feedin' and the natural nature of the crature.  Herself, wid
her iligant lady's nose, is afther noticin' it, and she sends wan o'
the gerrls to tell meself and Mikeen to wash the baste.

"There will be murdher done this day," says I to the lad, "but 'tis
the orders.  Go get the cart rope and the chain off the bulldog, and
we'll do it.  Faith, it isn't all the bravery that's at the Front,"
says I.

"That's the true wurrd," says he, rubbin' the lumps on his shins, the
poor boy.

"Oh, Delaney," says the domestic gerrl, drawin' a bottle from her
apron pocket.  "Herself says will ye plaze be so obligin' as to
sprinkle the mascot wid a dropeen of this ody-koloney scent--mebbe it
will quench his powerfulness, she says."

I put the bottle in me pocket.  We tripped up me brave goat with the
rope, got the bull's collar and chain, and dragged him away towards
the pond, him buckin' and ragin' between us like a Tyrone Street lady
in the arms of the poliss.  To hear the roars he let out of him would
turn your hearts cowld as lead, but we held on.

The Saints were wid us; in half an hour we had him as wet as an eel,
and broke the bottle of ody-koloney over his back.

He was clane mad.  "God save us all when he gets that chain off him!"
I says.  "God save us it is!" says Mikeen, looking around for a tree
to shin.

Just at the minut we heard a great screechin' o' dogs, and through
the fence comes the harrier pack that the Reserve orficers kept in
the camp beyond.  ("Harriers" they called them, but, begob! there
wasn't anythin' they wouldn't hunt from a fox to a turkey, those
ones.)

"What are they afther chasin'?" says Mikeen.

"'Tis a stag to-day, be the newspapers," I says, "but the dear knows
they'll not cotch him this month, be must be gone by this half-hour,
and the breath is from them, their tongues is hangin' out a yard," I
says.

'Twas at that moment the Blessed Saints gave me wisdom.

"Mikeen," I says, "drag the mascot out before them; we'll see sport
this day."

"Herself----" he begins.

"Hoult your whisht," says I, "and come on."  With that we dragged me
bowld goat out before the dogs and let go the chain.

The dogs sniffed up the strong blast of ody-koloney and let a yowl
out of them like all the banshees in the nation of Ireland, and the
billy legged it for his life--small blame to him!

Meself and Mikeen climbed a double to see the sport.

"They have him," says Mikeen.  "They have not," says I; "the crature
howlds them by two lengths."

"He has doubled on them," says Mikeen; "he is as sly as a Jew."

"He is forninst the rabbit holes now," I says.  "I thank the howly
Saints he cannot burrow."

"He has tripped up--they have him bayed," says Mikeen.

And that was the mortal truth, the dogs had him.

Oh, but it was a bowld billy!  He went in among those hounds like a
lad to a fair, you could hear his horns lambastin' their ribs a mile
away.  But they were too many for him and bit the grand silky hair
off him by the mouthful.  The way it flew you'd think it was a
snowstorm.

"They have him desthroyed," says Mikeen.

"They have," says I, "God be praised!"

At the moment the huntsman leps his harse up on the double beside us;
he was phlastered with muck from his hair to his boots.

"What have they out there?" says he, blinkin' through the mud and not
knowin' rightly what his hounds were coursin' out before him, whether
it would be a stag or a Bengal tiger.

"'Tis her ladyship's Rile Imperial Mascot Goat," says I; "an' God
save your honour, for she'll have your blood in a bottle for this
day's worrk."

The huntsman lets a curse out of his stummick and rides afther them,
flat on his saddle, both spurs tearin'.  In the wink of an eye he is
down among the dogs, larrupin' them with his whip and drawin' down
curses on them that would wither ye to hear him--he had great
eddication, that orficer.

"Come now," says I to Mikeen, the poor lad, "let you and me bear the
cowld corpse of the diseased back to Herself, mebbe she'll have a
shillin' handy in her hand, the way she'd reward us for saving the
body from the dogs," says I.

But was me bowld mascot dead?  He was not.  He was alive and well,
the thickness of his wool had saved him.  For all that he had not a
hair of it left to him, and when he stood up before you, you wouldn't
know him; he was that ordinary without his fleece, he was no more
than a common poor man's goat, he was no more to look at than a
skinned rabbit, and that's the truth.

He walked home with meself and Mikeen as meek as a young gerrl.

Herself came runnin' out, all fluttery, to look at him.

"Ah, but that's not my mascot," she says.

"It is, Marm," says I; and I swore to it by the whole
Calendar--Mikeen too.

"Bah! how disgustin'.  Take it to the cowhouse," says she, and
stepped indoors without another word.

We led the billy away, him hangin' his head for shame at his
nakedness.

"Ye'll do no more mascotin' avic," says I to him.  "Sorra luck you
would bring to a blind beggar-man the way you are now--you'll never
step along again with the drums and tambourines."

And that was the true word, for though Herself had Mikeen rubbing him
daily with bear's grease and hair lotion he never grew the same grand
fleece again, and he'd stand about in the backfield, brooding for
hours together, the divilment clane gone out of his system; and if,
mebbe, you'd draw the stroke of an ash-plant across his ribs to
hearten him, he'd only just look at you, sad-like and pass no remarks.



XIX

WAR VEGETATION

'Tis her ladyship up at the Castle that has the War at heart; 'tis no
laughin' matter wid her.

She came back from England wid the grandest modern notions for
conductin' the war in the home that ever ye'd see, an' a foreign
domestic maid she had hired in London.

"'Tis a poor Belgium refuge she is, Delaney," says Herself to meself.
"In the home she is afther lavin' there is nothing left standin' but
the wine-cellar, an' that full o' German Huns--she is wet wid weepin'
yet," says Herself; "so be kind to her, for we must help our brave
Allies."

So the Belgium refuge walks into the Castle an' becomes lady's maid.
A fine, upstandin' colleen it is, too, by the same token, wid notions
in dhress that turned all the counthry gurrls contemptjous wid envy,
an' a hat on the head of her that was like a conservatory for the
flowers that was in it.  But did Herself's war work stop at adoptin'
our brave Alice?  It did not.  She gave the young ladies of the high
nobility a powerful organisin', an' they'd be in at Ballydrogeen
every day o' the week sellin' Frinch, Eyetalian, Rooshan, an' Japan
flags an' makin' a mint o' money at it.  The lads that would be
comin' into Ballydrogeen Fair to do a bit of hand slappin' over a
pig, an' mebbe taste a tageen wid the luckpenny, would dishcover
themselves goin' home in the ass cart, pig an' all, sober as stones
an' plasthered thick wid flags the way you'd think they'd be the
winnin' boat at Galway Regatta.  For 'tis a bould bouchal will stand
up to the young ladies of the high nobility whin they have their best
dhresses on an' do be prancin' up to ye, the smiles an' blarney
dhrippin' from them like golden syrup, wid their "Oh, Mickey, how is
your dear darlint baby?  Have ye not the least little shillin' for
me, thin?" or their "Good day to ye, Terry Ryan; I'm all in love wid
that bay colt ye have, an' I will plague my Da into his grave until
he buys him for me.  Will ye not have a small triflin' flag from me,
Terry Ryan?"

But did Herself's war work stop at flag selling?  It did not.  Wan
mornin' she comes steppin' down the garden as elegant as a champion
hackney, holdin' her skirts high out of the wet.

"Is that you, Delaney?" says she.

"It is, your ladyship," says I, crawlin' out from behindt the swate
pays.

"Listen to me," says she.  "Thim flowers is nothin' but a luxury
these days.  I'll have nothin' but war vigitables in my garden."

Says I, "Beggin' your pardon, but phwat may they be?"  She was
puzzled for a moment, an' stands there scratchin' her ear as ye might
say.

"Oh, jist ordinary vigitables, only grown under war conditions," says
she at length.  "At anny rate I'll have no flowers, so desthroy thim
entirely, an' grow vigitables in their place--d'you understand?" says
she.

"I do, your ladyship," says I.

I wint within to tell Anne Toher, the cook.  "Herself is for
desthroyin' the flowers entirely, an' plantin' war vigitables," says
I.

"An' phwat may they be?" says the woman.

"The same as ordinary vigitables, only growed under war conditions,"
says I.  "Ivvry spud doin' its duty, ivvry parsnip strugglin' to be
two.  We will have carrots an' onions in iwry bed up to the front
door, Frinch beans trained all over the porch.  Ye'll jist lane out
of the kitchen winda an' gather in the dinner yourself; 'twill be a
great savin' o' labour," says I.

"An' phwat'll ye do for the table decorations whin the gintry comes
callin'?" says Anne Toher.

"Faith," says I, "'tis aisy done; I will jist set a bookay o'
hothouse cabbages in the vases, an' if, mebbe, the Colonel would be
comin' home on lave an' should ax a nosegay to stick in his coat,
begob I'll have a fine sprig of parsley for him," says I.

"Ye poor man," says she, "'twill sour the heart within ye."  Ah!
That was the true word, 'twas like pullin' me heart's blood out be
the roots to desthroy thim flowers; but it had to be done.  War is
war.

By June the garden was nothin' but a say of vigitables, an' divil a
touch of colour to take your eye was there in it, no matter how long
you'd look.

Wan day I am up at the yard, seein' if, mebbe, Anne Toher would have
the taste o' tay in the pot, meself havin' a thirst on me that would
face the Shannon by dint of the hoein' I was afther doin' in the spud
plantations, whin the woman puts her head out of the kitchen winda.
"Whist, Delaney," says she, "there's gintry to lunch," says she.

"Phwat gintry?" says I.

"Sir Patrick Freebody, o' Michaelstown," says she, an' at that me
blood run cowld.

Sir Patrick Freebody had the grandest garden over at Michaelstown
that ivver you'd see in the nation of Ireland, an' a cousin to me,
John O'Callaghan, was gardener to him.  There was no love betwane us
either, by the same token.  I would as soon wake John O'Callaghan as
I would the Divil, an' that's the morthal truth, for all that he was
a cousin to me.

I knew how 'twould be as sure as I was alive in this worrld.  Owld
Sir Pat would be into lunch before a bare board, an' whin he wint
home to Michaelstown he would be tellin' John O'Callaghan, an' I
would be skinned raw wid the jeerin' an' blaggardin' the same John
O'Callaghan would have wid me.

"Whisper, whin will they be atein'?" says I to Anne Toher.

"In ten minutes, please God, an' the spuds are soft," says she.

"Begob," says I to meself, "I'll set flowers on that table or cut my
throat across," an' I ran away, not knowin' where I'd be findin'
thim, not within five miles.  But I was not half-way round the laurel
bushes whin the Blessed Saints sent me light.

In sivin minuites I had flowers in the middle bowl, an' backed away
behindt the hat-racks as Herself an' owld Sir Pat comes out of the
drawin'-room an' goes in to lunch.  I set me eye to the kayhole and
watched, me heart like water betwane me teeth.

Owld Sir Pat, he mumbles an' coughs an' talks about the weather, an'
the war, an' the recruitin'.

Herself she talks about the soldiers' shest-protectors an' her war
work, an' how she was scared the Colonel was sittin' about at the
Front wid wet fate.

Presently the owld man notices the flowers in the bowl an' lanes over
the table blinkin' at thim through his spectacles in his half-blind
way.

"Lovely flowers ye have there, Lady Nugent, positive blaze o' colour.
How do you do it?  Now, that scamp of a gardener of mine----"  He
sits back again, tellin' Herself how John O'Callaghan had left his
chrysanthemums go to ruination wid blight.  Her Ladyship takes wan
look at the flowers, her eyebrows go up, she turns as red as a
bateroot and bites her lip, but says nothin'.  God bless her!  I
backed away, breathin' aisy once more, but at that minuite down the
stairs comes our brave Alice, the Belgium refuge, all of a lather,
gabbing like a turkey in the foreign tongue, and runs straight for
the dinin'-room door.

'Tis a mercy I have the quick wit; I pulled down the Colonel's
dhress-sword from where it hung on the wall and headed her off,
wavin' it at her the way I'd draw the stroke of it across her
windpipe.  She wint leppin' back up the stairs like a mountainy hare
among the rocks, thinkin', mebbe, the German Huns was come at her
again out of the wine-cellar.

An hour later I heard owld Sir Pat's car lavin' the front door, so I
sheathed me sword an' let her out of her bedroom where she had
herself locked in.

A strong shindy the gurrl raised, an' Herself forced me to buy her a
new hat out of me wages, seein' that her owld wan was desthroyed by
dint of the soakin' an' crushin' it had in the flower bowl; but sorra
the bit did I care, for I passed John O'Callaghan beyond in
Michaelstown on Sunday, an' divil a word said he, but scowled at me
in a way that did my heart good to see.



XX

A CHANGE OF FRONT

We fell asleep with goose feathers of snow whirling against the
carriage windows, and woke to see a shot-silk sea flinging white lace
along a fairy coast on one side and pink and yellow villas nesting
among groves of palm and orange on the other.

"Of course this sort of thing doesn't happen in real life," said
Albert Edward, flattening his proboscis against the pane.  "Either
it's all a dream or else those oranges will suddenly light up; George
Grossmith, in a topper and spats, will trip in from the O.P. side;
girls will blossom from every palm, and all ranks get busy with song
and prance--tra-la-la!"

The Babe kicked his blankets off and sat up.  "Nothing of the sort.
We've arrived in well-known Italy, that's all.  Capital--Rome.
Exports--old masters, chianti and barrel-organs.  Faces South and is
centrally heated by Vesuvius."

We rattled into a cutting, the sides of which were decorated with
posters: "Good Healt at the England," "Good Luck at Tommy," and drew
up in a flag-festooned station, on the platform of which was a
deputation of smiling signorinas who presented the Atkinses with
postcards, fruit and cigarettes, and ourselves with flowers.

"Very _bon_--eh, what?" said the Babe as the train resumed its
rumblings.  "All the same I wish we could thank them prettily and
tell them how pleased we are we've come.  Does anybody handle the
patter?"

Albert Edward thought he did.  "Used to swot up a lot of Italian
literature when I was a lad; technical military stuff about the
divisions of Gaul by one J. Cæsar."

"Too technical for everyday use," I objected.  "A person called
D'Annunzio is their best seller now, I believe."

"Somebody'd better hop off the bus at the next stop and buy a book of
the words," said the Babe.

At the next halt I dodged the deputation and purchased a phrase-book
with a Union Jack on the cover, entitled _The English Soldier in
Italy_, published in Milan.

Among military terms, grouped under the heading of "The Worldly War,"
a _garetta_ (sentry-box) is defined as "a watchbox," and the
machine-gunner will be surprised to find himself described as "a
grapeshot-man."  It has also short conversations for current use.

"Have you of any English papers?"

"Yes, sir, there's _The Times_ and _Tit-Bits_."

(Is it possible that the land of Virgil, of Horace and Dante knows
not _The Daily Mail_?)

"Give me, please, many biscuits."

"No, sir, we have no biscuits; the fabrication of them has been
avoided by Government."

"Waiter, show me a good bed where one may sleep undisturbated."

_In the train_:--

"Dickens!  I have lost my ticket."

"Alas, you shall pay the price of another."

A jocular vein is recommended with cabbies:--

"Coachman, are you free?"

"Yes, sir."

"Then long live liberty."

Very young subalterns with romantic notions may waste good beer-money
on foreign phrase-books and get themselves enravelled in hopeless
international tangles, but not old Atkins.  The English soldier in
Italy will speak what he has always spoken with complete success in
Poperinghe, Amiens, Cairo, Salonika, Dar-es-Salaam, Bagdad and
Jerusalem, to wit, English.

But to return to our train.  At nightfall we left the fairy coast
behind, its smiling _signorinas_, flags, flowers and fruit, and
swarmed up a pile of perpendicular scenery from summer to winter.
During a halt in the midst of moonlit snows our carriage door was
opened and we beheld outside an Italian officer, who saluted and gave
us an exhibition of his native tongue at rapid fire.

"He's referring to us," said the Babe.  "Answer him, somebody; tell
him we're on his side and all that."

"_Viva l' Italia_," William exclaimed promptly.

The Italian countered with a "Viva l'Inghilterra" and swept on with
his monologue.

"Seems to want something," said Albert Edward.  "Wonder if Cæsar is
too technical for him."

"Read him something from _The English Soldier in Italy_," I suggested.

The Babe thumbed feverishly through the handbook.  "'Let us get in;
the guard has already cried'--No, that won't do.  'Give me a walk and
return ticket, please'--That won't do either.  'Yes, I have a trunk
and a carpet-bag'--Oh, this is absurd."  He cast the book from him.

At that moment the engine hooted, the trucks gave a preliminary buck
and started to jolt forward.  The Italian sprang upon the running
board and, clinging to the hand-rail, continued to declaim
emotionally through the window.  William became alarmed.  "This chap
has something on his mind.  Perhaps he's trying to tell us that a
bridge has blown up, or that the train is moving without a movement
order, or the chauffeur is drunk.  For Heaven's sake somebody do
something--quick!"

Thereupon Babel broke loose, each of us in his panic blazing off in
the foreign language which came easiest to his tongue.

William called for a bath in Arabic.  The Babe demanded champagne in
French.  Albert Edward declined _mensa_, while I, by the luckiest
chance, struck a language which the Italian recognised with a glad
yelp.  In a moment explanations were over and I had swung him into
the carriage and slammed the door.

The new-comer was a lieutenant of mountain artillery.  He was
returning from leave, had confided himself to the care of a Railway
Transport Officer, had in consequence missed every regular train and
wanted a lift to the next junction.  That was all.  I then set about
to make him as comfortable as possible, wrapping him in one of the
Babe's blankets and giving him his maiden drink of whisky out of
William's First Field Dressing.  With tears streaming down his cheeks
he vented his admiration of the British national beverage.

In return he introduced me to the Italian national smoke, an endless
cigar to be sucked up through a straw.  Between violent spasms I
implored the name and address of the maker.  We were both very
perfect gentlemen.

We then prattled about the War; he boasting about the terrific depths
of snow in which he did his battling, while I boasted about the
Flanders mud.  We broke about even on that bout.  He gained a bit on
mountain batteries, but I got it all back, and more, on tanks.  He
had never seen one, so I had it all my own way.  Our tanks, after I
had finished with them, could do pretty nearly anything except knit.

Defeated in the field, he turned home to Rome for something to boast
about.  I should see St. Peter's, he said.  It was magnificent, and
the Roman art treasures unsurpassable.

I replied that our cathedral at Westminster was far newer, and that
the art in our National Cold Storage had cost an average of £5473
19s. 154d. per square foot.  Could he beat it?

That knocked him out of his stride for a moment, but he struggled
back with some remark about seeing his Coliseum by moonlight.

I replied that at ours we had modern electric light, Murphy and Mack,
Vesta Tilley and the Bioscope.

Whether he would have recovered from that I know not, for at this
moment the lights of the junction twinkled in at the frosted windows
and he took his departure, first promising to call in at our Mess and
suffer some more whisky if in return I would crawl up his mountain
and meet the chamois and edelweiss.

Later on, as I was making up my bed for the night, Albert Edward
poked his head out of the cocoon of horse-blankets in which he had
wound himself.

"By the way, what ungodly jargon were you and that Italian champing
together so sociably?"

"German," I whispered; "but for the Lord's sake don't tell anybody."



XXI

ANTONIO GIUSEPPE

Our squadron is at the present moment billeted in what the
house-agents would describe as a "unique old-world property," a
ramshackle pile which looks like a palace from the south and a
workhouse from the north.

It commenced its career, back in the long ago, as a glorified
week-end bungalow for Doges.  In course of time it became a monastery.

When the pious monks took over they got busy with whitewash and
obliterated most of the Doges' sportive mural decorations.  Most, but
not all.

Methinks the Abbot had tripped the boulevards in his youth and he
spared some of the brighter spots of the more sportive frescoes in
memory of old times and to keep his heart up during Lent.  Anyhow
they are still there.

To-day our long-faced chums champ their feeds in cloisters where once
the good monks told their beads, and our bold sergeant boys quaff
their tonics beneath a painted ceiling whereon Rackham satyrs are
depicted chivvying Kirchner nymphs across a Leader landscape.

A small portion of one immense wing is inhabited by a refugee lady,
who had retired in good order, haling the whole menagerie along with
her, calves, fowls, children, donkey, piebald pig and all.

When first we came into residence here we heard strange nocturnal
swishings and shufflings overhead, where none should be, and
attributed them to the ghost of the Abbot, who had returned from
Purgatory with a bucket of lime and was striving to wash out his
former lapses.  Later on we discovered it was the calves, who from
inscrutable motives of their own prefer living in the attics.  How
Mrs. Refugee hoisted them up there in the first place and how she
proposes to get them down again when they ripen are questions she
alone can answer, but will never do so because we haven't enough
Italian to ask her.

The piebald pig is supported entirely by voluntary contributions,
and, like many other such institutions, keeps frequent fasts.  When
he retreated here there was no sty to accommodate him; but Mrs.
Refugee, with the practical originality that distinguishes her,
routed out a retired dog-kennel from somewhere and anchored him to
it.  This has had the effect of creating in him a dual personality.

Sometimes he thinks he is just fat old Dolce F. Niente the pig, and
behaves as such, and one can tread all over him without disturbing
his melodious slumbers.  At others the collar and chain prey on his
mind and he imagines he is Patrise Defensor the trusty watch-dog, and
mows down all comers.

The children and fowls are doing nicely.  They speedily discover what
innumerable fowls and children all the world over had discovered
before them, namely, that the turtling dove is a wild beast compared
with the British warrior and his war-horse, and they victimise the
defenceless creatures accordingly.

The result is that the Atkinses get only what husks of their rations
the children have neglected, and the fowls only allow the hairies
what oats they cannot possibly stagger away with.

Antonio Giuseppe the donkey was also a war profiteer.  Commerce might
stagnate, armies clash and struggle, nations bleed to death, he did
not care.  "_Viva la guerra!_" said Antonio Giuseppe.  "As long as
there is a British unit handy to dine out with I'm all for it."
These sentiments, though deplorable, were not without reason, for
until we came I very much doubt if he had ever had a full meal--a
real rib-straining blow-out--in his life.

He was a miserable little creature, standing about a yard high by six
inches broad.  By tucking in his tail he could have passed for a
rabbit at any fancy-dress ball.  His costume was a patch-work affair
of hairy tufts and bare spaces.  I think he must have been laid away
in a drawer without camphor at one time and been mauled by a moth.

A disreputable ragamuffin person was Antonio Giuseppe the donkey, but
for all that he had a way with him, and was in his day the
Light-weight Champion Diner-out of all Italy--probably of the world.

At night he reposed in the kitchen along with Mrs. Refugee, the
bambini and fowls.  The day he spent in his observation post, lurking
behind a screen of mulberries and vines, keeping a watchful eye on
the horses.

As soon as their nosebags were on he commenced to move stealthily
towards the lines, timing himself to arrive just as the nosebags came
off and the hay-nets went up.  He then glided softly between the
horses and helped himself.  Being tiny and very discreet he
frequently passed unobserved, but should the line-guard spot him he
had his plan of action.

Oft-times have I seen a perspiring and blasphemous trooper pursuing
the winged Antonio Giuseppe round the lines with a stable broom; but
when the broom descended Antonio Giuseppe was not there to receive
it.  He would nip under the breast-rope, slip in under one horse's
belly and out between the legs of another, dodging through and round
the astounded animals like a half-back through a loose scrum or a
greased pig at a fair, snatching a generous contribution from each
hay-net as he passed.  Under this method Antonio throve and throve;
but the tale of splintered brooms grew and grew and the Quartermaster
loved me not.

Yesterday the General intimated that he'd like to inspect us.  Always
eager to oblige, we licked, polished, brushed and burnished
ourselves, pipeclayed our head-ropes, pomaded our moustaches,
powdered our noses and paraded.

We paraded to-day in regimental column in a field west of our
palace-workhouse and sat stiff in our saddles, the cheerful sunshine
glowing on leather-work, glinting on brass and steel, conscious that
we could give any Beauty Chorus a run for its money.

There sounded a shrill fanfaronade of trumpets, tootling the salute,
and a dazzle of gold and scarlet like a Turner sunset, blazed into
view--the General and his Staff.

At the same moment Antonio Giuseppe espied us from his observation
post and, getting it into his head that we were picnicing out (it was
about lunch-time), hastened to join us.  As the General reached the
leading squadron Antonio Giuseppe reached the near squadron and,
sliding unobtrusively into its ranks, looked about for the hay-nets.

However the Second in Command noticed his arrival and motioned to his
trumpeter.  The trumpeter spurned forward and pinked Antonio Giuseppe
in the hindquarters with his sword-point as a hint to him to move on.
Antonio, thinking the line-guards were upon him and with a new type
of broom, loosed a squeal of agony and straightway commenced his
puss-in-the-corner antics in and out and round about the horses'
legs.  They didn't like it at all; it tickled and upset them; they
changed from the horizontal to the vertical, giggled and pawed the
air.

Things were becoming serious.  A hee-hawing tatterdemalion donkey,
playing "ring o' roses" with a squadron of war-horses, tickling them
into hysterics, detracts from the majesty of such occasions and is no
fit spectacle for a General.  A second trumpeter joined in the chase
and scored a direct prick on the soft of Antonio Giuseppe's nose as
he dived out under the tail of a plunging gun-mare.  Antonio whipped
about and fled towards the centre squadron, ears wobbling, braying
anguished S.O.S.'s.  The two trumpeters, young and ardent lads,
thundered after him, swords at the engage, racing each other, knee to
knee for first blood.  They scored simultaneously on the butt of his
tail, and Antonio, stung to the quick, shot clean through (or rather
under) the centre squadron into the legs of the General's horse,
tripping up that majestic animal and bringing the whole stately
edifice down into a particularly muddy patch of Italy.

Tremendous and awful moment!  As my groom and countryman expressed
it, "Ye cud hear the silence for miles."  The General did not break
it.  I think his mouth was too full of mud and loose teeth for words.
He arose slowly out of the ooze like an old walrus lifting through a
bed of seaweed black as death, slime dripping from his whiskers, and
limped grimly from the field, followed by his pallid staff proffering
handkerchiefs and smelling-salts.  But I understand he became
distinctly articulate when he got home, and the upshot of it is that
we are to be put in the forefront of the nastiest battle that can be
arranged for us.

And Antonio Giuseppe the donkey, author of all the trouble, what of
him? you ask.

Antonio Giuseppe the donkey will never smile again, dear reader.
With his edges trimmed and "Welcome" branded across his back he may
serve as a mangy door-mat for some suburban maisonette, but at the
present moment he lies in the mud of the parade-ground, as flat as a
sole on a sand-bank, waiting for someone to roll him up and carry him
away.

When a full-fed Major-General falls he falls heavily.



XXII

"I SPY"

I put my head into the Mess and discovered Albert Edward alone there
cheating himself at Patience.

"My leave warrant has come and I'm off!" said I.  "If Foch should
ring up tell him he'll have to struggle along by himself for a
fortnight.  Cheeroh!"

"Cheeroh!" said Albert Edward.  "Give my regards to Nero, Borgia and
all the boys."

I shut the door upon him and took the road to Rome.

Arrived there I attempted to shed a card on the Pope, but was
repulsed by a halbardier in fancy dress; visited the catacombs (by
the way, in the art of catacombing we latter-day sinners have nothing
to learn from the early saints.  Why, at Arras in 1917 we----  Oh,
well, never mind now!); kept a solemn face while bands solemnly
intoned Tipperary (under the impression it was the British National
Anthem); bought a bushel of mosaic brooches and several million
picture postcards and acted the perfect little tripper throughout.

Then one day while stepping into a hotel lift I bumped full into
Wilfrid Wilcox Wilbur, stepping forth.

You have all of you read the works of Wilfrid Wilcox Wilbur (_Passion
Flowers_, _Purple Patches_, etc.  Boost and Boom. 6s.); if you
haven't you should, for Wilfrid is the lad to handle the soul-sob and
the heart-throb and warm up cold print generally.

In pre-war days he was to be met with in London drawing-rooms about
tea-time wearing his mane rather longer than is done in the best
menageries, giving a very realistic imitation of a lap-dog.  And now
behold him in military disguise parading the Eternal City!

"What are you doing here?" I gasped.

He put a finger to his lips.  "Psst!"  Then pushing me into the lift,
he ejected the attendant, turned a handle and we shot aloft.
Half-way between heaven and earth he stopped the conveyance and
having made quite sure we were not being overheard by either men or
angels, leaned up against my ear and whispered, "Secret Service!"

I was amazed.  "Not really!"

Wilbur nodded.  "Yes, really!  That's why I have to be so careful;
they have their agents everywhere listening, watching, taking notes."

I felt for my pocket-case momentarily fearful that They (whoever They
were) might have taken mine.

"And do you have agents also, listening, noting, taking watches?" I
asked.

Wilbur said he had and went on to explain that so perfect was his
system that a cat could hardly kitten anywhere between the Yildiz
Kiosk and Wilhelmstrasse without his full knowledge and approval.  I
was very thrilled, for I had previously imagined all the cloak and
dagger spy business to be an invention of the magazine writer, yet
here was little Wilbur, according to himself, living a life of
continuous yellow drama, more Queuxrious than fiction, rich beyond
dreams of Garavice.  (Publisher--"Tut-tut!"  Author--"Peccavi!")

I thrilled and thrilled.  "Look here," I implored, "if you are going
to pull off a coup at any time, do let me come too!"

Wilbur demurred, the profession wasn't keen on amateurs, he
explained; they were too impetuous, lacked subtlety--still if the
opportunity occurred he might--perhaps----  I wrung his hand, then,
seeing that bells on every landing had been in a state of uproar for
some fifteen minutes and that the attendant was commencing to swarm
the cable after his lift, we dropped back to earth again, returned it
to him and went out to lunch.

"And now tell me something of your methods," said I, as we sat down
to meat.

Wilbur promptly grabbed me by the collar and dragged me after him
under the table.

"What's the matter now?" I gulped.

"Fool!" he hissed.  "The waiter is a Bulgarian spy."

"Let's arrest him then," said I.

Wilbur groaned.  "Oh, you amateurs, you would stampede everything and
ruin all!"

I apologised meekly and we issued from cover again and resumed our
meal, silently because (according to Wilbur) the peroxide blonde
doing snake-charming tricks with spaghetti at the next table was a
Hungarian agent, and there was a Turk concealed in the potted palms
near by.

I thrilled and thrilled and thrilled.

Then followed stirring days.  Rome at that time, I gathered, was the
centre of the spy industry and at the height of the sleuthing season,
for they hemmed us in on every hand--according to Wilbur.  I was
continually being dragged aside into the shadow of dark arcades to
dodge Austrian Admirals disguised as dustmen, rushed up black alleys
to escape the machinations of Bolshevick adventuresses parading as
parish priests, and submerged in fountains to avoid the evil eyes of
German diplomats camouflaged as flower girls--according to Wilbur.

I thrilled and thrilled and thrilled and thrilled, bought myself a
stiletto and a false nose.

However, after about a week of playing trusty Watson to Wilbur's
Sherlock without having effected a single arrest, drugged one
courier, stilettoed a soul, or being allowed to wear my false nose
once, my thrillings became less violent, and giving Wilbur the slip
one afternoon, I went on the prowl alone.  About four of the clock my
investigations took me to Latour's.  At a small marble table lapping
up ices as a kitten laps cream, I beheld Temporary Second Lieut.
Mervyn Esmond.

You all of you remember Mervyn Esmond, he of the spats, the eyeglass
and grey top-hat, the Super-Knut of the Frivolity Theatre who used to
gambol so gracefully before the many "twinkling toes" of the
Super-Beauty Chorus, singing "Billy of Piccadilly."  You must
remember Mervyn Esmond!

But that was the Esmond of yore, for a long time past he has been
doing sterling work in command of an Army Pierrot troupe.

I sat down beside him, stole his ice and finished it for him.

"And now what are you doing here?" I asked.

"I've come down from the line to get some new dresses for Queenie,"
he replied.  "She--he, that is--is absolutely in rags, bursts a pair
of corsets and a pair of silk stockings every performance, very
expensive item."

I had better explain here and now that Queenie is the leading lady in
Mervyn's troupe.  She--he, that is--started her--his--military career
as an artillery driver, but was discovered to be the possessor of a
very shrill falsetto voice and dedicated to female impersonations
forthwith.

"She--he--is round at the dressmaker's now," Mervyn went on,
"wrestling with half a dozen _hysterical_ mannequins.  I'm getting
her--him, I should say--up regardless.  Listen.  Dainty ninon
georgette outlined with chenile stitching.  Charmeuse overtunic,
embroidered with musquash and skunk pom-poms.  Crêpe de Chine undies
interwoven with blue baby ribbon, camis----"

"Stop!" I thundered.  "Do you want me to blush myself to death?  I am
but a rough soldier."

Mervyn apologised, wrapped himself round another ice and asked me how
I was amusing myself in Tiber-town.

Having first ascertained that there were no enemy agents secreted
under the table or among the potted palms, I unburdened my soul to
him concerning Wilbur and the coups that never came off.

He stared at me for a few moments, his eyes twinkling, then he leaned
over the table.

"My active brain has evolved a be-autiful plan," said he.  "It's
yours for another ice."

I bought it.

* * * * * * * *

I found Wilbur sleuthing the crowd from behind a tall tumbler in the
Excelsior lounge, and dragging him into the lift, hung it up half-way
between here and hereafter, and whispered my great news.

"Where, when?" he cried, blench-blanching.

"In my hotel at midnight," I replied.  "I hid in a clothes-basket and
heard all.  We will frustrate their knavish tricks, thou and I."

Wilbur did not appear to be as keen as I had expected, he hummed and
hawed and chatted about my amateurishness and impetuosity; but I was
obdurate, and taking him firmly by the arm led him off to dinner.

I hardly let go of his arm at all for the next five hours, judging it
safer so.

Five minutes before midnight I led him up the stairs of my hotel and
tip-toeing into a certain room, clicked on the light.

"See that door over there?" I whispered, pointing, "'tis the
bathroom.  Hide there.  I shall be concealed in the wardrobe.  In
five minutes the conspirators will appear.  The moment you hear me
shout, 'Hands up, Otto von Schweinhund, _le jeu est fait_,' or words
to that effect--burst out of the bathroom and collar the lady."

I pushed Wilbur into the bathroom (he was trembling slightly,
excitement no doubt) and closed the door.

I had no sooner shut myself into the wardrobe when a man and a woman
entered the room.  They were both in full evening dress, the man was
a handsome rascal, the woman a tall, languid beauty, gorgeously
dressed.  She flung herself down in a chair and lit a cigarette.  The
man carefully locked the door and crossed the room towards her.

"Hansa," he hissed, "did you get the plans of the fortress?"

She laughed and taking a packet of papers from the bosom of her
dress, flung it on the table.

"'Twas easy, _mon cher_."

He caught it and held it aloft.

"Victory!" he cried.  "The Vaterland is saved!"

He passed round the table and stood before her, his eyes glittering.

"You beautiful devil," he muttered, through clenched teeth.  "I knew
you could do it.  I knew you would bewitch the young attaché.  All
men are puppets in your hands, beautiful, beautiful fiend!"

The moment had come.  Hastily donning my false nose, I flung open the
wardrobe, shouted the signal and covered the pair with my stiletto.
The woman screamed and flung herself into the arms of her accomplice.

"Ah, ha, foiled again!  Curse you!"  He snarled and covered me with
the plans of the fortress.

I grappled with him, he grappled with me, the beautiful devil
grappled with both of us; we all grappled.

There was no movement from the bathroom door.

We grappled some more, we grappled all over the table, over the
washstand and a brace of chairs.  The villain lost his whiskers, the
villainess lost her lovely golden wig, the hero (me) lost his false
nose.  I shouted the signal once more, the villain shouted it, the
villainess shouted it, we all shouted it.

There was no movement from the bathroom door.

We grappled some more, we grappled over the chest of drawers, under
the carpet and in and out of the towel-horse.

A muffled report rang out from somewhere about the beautiful devil.

"For God's sake, go easy!" she wheezed in my left ear.  "My corsets
have went!"

Then, as there was still no movement from the bathroom door, and we
none of us had a grapple left in us, we called "time."

Mervyn sat up on the edge of the bed sourly regarding the bedraggled
Queenie.

"In rags once more, twenty pounds' worth of georgette, charmeuse and
ninon whatisname torn to shreds!" he groaned.  "Oh, you tom-boy, you!"

"Come and dig these damn whalebones out of my ribs," said she.

I staggered across the room and opening the bathroom door, peered
within.

"Any sign of our friend Sherlock, the spy-hound?" Mervyn enquired.

"Yes," said I.  "He's tumbled in a dead faint into the bath!"



XXIII

A FAUX PAS

When we have finished slaying for the day, have stropped our gory
sabres, hung our horses up to dry and are sitting about after mess,
girths slackened and pipes aglow, it is a favourite pastime of ours
to discuss what we are going to do after the War.

William, our mess president and transport officer, says frankly,
"Nothing."  Three years' continuous struggle to keep the mess going
in whiskey and soda and the officers' kit down to two hundred and
fifty pounds per officer has made an old man of him, once so full of
bright quips and conundrums.  The moment Hindenburg chucks up the
sponge off goes William to Chelsea Hospital, there to spend the
autumn of his days pitching the yarn and displaying his honourable
scars gained in many a bloody battle in the mule lines.

So much for William.  The Skipper, who is as sensitive to climate as
a lily of the hot-house, prattles lovingly during the summer months
of selling ice-creams to the Eskimos, and during the winter months of
peddling roast chestnuts in Timbuctoo.  MacTavish and the Babe
propose, under the euphonious noms de commerce of Vavaseur and
Montmorency, to open pawn-shops among ex-munition-workers, and
thereby accumulate old masters, grand pianos and diamond tiaras to
export to the United States.  For myself I have another plan.

There is a certain historic wood up north through which bullets
whine, shells rumble and no bird sings.  After the War I am going to
float a company, purchase that wood and turn it into a
pleasure-resort for the accommodation of tourists.

There will be an entrance fee of ten francs, and everything else will
be extra.

Tea in the dug-out--ten francs.  Trips through trenches, accompanied
by trained guides reciting selected passages from the outpourings of
our special correspondents--ten francs.  At night grand S.O.S. rocket
and Very light display--ten francs.  While for a further twenty
francs the tourist will be allowed to pick up as many souvenirs in
the way of rolls of barbed wire, dud bombs and blind crumps as he can
stagger away with.  By this means the country will be cleared of its
explosive matter and I shall be able to spend my declining years in
Park Lane, or, anyway, Tooting.

Our Albert Edward has not been making any plans as to his future
lately, but just now it looks very much as if his future will be
spent in gaol.  It happened this way.  He had been up forward doing
some O. Pipping.  While he was there he made friends with a battery
and persuaded the poor fools into doing some shooting under his
direction.  He says it is great fun sitting up in your O. Pip, a pipe
in your teeth, a telescope clapped to your blind eye, removing any
parts of the landscape that you take a dislike to.

"I don't care for that tree at A 29.b.5.8"," you say to the
telephone.  "It's altogether too crooked (or too straight).  Off with
its head!" and, hey presto! the offending herb is not.  Or, "That
hill at C 39.d.7.4" is quite absurd; it's ridiculously lop-sided.  I
think we'll have a valley there instead."  And lo! the absurd
excrescence goes west in a puff of smoke.

Our Albert Edward spent a most enjoyable week altering the geography
of Europe to suit his taste.  Then one morning he made a trifling
error of about thirty degrees and some few thousand yards and removed
the wrong village.

"One village looks very much like another, and what are a few
thousand yards this way or that in a war of world-wide dimensions?
Gentlemen, let us not be trivial," said our Albert Edward to the
red-hatted people who came weeping to his O. Pip.  Nevertheless some
unpleasantness resulted, and our Albert Edward came home to shelter
in the bosom of us, his family.

The unpleasantness spread, for twenty-four hours later came a chit
for our Albert Edward, saying if he had nothing better to do would he
drop in and swop yarns with the General at noon that day?  Our Albert
Edward made his will, pulled on his parade boots, drank half a bottle
of brandy neat, kissed us farewell and rode off to his doom.  As he
passed the borders of the camp The O'Murphy uncorked himself from a
drain, and, seeing his boon-companion faring forth a-horse, abandoned
the ratstrafe and trotted after him.

A word or two explaining The O'Murphy.  Two years ago we were camped
at one end of a certain damp dark gully up north.  Thither came a
party of big marines and a small Irish terrier, bringing with them a
long naval gun, which they covered with a camouflage of sackcloth and
ashes and let off at intervals.  Whenever the long gun was about to
fire the small dog went mad, bounced about behind the gun-trail like
an indiarubber ball, in an ecstasy of expectation.  When the great
gun boomed he shrieked with joy and shot away up the gully looking
for the rabbit.  The poor little dog's hunt up and down the gully for
the rabbit that never had been was one of the most pathetic sights I
ever saw.  That so many big men with such an enormous gun should miss
the rabbit every time was gradually killing him with disgust and
exasperation.

Meeting my groom one evening I spoke of the matter to him, casually
mentioning that there was a small countryman of ours close at hand
breaking his heart because there never was any rabbit.  I clearly
explained to my groom that I was suggesting nothing, dropping no
hints, but I thought it a pity such a sportsman should waste his
talents with those sea-soldiers when there were outfits like ours
about, offering all kinds of opportunities to one of the right sort.
I again repeated that I was making no suggestions and passed on to
some other subject.

Imagine my astonishment when, on making our customary bi-weekly trek
next day, I discovered the small terrier secured to our tool-limber
by a piece of baling-wire, evidently enjoying the trip and abusing
the limber-mules as if he had known them all his life.  Since he had
insisted on coming with us there was nothing further to be said, so
we christened him "The O'Murphy," attached him to the strength for
rations and discipline, and for two years he has shared our joys and
sorrows, our billets and bully-beef, up and down the land of
Somewheres.

But it was with our Albert Edward he got particularly chummy.  They
had the same dislike of felines and the same taste in biscuits.  Thus
when Albert Edward rode by, ears drooping, tail tucked in (so to
speak), _en route_ to the shambles, The O'Murphy saw clearly that
here was the time to prove his friendship, and trotted along behind.
On arriving at H.Q. the comrades shook paws and licked each other
good-bye.  Then Albert Edward stumbled within and The O'Murphy hung
about outside saucing the brass-collared Staff dogs and waiting to
gather up what fragments remained of his chum's body after the
General had done with it.  His interview with the General our Albert
Edward prefers not to describe; it was too painful, too humiliating,
he says.  That a man of the General's high position, advanced age and
venerable appearance could lose his self-control to such a degree was
a terrible revelation to Albert Edward.  "Let us draw a veil over
that episode," he said.

But what happened later on he did consent to tell us.  When the
General had burst all his blood vessels, and Albert Edward was
congratulating himself that the worst was over, the old man suddenly
grabbed a Manual of Military Law off his desk, hurled it into a
corner and dived under a table, whence issued scuffling sounds,
grunts and squeals.  "See that?" came the voice of the General from
under the table.  "Of all confounded impudence!--did you see that?"

Albert Edward made noises in the negative.  "A rat, by golly!" boomed
the venerable warrior, "big as a calf, came out of his hole and stood
staring at me.  Damn his impudence!  I cut off his retreat with the
manual and he's somewhere about here now.  Flank him, will you?"

As Albert Edward moved to a flank there came sounds of another
violent scuffle under the table, followed by a glad whoop from, the
General, who emerged rumpled but triumphant.

"Up-ended the waste-paper basket on him," he panted, dusting his
knees with a handkerchief.  "And now, me lad, what now, eh?"

"Fetch a dog, sir," answered Albert Edward, mindful of his friend The
O'Murphy.  The General sneered, "Dog be blowed!  What's the matter
with the old-fashioned cat?  I've got a plain tabby with me that has
written standard works on ratting."  He lifted up his voice and
bawled to his orderly to bring one Pussums.  "Had the old tabby for
years, me lad," he continued; "brought it from home--carry it round
with me everywhere; and I don't have any rat troubles.  Orderly!

"Fellers come out here with St. Bernard dogs, shotguns, poison,
bear-traps and fishing-nets and never get a wink of sleep for the
rats, while one common cat like my old Pussums would----  Oh, where
is that confounded feller?"

He strode to the door and flung it open, admitting, not an orderly
but The O'Murphy, who nodded pleasantly to him and trotted across the
room, tail twinkling, love-light shining in his eyes, and deposited
at Albert Edward's feet his offering, a large dead tabby cat.

Albert Edward remembers no more.  He had swooned.



XXIV

MON REPOS

Albert Edward and I are on detachment just now.  I can't mention what
job we are on because Hindenburg is listening.  He watches every move
made by Albert Edward and me and disposes his forces accordingly.
Now and again he forestalls us, now and again he don't.  On the
former occasions he rings up Ludendorff, and they make a night of it
with beer and song; on the latter he pushes the bell violently for
the old German God.

The spot Albert Edward and I inhabit just now is very interesting;
things happen all round us.  There is a tame balloon tied by a string
to the back garden, an ammunition column on either flank and an
infantry battalion camped in front.  Aeroplanes buzz overhead in
flocks and there is a regular tank service past the door.  One way
and another our present location fairly teems with life; Albert
Edward says it reminds him of London.  To heighten the similarity we
get bombed every night.

Promptly after Mess the song of the bomb-bird is heard.  The
searchlights stab and slash about the sky like tin swords in a stage
duel; presently they pick up the bomb-bird--a glittering flake of
tinsel--and the racket begins.  Archibalds pop, machine guns chatter,
rifles crack, and here and there some optimistic sportsman browns the
Milky Way with a revolver.  As Sir I. Newton's law of gravity is
still in force and all that goes up must come down again, it is
advisable to wear a parasol on one's walks abroad.

In view of the heavy lead-fall Albert Edward and I decided to have a
dug-out.  We dug down six inches and struck water in massed
formation.  I poked a finger into the water and licked it.  "Tastes
odd," said I, "brackish or salt or something."

"We've uncorked the blooming Atlantic, that's what," said Albert
Edward; "cork it up again quickly or it'll bob up and swamp us."
That done, we looked about for something that would stand digging
into.  The only thing we could find was a molehill, so we delved our
way into that.  We are residing in it now, Albert Edward, Maurice and
I.  We have called it "_Mon Repos_," and stuck up a notice saying we
are inside, otherwise visitors would walk over it and miss us.

The chief drawback to "_Mon Repos_" is Maurice.  Maurice is the
proprietor by priority, a mole by nature.  Our advent has more or
less driven him into the hinterland of his home and he is most
unpleasant about it.  He sits in the basement and sulks by day,
issuing at night to scrabble about among our boots, falling over
things and keeping us awake.  If we say "Boo!  Shoo!" or any harsh
word to him he doubles up the backstairs to the attic and kicks earth
over our faces at three-minute intervals all night.

Albert Edward says he is annoyed about the rent, but I call that
absurd.  Maurice is perfectly aware that there is a war on, and to
demand rent from soldiers who are defending his molehill with their
lives is the most ridiculous proposition I ever heard of.  As I said
before, the situation is most unpleasant, but I don't see what we can
do about it, for digging out Maurice means digging down "_Mon
Repos_," and there's no sense in that.  Albert Edward had a theory
that the mole is a carnivorous animal, so he smeared a worm with
carbolic tooth-paste and left it lying about.  It lay about for days.
Albert now admits his theory was wrong; the mole is a vegetarian, he
says; he was confusing it with trout.  He is in the throes of
inventing an explosive potato for Maurice on the lines of a
percussion grenade, but in the meanwhile that gentleman remains in
complete mastery of the situation.

The balloon attached to our back garden is very tame.  Every morning
its keepers lead it forth from its abode by strings, tie it to a
longer string and let it go.  All day it remains aloft, tugging
gently at its leash and keeping an eye on the War.  In the evening
the keepers appear once more, haul it down and lead it home for the
night.  It reminds me for all the world of a huge docile elephant
being bossed about by the mahout's infant family.  I always feel like
giving the gentle creature a bun.

Now and again the Boche birds come over disguised as clouds and spit
mouthfuls of red-hot tracer-bullets at it, and then the observers hop
out.  One of them "hopped out" into my horse lines last week.  That
is to say his parachute caught in a tree and he hung swinging, like a
giant pendulum, over my horses' backs until we lifted him down.  He
came into "_Mon Repos_" to have bits of tree picked out of him.  This
was the sixth plunge overboard he had done in ten days, he told us.
Sometimes he plunged into the most embarrassing situations.  On one
occasion he dropped clean through a bivouac roof into a hot bath
containing a Lieutenant-Colonel, who punched him with a sponge and
threw soap at him.  On another he came fluttering down from the blue
into the midst of a labour company of Chinese coolies, who
immediately fell on their faces, worshipping him as some heavenly
being, and later cut off all his buttons as holy relics.  An eventful
life.



XXV

"FLY, GENTLE DOVE"

We were told off for a job of work over the bags not long ago.  The
Staff sent us some pigeons with their love, and expressed the hope
that we'd drop them a line from time to time and let them know how
the battle was raging, and where.  (The Staff live in constant terror
that one day the War will walk completely away from them and some
unruly platoon bomb its way up Unter den Linden without their knowing
a thing about it.)

Next morning we duly pushed off, and in the course of time found
ourselves deep in Bocheland holding a sketchy line of outposts and
waiting for the Hun to do the sporting thing and counter.  More time
passed, and as the Hun showed no signs of getting a move on we began
to look about us and take stock.

Personally I felt that a square meal might do something towards
curing a hollow feeling that was gnawing me beneath the belt.  As I
was rummaging through my haversack the pigeon-carrier approached and
asked for the book of rules.

Now to the uninitiated, I have no doubt, pigeon-flying sounds the
easiest game in the world.  You just take a picture-postcard, mark
the spot you are on with a cross, add a few words, such as, "Hoping
this finds you in the pink, as it leaves me at present--I don't
think," insert it in the faithful fowl's beak, say, "Home, John," and
in a few minutes it is rattling into the General's letter-box.  This
is by no means the case.  Pigeons are the kittlest of cattle.  If you
don't treat them just so they will either chuck up the game on the
spot or hand your note to Hindenburg.  To avoid this a book of the
rules is issued to pigeon-carriers, giving instructions as to when
and how the creatures should be fed, watered, exercised, etc.

On this occasion I felt through my pockets for the book of the rules
and drew blank.  "What's the matter with the bird, anyhow?" I asked.

"Looks a bit dahn-'earted," said the carrier; "dejected-like, as you
might say."

"Seeing you've been carrying it upside down for the last twenty-four
hours it isn't to be wondered at," said my Troop Sergeant; "blood's
run to its head, that's what."

"Turn it the other way up for a bit and run the blood back again," I
suggested.

"Exercise is what it wants," said my sergeant firmly.

"By all means exercise it, then," said I.

The carrier demurred.  "Very good, sir--but how, sir?"

"Ask the sergeant," said I.  "Sergeant, how do you exercise a pigeon?
Lunge it, or put it through Swedish monkey motions?"

The sergeant rubbed his chin stubble.

"Can't say I remember the official method, sir; one might take it for
a walk at the end of a string, or----"

"These official pigeons," I interposed, "have got to be treated in
the official manner or they won't work; their mechanism becomes
deranged.  We had a pigeon at the Umpteenth Battle of Wipers and
upset it somehow.  Anyway, when we told it to buzz off and fetch
reinforcements, it sat on a tree licking its fluff and singing, and
we had to throw mud at it to get it to shift.  Where it went to then
goodness only knows, for it has never been seen since.  I am going to
do the right thing by this bird."

I thereupon sent a galloper to the next outpost, occupied by the Babe
and Co., asking him the official recipe for exercising pigeons.  The
answer came back as follows:--

"Ask Albert Edward.  All I know about 'em is that you mustn't
discharge birds of opposite sex together as they stop and flirt.

P.S.--You haven't got such a thing as a bit of cold pudden about you,
guv'nor, have you?  I'm all in."

I sent the galloper galloping on to Albert Edward's post.

"Don't discharge birds after sunset," ran his reply; "they're afraid
to go home in the dark--that's all I recollect.  Ask the Skipper.

P.S.--Got a bit of bully beef going spare?  I'm tucked up something
terrible."

I sighed and sent my messenger on to the Skipper, inquiring the
official method of exercising pigeons.  Half an hour later his answer
reached me--

"Don't know.  Try eating 'em.  That's what I'm doing with mine."

While on the subject of carrier-pigeons, I may mention that one
winter night I was summoned to Corps H.Q.  Said a Red Hat: "We are
going to be rude to the Boche at dawn and we want you to go over with
the boys.  When you reach your objectives just drop us a pigeon to
say so.  Here's a chit, take it to the pigeon loft and get a good
nippy fowl.  Good night and good luck."

I found the pigeon-fancier inside an old London omnibus which served
for a pigeon-loft, spoon-feeding a sick bird.  A dour Lancastrian,
the fancier studied my chit with a sour eye, then, grumbling that he
didn't know what the army was coming to turning birds out of bed at
this hour, he slowly climbed a ladder and, poking his head through a
trap in the roof, addressed himself to the pigeons.

"That you, Flossie?  No, you can't go with them tail feathers missing
to the General's cat.  Jellicoe--no, you can't go neither, you've 'ad
a 'ard day out with them tanks.  Nasty cough you've got, Gaby; I'll
give you a drop of 'ot for it presently.  You're breathin' very
'eavy, Joffre; been over-eatin' yourself again, I suppose--couldn't
fly a yard.  Eustace, you're for it."

He backed down the ladder, grasping the unfortunate Eustace, stuffed
it in a basket and handed it to me.

"I hope this is a good bird," said I, "nippy and all that?"

The fancier snorted, "Good bird?  Nothing can't stop 'im, barrages,
smoke, nothing.  'E's deserved the V.C. scores of times over; 'e's
the best bird in the army, an' don't you forget it, sir."

I promised not to, caught up the basket and fled.

I reached the neighbourhood of the line at about 2 a.m.  It was
snowing hard and the whole front was sugared over like a
wedding-cake, every track and landmark obliterated.  For some hours I
groped about seeking Battalion H.Q., tripping over hidden wire,
toboganning down snow-masked craters into icy shell-holes, the
inimitable Eustace with me.  Finally I fell head-first into a dug-out
inhabited by three ancient warriors, who were sitting round a brazier
sucking cigarettes.  They were Brigade Scouts, they told me, and were
going over presently.  They were also Good Samaritans, one of them,
Fred, giving me his seat by the fire and a mug of scalding cocoa,
while his colleagues, Messrs. Alf and Bert, attended to Eustace, who
needed all the attention he could get.  I caught snatches of their
conversation here and there: "Shall us toast 'im over the brazier a
bit, Alf?"  "Wonder if a drop o' rum would 'earten 'im?"  "Tip it
into his jaws when 'e yawns, Bert."

At length Eustace's circulation was declared restored and the three
set about harnessing themselves for the war, encasing their legs in
sand-bags, winding endless mufflers round their heads and donning
innumerable odd overcoats, so that their final appearance was more
that of apple-women than scouts.

We then set out for the battle, Bert leading the way towards the
barrage which was cracking and banging away in yellow flashes over
the Boche lines.

Presently we heard a muffled hail ahead.

"Wazzermatter, Bert?" Alf shouted.

"They've quit--slung their 'ook," came the voice.

Fifty yards brought us bumping up against Bert, who was prodding
through the débris of a German post with the point of his bayonet.

"So the swines have beat it?" said Fred.  "Any soovenirs?"

"Nah!" said Bert, spitting, "not a blinkin' 'am-sandwich."

"Is this really our objective?" I asked.

"It is, sir," Bert replied.  "Best sit down and keep quiet; the rest
of the boys will be along in a jiffy, and they'd bomb their own
grandmothers when they're worked up."

I put my hand in the basket and dragged Eustace forth.  He didn't
look up to V.C. form.  Still I had explicit orders to release him
when our objective was reached, and obedience is second nature with
me.

I secured my message to his leg, wished him luck and tossed him high
in the air.  A swirl of snow hid him from view.

I didn't call at H.Q. when I returned.  I went straight home to bed
and stayed there.  As they did not send for me and I heard no more
about it I conjectured that the infallible Eustace had got back to
his bus and all was well.  Nevertheless I had a sort of uneasy
feeling about him.  I heard no more of it for ten days, and then, out
walking one afternoon, I bumped into the pigeon-fancier.  There was
no way of avoiding the man; the lane was only four feet wide, bounded
by nine-foot walls with glass on top.  So I halted opposite him,
smiled my prettiest and asked after Eustace.  "So glad he got home
all right," said I; "a great bird that."

The fancier glared at me, his sour eyes sparkling, his fists opening
and shutting.  I felt that only bitter discipline stood between them
and my throat.

"Ay, sir," said he, speaking with difficulty, "he's a great bird, but
not the bird he was.  He got home all right yesterday, but very stiff
in the legs from walking every step o' the way."



XXVI

THERE AND BACK

My batman is a man with a grievance.  He squats outside my tent all
day moodily burnishing my buttons and swears and sighs, sighs and
swears.  In the words of my groom and countryman, "Ye'd think there'd
be a black dog atin' the hearrt in his shest the way he is, the poor
scut."

I learn that he has given out that if he sees a crump coming he'll
"Blinkin' well wait for it," that he presented his bosom chum with a
black eye gratis, and is declining beer.  All this sounds like love,
but isn't.  This is the way of it.

Last week after nineteen months' undetected misbehaviour in the
tented field, he was granted ten days' leave.  He departed radiant as
a May morn, groomed and glittering from spurs to cap badge.

Within three days he was back again.

According to his version of the affair, he reached the coast in good
order and was given a hearty meal by some ladies in a canteen but
lost it in mid-Channel.  Owing to mines, air raids, and things both
boat and train were scandalously late, but in the end he arrived at
Victoria at 6 a.m. still in good order.  Outside the station were a
number of civilians waiting for soldier relatives.  One of them, a
small sandy man in a black bowler and tie, very respectable
(connected with the retail undertaking trade, my batman says)
accosted him and inquired whether anything had been seen of his
brother Charlie, a territorial bombardier who was supposed to be
coming by that train, but had not materialized.

My batman could give no information and they fell into a discussion
as to what could have happened to Charlie: whether he might have
missed the train or fallen off the boat.  My batman favoured the
latter theory, he had felt very like it himself, he said.  One thing
led to another and presently the sandy man said:

"Well, what about it?" lifting his elbow suggestively, and winking.

My batman said he didn't mind if he did, so they adjourned to a
little place near by that the sandy man knew of, and had one or two,
the sandy man behaving like a perfect gentleman throughout, standing
drink for drink, cigar for cigar.

At 7 a.m. or thereabouts, the sandy man excused himself on the plea
of business (which he explained was very healthy owing to the
inclemency of the weather) and betook himself off, my batman
returning to Victoria to retrieve his pack.

By this time his order was not so good as it had been, owing, he
thinks, to (a) the excitement of being home again, hearing civilians
all talking English and seeing so many intact houses at once; (b) the
bereaved state of his stomach.  Whatever it was he navigated to the
station with difficulty and "comin' over all dizzy like," reclined on
a platform bench and closed his eyes.

When he opened them again it was to see the white cliffs of Albion
rapidly disappearing over the stern rail of a trooper.  He closed his
eyes again and told himself he was dreaming, but not for long--he
might deceive his reason but not his stomach.

He soon saw that he was in mid-Channel going back to France.  He sat
up on deck and shouted for someone to stop the ship.

"'E's come to, Bill," said a familiar voice at his side, and turning,
he beheld the cheerful countenances of Frederick Wilkes and William
Buck, two stalwarts of "ours" who were returning from leave.

My batman asked Frederick Wilkes what he thought he was doing of.

"Saving you from six months in clink for over-staying your leaf, ol'
dear!" Frederick replied cheerfully.  "Me and Bill found you on the
station, blind to the world, so we loaded you on the train and
bringed you along.  Pretty job we had of it, too, getting you past
the red-caps, you slopping about like a lu-natic."

"Clink!  Overstayin' my leaf!" shrilled my batman.  "Gor-blimy!  I
ain't 'ad no leaf--I only just landed!"

"Delerious again, Bill," said Frederick, and Bill nodded.  "Of course
you've had your leaf, an' a wonderful good leaf, too, by the looks of
you--blind to the world from start to finish, not knowin' dark from
daylight."

"I'll tell the first R.T.O. I see all about it when I land--you
perishin' kidnappers!" foamed my batman.

"Ho no, you won't!" said Frederick, complacently.  "We aren't going
to 'ave you runnin' about in your light-'eaded condition disgracin'
the regiment--are we, Bill?"

"Not likely," William Buck replied.  "We're going to take you back
with us, safe and sound if we 'ave to break your neck to do it, an'
don't you forget it, ol' man!"

I think it is extremely improbable that my batman ever will.



XXVII

HOT AIR

The scene is a base camp behind the Western Front.  In the background
is a gravel pit, its brow fringed with pines.  On the right-hand side
is a black hut; against one wall several cast-iron cylinders are
leaning; against another several stretchers; behind it a squad of
R.A.M.C. orderlies are playing pitch and toss for profit and
pleasure.  On the left-hand side is a cemetery.

On the turf in the centre of the stage are some two hundred members
of the well-known British family, Atkins.  The matter in hand being
merely that of life and death those in the rear ranks are whiling
away the time by playing crown and anchor.  Their less fortunate
comrades in the prominence of the front ranks are "havin' a bit o'
shut eye"--in other words are fast asleep sitting up, propped the one
against the other.

Before them stands a Bachelor of Science disguised as a Second
Lieutenant.  From the green and black brassard about his arm and the
_attar de chlorine_ and _parfum de phosgene_ which cling about him in
a murky aureole one would guess him to be connected with the Gas
Service.  And one would be quite correct; he is.

* * * * * * * *

Lecturer: "Ahem!  Pay attention to me, please; I am going to give you
a little chat on Gas.  When you go up the line one of two things must
inevitably happen to you; you will either be gassed or you will not.
If you are not gassed strict attention to this lecture will enable
you to talk as if you had been.  On the other hand, if you are gassed
it will enable you to distinguish to which variety you succumbed,
which will be most instructive.

"There are more sorts of gas than one.  There is the Home or Domestic
Gas, which does odd jobs about the house at a bob a time, and which
out here is fed to observation balloons to get them off the earth.
There is Laughing Gas, so called from the fun the dentist gets out of
his victims while they are under its influence; and lastly there is
Hun Gas, which is not so amusing.

"Three varieties of gas are principally employed by the Hun.  The
first of these is Chlorine.  Chlorine smells like a strong sanitary
orderly or weak chloride of lime.  The second on our list is Mustard
Gas, so called because it smells like garlic.  Everything that smells
of garlic is not Mustard Gas, however, as a certain British Division
which went into the line alongside some of our brave Southern allies
regretfully discovered after they had been sweltering in their masks
for thirty-six long, long hours.

"The third and last is Phosgene.  Phosgene has a greenish whitish
yellowish odour all its own, reminiscent of decayed vegetation,
mouldy hay, old clothes, wet hides, burnt feathers, warm mice,
polecats, dead mules, boiled cabbage, stewed prunes, sour grapes, or
anything else you dislike.

"As all these gases have a depressing effect on the consumer if
indulged in too freely the War Office has devised an effective
counter-irritant, the scientific wonder of the age, the soldier's
friend and _multum in parvo_--in short, the Respirator-Box.  Here you
will observe I have a respirator-box as issued to the troops.

"There are other kinds with lace trimmings and seasonable mottoes
worked in coloured beads for the use of the Staff; but they do not
concern us.  Let us now examine the ordinary respirator-box.  What do
we discover?  A neat canvas satchel, knapsack or what-not, which will
be found invaluable for the storage of personal knick-knacks, such as
soap, knives and forks, socks, iron rations, mouth-organs,
field-marshal's batons, etc.  Within the satchel (what-not or
knapsack) we discover a rubber sponge-bag pierced with motor goggles,
a clothes-peg, a foot of garden hose, a baby's teether (chewers among
you will find this a comforting substitute for gum), a yard or two of
strong twine (first-aid to the braces), a tube of Anti-Dimmer (use it
as tooth-paste, your smile will beam more brightly), and a record
card, on which you are invited to inscribe your name, age, vote and
clubs; your golf, polo and ludo handicaps; complaints as to the
cooking or service and any sunny sentiments or epigrams that may
occur to you from time to time.

"Should you be in the line and detect the presence of hostile gas in
large numbers your first action should be to don your respirator-box
and your second to give the alarm.  The donning of the respirator is
done in five motions by the best people:--

"1. Remove the cigarette, chewing-gum or false teeth from the mouth
and place it (or them) behind the ear (or ears).

"2. Tear the sponge-bag out of the knapsack (what-not or satchel) and
slap it boldly on the face as you would a mustard-plaster.

"3. Pin it to your nose by means of the clothes-peg.

"4. Work the elastics well into the back hair.

"5. Swallow the teether and carry on with deep breathing exercises,
as done by Swedes, sea-lions and such-like.

"The respirator once in position, pass the good news on to your
comrades by performing _fortissimo_ on one of the numerous alarums
with which every nice front line is liberally provided.  But please
remember that gas alarms are for gas only, and do not let your
natural exuberance or love of music carry you away, as it is liable
to create a false impression; witness the case of some of our
high-spirited Colonials, who, celebrating a national festival (the
opening of the whippet racing-season in New South Wales) with a full
orchestra of Klaxon and Strombos horns, rattles, gongs, shell-cases,
tin-cans, sackbuts, psalteries and other instruments of musick, sent
every living soul in an entire army area stampeding into their
smell-hats, there to remain for forty-eight hours without food, drink
or benefit of clergy.

"Having given you full instructions as to the correct method of
entering your respirators I will now tell you how to extricate
yourselves.  You must first be careful to ascertain that there is no
gas left about.  Tests are usually made (1) with a white mouse, (2)
with a canary.

"If the white mouse turns green there is gas present; if it don't
there ain't.  If the canary wags his tail and whistles 'Gee! ain't it
dandy down in Dixie!' all is well, but if it wheezes 'The End of a
Perfect Day' and moults violently, beware, beware!  If through the
negligence of the Quartermastering Department you have not been
equipped with either mice or canaries do not start sniffing for gas
yourselves, but remember that your lives are of value to your King
and country and send for an officer.  To have first sniff of all gas
is one of an officer's privileges; he hasn't many, but this is one of
them and very jealously guarded as such.  If an officer should catch
you snuffing up all the gas in the neighbourhood he will be
justifiably annoyed and peevish.

"Now; having given you all the theory of anti-gas precautions, we
will indulge in a little practice.  When I shout the word 'Gas!' my
assistants will distribute a few smoke bombs among you, and every man
will don his respirator in five motions and wend his way towards the
gas-chamber, entering it by the south door and leaving it by the
north.  Is that quite clear?  Then get ready.  Gas!"

* * * * * * * *

Four or five N.C.O. Instructors suddenly pop up out of the gravel pit
and bombard the congregation with hissing smoke grenades.  The front
ranks wake up, spring to their feet in terror and leg it for safety
at a stretched gallop, shedding their respirators for lightness' sake
as they flee.  The rear ranks, who, in spite of themselves, have
heard something of the lecture, burrow laboriously into their masks.
Some wear them as hats, some as ear-muffs, some as chest-protectors.

The smoke rolls over them in heavy yellow billows.

Shadow shapes, hooded like Spanish inquisitors, may be seen here and
there crouched as in prayer, struggling together or groping blindly
for the way out.  One unfortunate has his head down a rabbit-hole,
several blunder over the edge of the gravel pit and are seen no more.

There is a noise of painful laboured breathing as of grampuses in
deep water or pigs with asthma.

The starchy N.C.O. Instructors close on the helpless mob and with
muffled yelps and wild waving of arms herd them towards the south
door of the gas-chamber, push them inside and shoot the bolts.

The R.A.M.C. Orderlies are busy hauling the bodies out of the north
door, loading them on stretchers and trotting them across to the
cemetery, at the gates of which stands the Base Burial Officer
beaming welcome.

The lecturer, seeing the game well in progress, lights a pipe and
strolls home to tea.



XXVIII

THE CONVERT

I found No. 764, Trooper Hartley, W.J., in the horse lines, sitting
on a hay-bale perusing a letter which seemed to give him some
amusement.  On seeing me he arose, clicked his spurs and saluted.  I
returned the salute, graciously bidding him carry on.  We go through
the motions of officer and man very punctiliously, William and I.  In
other days, in other lands, our relative positions were easier.

The ceremonies over I sat down beside him on the hay-bale, and we
became Bill and Jim to each other.

"Did you ever run across Gustav Müller in the old days?" William
inquired, thumbing a fistful of dark Magliesburg tobacco into his
corn-cob incinerator.  "'Mafoota,' the niggers called him, a beefy
man with an underdone complexion."

"Yes," I said, "he turned up in my district on the Wallaby in 1913 or
thereabouts, with nothing in the world but a topee, an army overcoat
and a box of parlour magic.  Set up as a wizard in Chala's kraal.
Used to produce yards of ribbon out of the mouths of the afflicted,
and collapsible flower-pots out of their nostrils--casting out
devils, you understand.  Was scratching together a very comfortable
practice; but he began to dabble in black politics, so I moved him
on.  An entertaining old rogue; I don't know what became of him."

William winked at me through a cloud of blue tobacco smoke.  "I do.
He went chasing a rainbow's end North of the Lakes, and I went along
with him.  You see, Gustav's great-aunt Gretchen appeared to him in a
dream and told him there was alluvial gold in a certain river bed,
tons of it, easy washing, so we went after it.  We didn't find it;
but that's neither here nor there; a man must take a chance now and
again, and this was the first time Gustav's great-aunt had let him
down.  She'd given him the straight tip for two Melbourne Cups and a
Portugoose lottery in her time.  Some girl, great-aunt Gretchen!
Anyway there was Gustav and me away up at the tail-end of Nowhere,
with the boys yapping for six months' back pay, and we couldn't have
bought a feed of hay for a nightmare between us.  We just naturally
had to do something, so----"

"So you just naturally took to poaching ivory," said I.  "I know you.
Go on."

William grinned.  "Well, a man must live, you know.  How'msodever we
struck a bonanza vein of _m'jufu_ right away and piled up the long
white nuggets in a way that would drive you to poetry.  A Somali Arab
took the stuff from us on the spot, paying us in cattle at a
fifty-per-cent discount, which was reasonable enough, seeing that he
ran ninety per cent of the risks.  Everything sailed along like a
beautiful dream.  The elephants was that tame they'd eat out of your
hand, and you could stroll out and bowl over a dozen of the silly
blighters before breakfast if you felt in the mood.  The police
hadn't got our address as yet.  The only competitor that threatened
got buckshot in his breeches, which changed his mind and direction
for him very precipitous.  The industry boomed and boomed.

"'Another year of this,' says I to myself, 'and I'll retire home and
grow roses, drive a pony-trap and be a churchwarden.'

"Then one day the Arab headman blows into camp, and squatting outside
our tent, commences to lamentate and pipe his eye in a way that would
make you think he'd ate a skinful of prickly pears.

"'What's biting you, Bluebell?' I asked.

"'_Allah akbar_!  God is good but business is rotten,' says he, and
pitches a woeful yarn how that columns of Askaris was marching
thither and thence, poking their flat noses in where they wasn't
invited; Inglische gunboats were riding every wave, scaring seven
bells out of the coast dhows, and consequently commerce was sent to
blazes and a poor man couldn't get an honest living no-how.  The long
and short of it was that ivory smuggling was off for the period of
the War.

"'What war, you scum?' says Gustav, pricking his freckled ears.
'Who's warring?'

"'The Inglische and Germans, of course,' says the Arab.  'Didn't the
B'wana know?'

"'No, the B'wana doesn't,' says I; 'our private Marconi outfit is
broke down owing to the monkeys swinging on the wires.  Now trot
home, you barbarous ape, while me and my colleague throws a ray of
pure intellect on the problem.  _Bassi_.'

"So he soon dismisses at the double and is seen no more in them
vicinities.

"'Well, partner,' says I to Gustav, 'this is a fair knock-out--what?'

"But Gustav, he grumbles something I couldn't catch and walks off
into the bush with his head down, afflicted with thought.

"He didn't come in for supper, so I scoffed his share and turned in.

"At moonrise I thought I heard a bull elephant trumpeting like he was
love-sick, but it wasn't.  It was Gustav coming home singing the
_Wacht am Rhein_.  He brings up opposite my bed.

"'Oh, give over and let the poor lions and leopards snatch some
sleep,' says I.

"'I was born in Shermany,' says he.

"'Don't let that keep you awake, ole man,' says I.  'What saith the
prophet?  "If a cat kittens on a fish-plate they ain't necessarily
herrings."'

"'I'm a Sherman,' says he.

"'You've been so long with white men that nobody'd know it,' says I.
'Forget it, and I won't tell on you.  Why, you ain't seen Shermany
these thirty years, and you wouldn't know a squarehead if you was to
trip over one.  Go to bed, Mr. Caruso.'

"'Well, I'm going to be a mighty good Sherman now, to make up for
lost time,' says he grim-like, 'and in case you got any objections
I'll point out that you've the double express proximitous to your
stomach.'

"He had me bailed up all right.  Arguments weren't no use with the
cuss.  'I'm a Sherman' was all he'd say; and next day we starts to
hoof it to Germany territory, me promenading in front calling Gustav
every name but his proper one, and him marching behind, prodding me
in the back with the blunderbuss.  He disenjoyed that trip even more
than I did; he had to step behind me all day for fear I'd dodge him
into the bush; and he sat up all night for fear the boys would rescue
me.  He got as red-eyed as a bear and his figure dropped off him in
bucketfuls.

"At the end of a month we crossed the border and hit the trail of the
Deutscher--burnt villages everywhere, with the mutilated bodies of
women and picaninnies lying about, stakes driven through 'em, Waugh!

"'Are you still a Sherman?' I asks; but Gustav says nothing; he'd
gone a bit white about the gills all the same.  Then one morning we
tumbles into one of their columns and the game is up.  I was given a
few swipes with a _kiboko_ for welcome and hauled before the
Commander, a little short cove with yellow hair, a hand-carved jaw
and spectacles.  He diagnosed my case as serious, prescribed me some
more _kiboko_, and I was hove into a grass hut under guard, pending
the obsequies.

"The Officers called Gustav a good sport, gave him a six-by-four
cigar and took him off to dinner.  I noticed he looked back at me
once or twice.  So I sits down in the hut and meditates on some
persons' sense of humour, with a big Askari buck padding it up and
down outside, whiling away the sunny hours with a bit of
disembowelling practice on his bayonet.

"A couple of days flits by while the column is away spreading the
good word with fire and stake.  Then on the third night I hears a
scuffle outside the hut, and the Askari comes somersaulting backwards
through the grass wall like as if an earthquake had butted him in the
brisket.  He gave a couple of kicks and stretched out like as if he
was tired.

"'Whist!  Is that you, Bill?' comes a whisper through the hole.

"'What's left of me,' says I.  'Who are you?'

"'Me--Gustav,' says the whisperer.

"'What's the antic this time?  Capturing me again?' says I.

"'No, I'm rescuing you now,' says he.

"'The devil you are,' says I, and with that I glided out through the
hole and followed him on my stomach.  A sentry gave tongue at the
scrub-edge, but Gustav rose up out of the grass and bumped him behind
the ear and we went on.

"'Well, you're a lovely quick-change artist, capturing a bloke one
moment and rescuing him the next,' says I presently.  'What's come
over you?  Ain't you a Sherman no more?'

"Gustav groans as if his heart was broke.  'I've been away thirty
years.  I didn't know they was like that; I'd forgotten.  Oh, my
Gawd, what swine!'  He spits like a man that has bit sour beer, and
we ran on again."


"Didn't they chase you?" I asked.

William nodded.

"But they couldn't catch two old bush-bucks like us, and the next day
we fell in with a British column that was out hunting them.  'Twas a
merry meeting.  Gustav enlisted with the Britishers on the spot."

William tapped the travel-soiled letter in his hand.  "This is from
him.  He's down in Nairobi, wounded.  He says he's sitting up taking
nourishment, and that great-aunt Gretchen has appeared to him again
and showed him a diamond pipe in the Khali Hari, which will require a
bit of looking into _après la guerre_--if there ever is any _après_."



XIX

A REST CURE

Not long ago a notice appeared in Part II Orders to the effect that
our Army had established a Rest Home at X where invalid officers
might be sent for a week's recuperation.

Now X is a very pleasant place, consisting of a crowd of doll's-house
châlets set between cool pine-woods and the sea.

The châlets are labelled variously "Villa des Roses," "Les
Hirondelles," "Sans Souci," and so on, and in the summertimes of
happier years swarmed with comfortable bourgeois, bare-legged
children and Breton nannas; but in these stern days a board above the
gate of "Villa des Roses" announces that the Assistant-Director of
Agriculture may be found within meditating on the mustard-and-cress
crop, while "Les Hirondelles" and "Sans Souci" harbour respectively
the Base Press Censor (whose tar-brush hovered over this perfectly
priceless article) and a platoon of the D.L.O.L.R.R.V.R.  (Duchess of
Loamshire's Own Ladies' Rabbit Rearing Volunteer Reserve).

X, as I said before, is an exceedingly pleasant place; you may lean
out of the window o' mornings and watch the D.L.O.L.R.R.V.R.'s
Sergeant-Majoress putting her platoon through Swedish monkey motions,
and in the afternoons you can recline on the sands and watch them
sporting in the glad sea-waves (telescopes protruding from the upper
windows of "Villa des Roses" and "Sans Souci" suggesting that the
A.D.A. and the B.P.C. are similarly employed).

The between-whiles may be spent lapping up ozone from the sea, resin
from the pine-woods, and champagne cocktails which Marie-Louise mixes
so cunningly in the little café round the corner; and what with one
thing and another the invalid officer goes pig-jumping back to the
line fit to mince whole brigades of Huns with his bare teeth.

X, you will understand, is a very admirable institution, and when we
heard about this Rest Home we were all for it and tried to cultivate
fur on the tongue, capped hocks and cerebral meningitis; but the
Skipper hardened his heart against us and there was nothing doing.

Then one morning MacTavish came over all dithery-like in the lines,
fell up against a post, smashed his wrist-watch and would have
brained himself had that been possible.

He picked himself up, apologised for making a fool of himself before
the horses, patched his scalp with plaster from his respirator,
borrowed my reserve watch "Pretty Polly," and carried on.

"Pretty Polly" can do two laps to any other watch's one without
turning a hair-spring.  Externally she looks very much like any other
mechanical pup the Ordnance sells you for eleven francs net; her
secret lies in her spring, which, I imagine, must have been intended
for "Big Ben," but sprang into the wrong chassis by mistake.

At all events as soon as it is wound up it lashes out left and right
with such violence that the whole machine leaps with the shock of its
internal strife and hops about on the table after the manner of a
Mexican dancing bean, clucking like an ostrich that has laid twins.

It will be gathered that my "Pretty Polly" is not the ultimate
syllable in the way of accuracy, but as MacTavish seemed to want her
and had been kind to me in the way of polo-sticks, I handed her over
without a murmur.

The same afternoon MacTavish came over dithery again, dived into a
heap of bricks and knocked himself out for the full count.

We put him to bed and signalled the Vet.  The Vet reported that
MacTavish's temperature was well above par and booming.  He went on
to state that MacTavish was suffering from P.U.O. (which is Spanish
for "flu") and that he probably wouldn't weather the night.

The Skipper promptly 'phoned O.C. Burials, inviting him to dine next
evening, and Albert Edward wired his tailor, asking what was being
worn in headstones.

William, our Mess President, took up a position by the sick man's
side in hopes he would regain consciousness for long enough to settle
his mess-bill, and the rest of us spent the evening recalling
memories of poor old Mac, his many sterling qualities, etc.

However, next morning a batman poked his head into the Mess and said
could Mr. MacTavish have a little whisky, please, he was fancying it,
and anyway you couldn't force none of that there grool down him not
if you was to use a drenching bit.

At noon the batman was back to say that Mr. MacTavish was fancying a
cigarette now, also a loan of the gramophone and a few cheerful
records.

The Skipper promptly 'phoned postponing O.C. Burials, and Albert
Edward wired his tailor, changing his order to that of a canary
waistcoat.

That evening MacTavish tottered into the Mess and managed to surround
a little soup, a brace of cutlets and a bottle of white wine without
coming over dithery again.

But for all that he was not looking his best; he weaved in his walk,
his eye was dull, his nose hot, his ear cold and drooping, and the
Skipper, gazing upon him, remembered the passage in Part II Orders
and straightway sat down and applied that MacTavish be sent to X at
once, adding such a graphic pen-picture of the invalid (most of it
copied from a testimonial to somebody's backache pills) as to reduce
us to tears and send MacTavish back to his bed badly shaken to hear
how ill he'd been.

The Skipper despatched his pen-picture to H.Q. and forgot all about
it, and so did H.Q. apparently, for we heard nothing further, and in
due course forgot all about it ourselves, and in the meanwhile
MacTavish got back into form, and MacTavish in form is no shrinking
lily be it said.

He has a figure which tests every stitch in his Sam Browne, a bright
blue eye and a complexion which an external application of mixed
weather and an internal application of tawny port has painted the hue
of the beetroot.

Then suddenly, like a bomb from the blue, an ambulance panted up to
the door and presented a H.Q. chit to the effect that the body of
MacTavish be delivered to it at once to bear off to X.

The Skipper at the time was out hacking and Albert Edward was in
charge; he sent an orderly flying to MacTavish, who rolled in from
his tent singing "My Friend John" at the top of his voice and looking
more like an over-fed beetroot than ever.

"Dash it all, I don't want to go to their confounded mortuary," he
shouted; "never felt fitter in my life.  I can't go; I won't go!"

"You'll have to," said Albert Edward; "can't let the Skipper down
after that pen-picture he wrote; the Staff would never believe
another word he said.  No, MacTavish, my son, you'll have to play the
game and go."

"But, you ass, look at him," wailed the Babe; "look at his ruddy,
ruby, tomato-ketchup, plum-and-apple complexion.  What are you going
to do about that?"

"I'll settle his complexion," replied Albert Edward grimly; "tell his
man to toss his tooth-brush into the meat-waggon; and you, Mac, come
with me."

He led the violently protesting MacTavish into the kitchen.  The cook
tells me Albert Edward pounded two handfuls of flour into MacTavish's
complexion and filled his eye-sockets up with coal-dust, and I quite
believe the cook, for in five minutes' time I came on Albert Edward
dragging what I at first took to be the body of a dead Pierrot down
the passage towards the waiting ambulance, at the same time exhorting
it to play the game and wobble for the Skipper's sake.

The wretched MacTavish, choking with flour and blinded with
coal-dust, wobbled like a Clydesdale with the staggers.

I saw a scared R.A.M.C. orderly bound out of the car and assist
Albert Edward to hoist MacTavish aboard, trip him up and pin him down
on a stretcher.  Then the ambulance coughed swiftly out of sight.

The allotted week passed but no MacTavish came bounding back to us
like a giant refreshed with great draughts of resin, and we grew
anxious; which anxiety did not abate when, in reply to the Skipper's
inquiries, the Rest Home authorities wired denying all knowledge of
him.

Goodness knows what we should have done if a letter from MacTavish
himself had not arrived next morning, to say that he had lain on his
back in the ambulance digging coal-dust out of his eyes and coughing
up flour till the car stopped, not, to his surprise, at the Rest
Home, but at a Casualty Clearing Station.

Some snuffling R.A.M.C. orderlies bore him tenderly to a tent and a
doctor entered, also snuffling.  MacTavish is of the opinion that the
whole of the medical staff had P.U.O., and the doctor was the sickest
of the lot and far from reliable.

At all events, on seeing MacTavish's face, he ejaculated a bronchial
"Good Lord!" and tearing MacTavish's tunic open, stuck a trumpet
against his tummy and listened for the ticks.

Apparently he heard something sensational, for he wheezed another
"Good Lord!" and decorated MacTavish with a scarlet label.

Within an hour our hero found himself on board a Red Cross train _en
route_ for the coast.

There were a lot of cheerful wounded on the bus, getting all the soup
and jelly they wanted; but MacTavish got only lukewarm milk and
precious little of that.  From scraps of hushed conversation he
caught here and there he gathered that his life hung by a thread.

He was feeling very bewildered and depressed, he said, but,
remembering his duty to the Skipper, played the game and kept body
and soul together on drips of jelly surreptitiously begged from the
cheerful wounded.

Next morning he found himself in hospital in England, where he still
remains.  He says he has been promoted from warm milk to cold slops,
but is still liable to die at any moment, he understands.

He has discovered that he was sent home with "galloping heart
disease," but nobody in the hospital can get even a trot out of it,
and boards of learned physicians sit on him all day long, their
trumpets planted on his tummy listening for the ticks.

MacTavish says he thinks it improbable that they ever will hear any
ticks now, for the excellent reason that he threw the cause
thereof--my "Pretty Polly," to wit--out of the window the day he
arrived.

In a postscript he adds that he considers he has played the game far
enough, and that if the Skipper doesn't come and bail him out soon
he'll bite the learned physicians, kiss the nurses, sing "My Friend
John" and disgrace the Regiment for ever.



XXX

THE HARRIERS (I)

The Boche having lately done a retreat--"strategic retirement,"
"tactical adjustment," "elastic evasion," or whatever Ludendorff is
calling it this week--in plain words the Boche, having gloriously
trotted backwards off a certain slice of France, Albert Edward and I
found ourselves attached to a Corps H.Q. operating in a wilderness of
grass-grown fields, ruined villages and smoking châteaux.

One evening Albert Edward loitered up to the hen-house I was
occupying at the time and chatted to me through the wires as I shaved.

"Put up seventeen hares and ten covey of partridges visiting outposts
to-day--take my advice and scrap that moustache while you're about
it, it must be a heavy drain on your system--and twenty hares and
four covey riding home.  Do you find lathering the ears improves
their growth, or what?"

"The country is crawling with game," said I, ignoring his
personalities, "and here we are hanging body and soul together on
bully and dog biscuit."

"Exactly," said Albert Edward, "and in the meanwhile the festive
_lapin_ breeds and breeds.  Has it ever occurred to you that, if
something isn't done soon, we'll have Australia's sad story over
again here in Picardy?  Give the rabbits a chance and in no time
they'll have eaten off all the crops in France.  Why, on the Burra
I've seen----"

"One moment," said I; "if I listen to your South Australian rabbit
story again you've got to listen to my South African locust yarn;
it's only fair."

"Oh, shut up," Albert Edward growled; "can't you understand this
question is deadly serious?"

"Best put the Tanks on to 'em then," I suggested; "they'd enjoy
themselves, and the Waterloo Cup wouldn't be in it--Captain
Monkey-Wrench's brindled whippet, 'Sardine Tin,' 6 to 4; Major
Spanner's 'Pig Iron,' 7 to 2; even money the field."

"Your humour is a trifle strained," said Albert Edward; "if you're
not careful you'll crack a joke at the expense of a tendon one of
these days."

"Look here," said I, wiping the blood off my safety-razor, "you're
evidently struggling to give expression to some heavy brain wave; out
with it."

"What about a pack of harriers?" said Albert Edward.  "There must be
swarms of sportive tykes about, faithful Fidos that have stuck to the
dear old homestead through thick and thin, also refugee animals that
follow the sweet-scented infantry cookers.  I've got my old
hunting-horn; you've got your old crop; between the two we ought to
be able to mobilize 'em a bit and put the wind up these darn hares.
I'm going to try anyway.  I may say I look on it as a duty."

"Looked on in that light it's a sacred duty," said I;
"and--er--incidentally we might reap a haunch of hare out of it now
and again, mightn't we?"

"Incidentally, yes," said Albert Edward, "and a trifle of sport into
the bargain--incidentally."

So we set about collecting a pack there and then by offering our
servants five francs per likely dog and no questions asked.

No questions were asked, but I have a strong suspicion that our
gentlemen were up all night and that there were dark deeds done in
the dead of it, for the very next evening my groom and countryman
presented us with a bill for forty-five francs.

The dogs, he informed us, were kennelled "in a little shmall place
the like of an ice-house" at the northern extremity of the château
grounds, and that "anyway a blind man himself couldn't miss them wid
the screechin' an' hollerin' they are afther raisin' be dint of the
confinement."

I had an appointment with the Q. Staff (to explain why I had indented
for sixty-four horse rations while only possessing thirty-two horses,
the excuse that they all enjoyed very healthy appetites apparently
not sufficing), so Albert Edward went forth to inspect the pack alone.

He came into Mess very late, looking hot and dishevelled.

"My word, they've looted a blooming menagerie," he panted in my ear;
"still, couldn't expect to pick Pytchley puppies off every bush, I
suppose."

"What have they got, actually?" I inquired.

"Two couple of Belgian light-draught dogs--you know, the kind they
hitch on to any load too heavy for a horse--an asthmatic beagle, an
anæmic bloodhound, a domesticated wolf, an unfrocked poodle, and a
sort of dropsical pug."

"What on earth is the pug for?" I asked.

"Luck," said Albert Edward.  "Your henchman says 'them kind of little
dogs do be bringing ye luck,' and backs it up with a very convincing
yarn of an uncle of his in Bally-something who had a lucky dog--'as
like this wan here as two spits, except maybe for the least little
curliness of the tail'--which provided complete immunity from ghosts,
witches' evil and ingrowing toe-nails.  I thought it cheap at five
francs."

"But, good Lord, that lot'll never hunt hares," I protested.

"Won't they?" said Albert Edward grimly.  "With the only meal they'll
ever see prancing along in front of them, and you and me prancing
along behind scourging 'em with scorpions, I rather fancy they will.
By the way, I know you won't mind, but I've had to shift your bed out
under the chestnut-tree; it's really quite a good tree as trees go."

"But why can't I stop in my hen-house?" I objected.

"Because I've just moved the pack there," said he.

"But why?" I went on.  "What's the matter with the ice-house?"

"That's just it," he hissed in my ear; "it isn't an ice-house--never
was; it's the De Valcourt family vault."

The next day being propitious, we decided to hold our first meet that
evening, and issued a few invitations.  The Veterinary Bloke and the
Field Cashier promised to show up, likewise the Padre, once the
sacredness of our cause had been explained to him.

At noon "stables" Albert Edward reported the pack in fine fettle.
"Kicking up a fearful din and look desperate enough to hunt a holy
angel," said he.  "At five o'clock, me lad, Hard forrard!  Tally-ho!
and Odds-boddikins!"

However at 4.45 p.m., just as I was mounting, he appeared in my lines
wearing slacks and a very downcast expression.

"Wash-out," he growled; "they've been fed and are now lying about,
blown up and dead to the world."

"But who the devil fed them?" I thundered.

"They fed themselves," said Albert Edward.  "They ate the blooming
lucky dog at half-past four."

We therefore postponed the hunt until the morrow; but cannibalism (so
cannibals assure me), once indulged in, becomes as absorbing as
morphia or jig-saws, and at two-fifteen the next afternoon my groom
reported the beagle to have gone the way of the pug, and the pack
once more dead to the world.

There was nothing for it but to postpone the show yet again, and tie
up each hound separately as a precaution against further orgies.

However it seemed to have become a habit with them, for the moment
they were unleashed on the evening of the third day they turned as
one dog upon the poodle.

I wiped the bloodhound's nose for him with a deft swipe of my whip
lash, and Albert Edward's charger anchored the domesticated wolf by
treading firmly on its tail, all of which served to give the fugitive
a few seconds' start; and then a wave of mad dog dashed between our
horses' legs and was on his trail screaming for gore.

The poodle heard the scream and did not dally, but got him hence with
promptitude and agility.  He streaked across the orchard, leading by
five lengths; but the good going across the park reduced his
advantage.  He dived through the fence hard pressed and, with the
bloodhound's hot breath singeing his tail feathers, leaped into the
back of a large farm-cart which happened, providentially for him, to
be meandering down the broad highway.

In the shafts of the cart was a sleepy fat Percheron mare.  On the
seat was a ponderous farmeress, upholstered in respectable black and
crowned with a bead bonnet.  They were probably making a sentimental
excursion to the ruins of their farm.  I know not; but I do know that
the fat mare was suddenly shocked out of a pleasant drowse to find
herself the centre of a frenzied pack of wolves, bloodhounds and
other dog-hooligans, and, not liking the look of things, promptly
bolted.

Albert Edward and I dropped over the low hedge to see the cart
disappearing down the road in a whirl of dust pursued by our
vociferous harriers.

The fat farmeress, her bonnet wobbling over one ear, was tugging
manfully at the reins and howling to Saint Lazarus of Artois to put
on the brakes.  Over the tail-board protruded the head of the poodle,
yelping derision at his baffled enemies.

People will tell you Percherons cannot gallop; can't they?  Believe
me that grey mare flitted like a startled gazelle.  At all events she
was too good for our pack, whom we came upon a mile distant, lying on
their backs in a ditch, too exhausted to do anything but put their
tongues out at us, while far away we could see a small cloud of dust
careering on towards the horizon.

"God help the Traffic Controlman at the next corner," Albert Edward
mused; "he'll never know what struck him.  Well, that was pretty
cheery while it lasted, what?  To see that purler the Padre took over
the garden-wall was alone worth the money."

"Oh, well, I suppose we'd best herd these perishers home to kennels
while they're still too weak to protest.  Come on."

"And in the meanwhile the festive _lapin_ breeds and breeds," said
Albert Edward.



XXXI

THE HARRIERS (II)

Albert Edward and I were seated on a log outside the hen-house which
kennelled our pack when we perceived Algy, the A.D.C., tripping
daintily towards us.  Albert Edward blew a kiss.  "Afternoon, Algy.
How _chit_ he looks in his pink and all!  Tell me, do people ever
mistake you for a cinema attendant and give you pennies?"

"Afternoon, Algy," said I.  "Been spending a strenuous morn carrying
the old man's respirator--with his lunch inside?"

For answer Algy tipped me backwards off the log, and sitting down in
my place, contemplated our hounds for some seconds.

"And are these the notorious Hare-'em Scare-'ems?" he inquired.

I nodded.  "Yessir; absolutely the one and only pack of harriers
operating in the war zone.  Guaranteed gun-broke, shell-shocked,
shrapnel-pitted and bullet-bitten."

Algy sniffed.  "What's that big brute over in the corner, he of the
crumpled face and barbed smile?  Looks like a bloodhound."

"Is a bloodhound," said Albert Edward.  "If you don't believe me step
inside and behave like raw rump steak for a moment."

Algy pointed his cane.  "And that creature industriously delousing
itself?  That's a wolf, of course?"

"Its wolfery is only skin-deep," said I.  "A grey gander all but
annihilated it yesterday.  In my opinion it's a sheep in wolf's
clothing."

Algy wagged his cane, indicating the remaining two couples.

"And these?  What breed would you call them?"

Albert Edward grunted.  "You could call them any breed you like and
be partly right.  We've named them 'The Maconochies,' which, being
interpreted, meaneth a little of everything."

"And how many hares have you killed?" Algy inquired.

"We haven't exactly killed any as yet," said I, "but we've put the
breeze up 'em; their _moral_ is very low."

"Well, my bold Nimrods," said Algy, "I'm sorry to say the game is up."

"What do you mean by 'game'?" objected Albert Edward.  "I've told you
before that this is a serious attempt to avert a plague of rodents.
Why, in Australia I've seen----"

Algy held up his hand.

"I know, I know.  But some people who have not enjoyed your harrowing
Colonial experience are a trifle sceptical.  Listen.  Last evening,
as I was driving home with the old man through Vaux-le-Tour, whom
should I see but you two sportsmen out on the hillside riding down a
hare, followed at some distance by three mounted bargees----"

"The Padre, the Field Cashier and O.C. Bugs," Albert Edward
explained.  "We're making men of 'em.  Go on."

--"followed at a still greater distance," continued Algy, "by a
raging band of mongrels.  By the way, don't you get your hunt the
wrong way round, the cart before the horse, so to speak?  I always
thought it customary for the hounds to go first."

"In some cases the hare wouldn't know it was being hunted if they
did," said I.  "This is one of them.  Forge ahead."

"Well, so far so good; the old gent was drowsing in his corner and
there was no harm done."

"So you gave him a dig in the ribs, I suppose, and bleated, 'Oh, look
at naughty boys chasing ickle bunny wabbit!'" sneered Albert Edward.

Algy wagged his head.  "Not me.  You woke him up yourself, my son, by
tootling on your little tin trumpet.  He heard it through his dreams,
shot up with a 'Good Lord, what's that?' popped his head out of the
window and saw the brave cavalcade reeling out along the sky-line
like a comic movie.  He drank in the busy scene, then turned to me
and said----"

Albert Edward interrupted.  "I know exactly what he said.  He said,
'Algy, me boy, that's the spirit.  _Vive le sport_!  How it reminds
us of our young days in the Peninsular!  Oft-times has our cousin of
Wellington remarked to us how Waterloo was won on the playing----'"

Algy cut off the flow and continued with his piece.  "He said to me,
'God bless my soul, if those young devils aren't galloping a hare!'
I said, 'Sir, they maintain that they are doing good work by averting
a threatened plague of rodents, a state of affairs which has proved
very detrimental to the Anti-podes.'

"'Threatened plague of grandmothers!' replied the old warrior.
'They're enjoying themselves, that's what they're doing--having a
splendid time.  Mind you, I've no objection to you young chaps
amusing yourselves _in secret_, but this is too damn flagrant
altogether.  Just imagine the hullabaloo in the House if word of
these goings-on got home.  "B.E.F. enjoying themselves!  Don't they
know there's a war on?  _Cherchez le général_ and off with his head!"
Trot round and see your dog-fancying friends and tell 'em that if
they're fond of good works I recommend crochet.'  Thus the General.
I must be off now, got to take the old bird up to have a peep at the
War.  Good-byee."

Algy tripped daintily off home again, twirling his cane and whistling
cheerfully.  Sourly we watched him depart.

"I believe that youth positively revels in spreading gloom," Albert
Edward growled.  "Oh, well, I suppose we'll have to get rid of the
dogs now.  Orders is orders."

"But do you think they'll go?" I asked.  "We've been feeding 'em
occasionally of late."

"We'll herd 'em down to where they can get wind of the infantry
cookers," said Albert Edward; "once they sniff the rare old stew
they'll forget all about us."

Accordingly an hour later we released our pack from the hen-house for
the last time.  They immediately gave chase to an errant tabby
kitten, which threw off a noise like many siphons and shot up a tree,
baffling them completely.  We speedily herded them out of the château
grounds, Albert Edward ambling in front, wringing mournful music out
of his horn, and I bringing up the rear, snapping my whip-cracker
under the sterns of the laggards.  We had no sooner left the park for
the open grass country beyond when up jumped a buck hare, right from
under our feet, and away went the pack rejoicing, bass and falsetto.

Albert Edward tugged his excited mare to a standstill.  "Look at
those blighters!" he shouted.  "Hunting noses down in pukka style for
the first time, just because they know we can't follow them.  Oh,
this is too much!"

"I don't see why we shouldn't follow them at a distance," said I.
"We can pretend there's no connection--there is no connection really,
we didn't lay 'em on.  They're hunting on their own.  We're just out
for a ride."

Albert Edward winked an eye at me and gave his mare her head.  The
pack by this time was well across the plain, the wolf leading,
noisily supported by the Maconochies and the bloodhound.  Thrice the
hare turned clear and squatted, but, thanks to the blood dog's
infallible nose, he was ousted each time and pushed on, failing
visibly.  He made a sharp curve towards the windmill, and Albert
Edward and I topped the miller's fence in time to see the Maconochies
roll him over among the weeds.  We also saw something on the highway
behind the mill which we had not previously noticed, namely a grey
Limousine.  On a fallen tree by the wayside sat the General, his face
as highly coloured as his hat.  Towards us down the garden-path
tripped Algy, twirling his cane and whistling cheerily.  Albert
Edward groaned.

"Something in the demeanour of yon youth tells me he beareth our
death-warrants.  Here, you hold the horses while I feed the
guillotine.  This is by far, far the best thing that I have ever
done."

He slung his reins and tottered to his doom.  I watched him approach
within five yards of the old man when a strange thing happened.  The
General suddenly uttered a loud cry and, leaping to his feet,
commenced to dance up and down the road, tearing and belabouring
himself and swearing so outrageously that I had difficulty in holding
the horses.  His chauffeur and Algy rushed to his side, and they and
Albert Edward grouped in a sympathetic circle while he danced and
raved and beat himself in their midst.  Presently the air seemed to
be full of flying tunics, shirts, camisoles, etc., and a second later
I beheld the extraordinary spectacle of a Lieutenant-General dancing
practically nude (expecting for his cap and boots) in the middle of a
French highway, while two subalterns and a private smacked him all
over, and most heartily.  For nearly a minute it continued, and then
he seemed to get himself under control and was led away by Algy to
his car, the chauffeur following, retrieving apparel off trees and
bushes.  Albert Edward, one quivering smirk, wobbled up and took his
reins.  "By Jove! saved again.  He can't very well bite the hand that
spanked him, can he?"

"But what on earth was the matter?" I asked.  "A fit, religious
mania, a penance--what?"

"He sat on a waspodrome," said Albert Edward, "and they got on his
tail."



XXXII

THE CAMERA CANNOT LIE

When I was young I was extremely handsome.  I have documentary
evidence to prove as much.  There is in existence a photograph of a
young gentleman standing with his back to a raging seascape, one hand
resting lightly on a volume of Shakespeare, which in turn is
supported by a rustic table.  The young gentleman has wide innocent
eyes, a rosebud mouth and long golden curls (the sort poor dear old
Romney used to do so nicely).  For the rest he is tastefully
upholstered in a short-panted velvet suit, a lace collar and white
silk socks.  "_Little Lord Fauntleroy_," you murmur to yourself.  No,
Sir (or Madam), it is ME--or was me, rather.  When I was young no
girl thought herself properly married unless I was present at the
ceremony, got up like a prize rabbit and tethered to the far end of
her train.  Nowadays I am not so handsome.  True, you can urge a
horse past me without blindfolding it and all that, but nobody ever
mistakes me for Maxine Elliott.

Personally I was quite willing to be represented at the National
Portrait Gallery by a coloured copy of the presentment described
above, but my home authorities thought otherwise, and when last I was
in England on leave--shortly after the Battle of Agincourt--they
shooed me off to Valpré.  "Go to Valpré," they said; "he is so
artistic."  So to Valpré I went, and was admitted by a handmaid who
waved a white hand vaguely towards a selection of doors, murmuring,
"Wait there, please."  I opened the nearest door at a venture and
entered.

In the waiting-room three other handmaids were at work on
photographs.  One was painting dimples on a lady's cheek; one filling
in gaps in a Second-Lieutenant's moustache; one straightening the
salient of a stockbroker's waistcoat.  Presently the first handmaid
reappeared and somewhat curtly (I was waiting in the wrong room, it
seemed) informed me that the Master was ready.  So I went upstairs to
the operating theatre.  After an impressive interval a curtain was
thrust aside and the Master entered.  He was not in the least like
the artist of my first photograph, who had chirruped and done tricks
with an indiarubber monkey to make me prick my ears and appear
sagacious.  This man had the mane of a poodle, a plush smoking-jacket
with rococo trimmings, satin cravat, rings and bangles like the lads
in _La Bohème_, and I knew myself to be in the presence of True Art,
and bowed my head.

At the sight of me he winced visibly; didn't seem to like my looks at
all.  However he pulled himself together and advanced to reconnoitre.
He pushed me into a chair, manipulated some screws at the back, and I
found my head fast in a steel clamp.  I pleaded for gas or cocaine,
but he took no notice and prowled off to the far end of the theatre
to observe if distance would lend any enchantment.  Apparently it
would not.  The more he saw of me the less he seemed to admire the
view.

Suddenly the fire of inspiration lit his eye and he came for me.  I
struggled with the clamp, but it clave like a bull-terrier to a
mutton chop.  In a moment he had me by the head and started to mould
it nearer to his heart's desire with plump powerful hands.  He
crammed half my lower jaw into my breast pocket, pinned my ears back
so tightly that they wouldn't wag for weeks, pressed my nose down
with his thumb as though it were the button of an electric bell and
generally kneaded my features from the early Hibernian to the late
Græco-Roman.  Then, before they could rebound to their normal
positions, he had sprung back, jerked the lanyard and fired the
camera.

Some weeks later the finished photographs arrived.  The handmaids had
done their bit, and the result was a pleasing portraiture, an _objet
d'art_, an ornament to anybody's family album.  The man Valpré was an
artist all right.

A few days ago the Skipper whistled me into the orderly room.  His
table was littered with parade states, horse-registers and slips of
cardboard, all intermingled.  The Skipper himself appeared to be
undergoing some heavy mental disturbance.  His forehead was furrowed,
his toupet rumpled, and he sucked his fountain-pen, unconsciously
imbibing much dark nourishment.

"Identification cards," he explained, indicating the slips.  "Got to
carry 'em now.  Comply with Italian regulations.  Been trying to
describe you.  Napoo." He prodded the result towards me.  I scanned
it and decided he had got it mixed with horse-registers.  It read as
follows:--

  Born . . . . . . . Yes.
  Height . . . . . . 17 hands.
  Hair . . . . . . . Bay.
  Eyes . . . . . . . Two.
  Nose . . . . . . . Undulating.
  Moustache  . . . . Hogged.
  Complexion . . . . Natural.
  Special Marks  . .


The Skipper pointed to the blank space.  "That's what I want to
know--special marks.  Got any?  Snip, blaze, white fetlock, anything?"

"Yessir," said I.  "Strawberry patch on off gaskin."

He sucked thoughtfully at his fountain-pen.  "Mmph," he said,
"shouldn't mention it if I were you.  Don't want to have to undress
in the middle of the street every time you meet an Intelligence, do
you?"  I agreed that I did not--not before June, anyhow.  The Skipper
turned to the card again and frowned.

"Couldn't call it a speaking likeness exactly, this little
pen-picture of you, could one?  If you only had a photograph of
yourself now."

"I have, Sir," said I brightly.

"Good Lord, man, why didn't you say so before?  Here, take this and
paste the thing in.  Now trot away."

I trotted away and pasted Valpré's _objet d'art_ on to the card.

Yesterday evening Albert Edward and I were riding out of a certain
Italian town (no names, no pack drill).  Albert Edward got involved
in a right-of-way argument between five bullock wagons and two
lorries, and I jogged on ahead.  On the fringe of the town was a
barrier presided over by a brace of Carabinieri caparisoned with war
material, whiskers and cocked hats of the style popularised by
Bonaparte.  Also an officer.  As I moved to pass the barrier the
officer spied me and, not liking my looks (as I hinted before, nobody
does), signed to me to halt.  Had I an identification card, please?
I had and handed it to him.  He took the card and ran a keen eye over
the Skipper's little pen-picture and Valpré's "Portrait Study," then
over their alleged original.  "Lieutenant," said he grimly, "these
don't tally.  This is not you."

I protested that it was.  He shook his head with great conviction,
"Never!  The nose in this photograph is straight; the ears retiring;
the jaw, normal.  While with you----  [Continental politeness
restrained him].  Lieutenant, you must come with me."

He beckoned to a Napoleonic corporal, who approached, clanking his
war material.  I saw myself posed for a firing squad at grey dawn and
shivered all over.  I detest early rising.

By this time the corporal had outflanked me, clanking more munitions,
and I was on the point of being marched off to the Bastille, or
whatever they call it, when Albert Edward suddenly insinuated himself
into the party and addressed himself to the officer.  "Half a minute,
Mongsewer [any foreigner is Mongsewer to Albert Edward].  The
photograph is of him all right, but it was taken before his accident."

"His accident?" queried the officer.

"Yes," said Albert Edward; "sad affair, shell-shock.  A crump burst
almost in his face, and shocked it all out of shape.  Can't you see?"

The Italian leaned forward and subjected my flushed features to a
piercing scrutiny; then his dark eyes softened almost to tears, and
he handed me back my card and saluted.

"Sir, you have my apologies--and sympathy.  Good evening."

"Albert Edward," said I, as we trotted into the dusk, "you may be a
true friend but you are no gentleman."



XXXIII

LIONEL TRELAWNEY

Lionel Trelawney Molyneux-Molyneux was of the race of the Beaux.  Had
he flourished in the elegant days, Nash would have taken snuff with
him, D'Orsay wine--no less.  As it was, the high priests of Savile
Row made obeisance before him, the staff of the _Tailor and Cutter_
penned leaders on his waistcoats, and the lilies of the field whined
"Kamerad" and withered away.

When war broke out Lionel Trelawney issued from his comfortable
chambers in St. James's and took a hand in it.  He had no enthusiasm
for blood-letting.  War, he maintained from the first, was a vulgar
pastime, a comfortless revolting state of affairs which bored one
stiff, forced one to associate with all sorts of impossible people
and ruined one's clothes.  Nevertheless the West-end had to be saved
from an invasion of elastic-sided boots, celluloid dickeys, Tyrolese
hats and musical soup-swallowing.  That was _his_ war-aim.

Through the influence of an aunt at the War Office he obtained a
commission at once, and after a month's joining-leave (spent closeted
with his tailor) he appeared, a shining figure, in the Mess of the
Loamshire Light Infantry and with them adventured to Gallipoli.  It
is related that during the hell of that first landing, when boats
were capsizing, wounded men being dragged under by tentacles of
barbed wire, machine-guns whipping the sea to bloody froth, Lionel
Trelawney was observed standing on a prominent part of a barge, his
eye-glass fixed on his immaculate field boots, petulantly remarking,
"And now, damn it, I suppose I've got to get wet!"

After the evacuation the battalion went to France, but not even the
slush of the salient or the ooze of Festubert could dim his
splendour.  Whenever he got a chance he sat down, cat-like, and
licked himself.  Wherever he went his batman went also, hauling a
sackful of cleaning gear and changes of raiment.  On one occasion,
hastening to catch the leave train, he spurred his charger into La
Bassée Canal.  He emerged, like some river deity, profusely decorated
in chick-weed, his eyeglass still in his eye ("Came up like a
blinking U-boat," said a spectator, "periscope first"), footed it
back to billets and changed, though it cost him two days of his leave.

He was neither a good nor a keen officer.  He was not frightened--he
had too great a contempt for war to admit the terror of it--but he
gloomed and brooded eternally and made no effort to throw the
faintest enthusiasm into his job.  Yet for all that the Loamshires
suffered him.  He had his uses--he kept the men amused.  In that
tense time just before an attack, when the minute hand was jerking
nearer and nearer to zero, when nerves were strung tight and people
were sending anxious inquiries after Lewis guns, S.A.A., stretchers,
bombs, etc., Lionel Trelawney would say to his batman, "Have you got
the boot and brass polish, the Blanco, the brushes?  Sure?" (a sigh
of relief).  "Very well, now we'll be getting on," and so would send
his lads scrambling over the parapet grinning from east to west.

"Where's ole Collar and Cuffs?" some muddy warrior would shout after
a shrieking tornado of shell had swept over them.  "Dahn a shell-hole
cleanin' his teef," would come the answer, and the battered platoon
chuckled merrily.  "'E's a card, 'e is," said his Sergeant
admiringly.  "Marched four miles back to billets in 'is gas-mask,
perishin' 'ot, all because he'd lost 'is razor an' 'adn't shaved for
two days.  'E's a nut 'e is and no error."

It happened that the Loamshires were given a job of crossing Mr.
Hindenburg's well-known ditch and taking a village on the other side.
A company of tanks, which came rolling out of the dawn-drizzle,
spitting fire from every crack, put seven sorts of wind up the
Landsturmer gentlemen in possession; and the Loamshires, getting
their first objectives with very light casualties, trotted on for
their second in high fettle, sterns up and wagging proudly.  The
tanks went through the village knocking chips off the architecture
and pushing over houses that got in the way; and the Loamshires
followed after, distributing bombs among the cellars.

The consolidation was proceeding when Lionel Trelawney sauntered on
the scene, picking his way delicately through the débris of the main
street.  He lounged up to a group of Loamshire officers, yawned, told
them how tired he was, cursed the drizzle for dimming his buttons and
strolled over to a dug-out with the object of sheltering there.  He
got no further than the entrance, for as he reached it a wide-eyed
German came scrambling up the steps and collided with him, bows on.
For a full second the two stood chest to chest gaping, too surprised
to move.  Then the Hun turned and bolted.  But this time Lionel
Trelawney was not too bored to act.  He drew his revolver and rushed
after him like one possessed, firing wildly.  Two shots emptied a
puddle, one burst a sandbag, one winged a weather-cock and one went
just anywhere.  His empty revolver caught the flying Hun in the small
of the back as he vaulted over a wall; and Lionel Trelawney vaulted
after him.

"Molly's gone mad," shouted his amazed brother-officers as they
scrambled up a ruin for a better view of the hunt.  The chase was
proceeding full-cry among the small gardens of the main street.  It
was a stirring spectacle.  The Hun was sprinting for dear life,
Lionel Trelawney hard on his brush, yelping like a frenzied
fox-terrier.  They plunged across tangled beds, crashed through crazy
fences, fell head over heels, picked themselves up again and raced
on, wheezing like punctured bagpipes.

Heads of Atkinses poked up everywhere.  "S'welp me if it ain't ole
Collar and Cuffs!  Go it, Sir, that's the stuff to give 'em!"  A
Yorkshireman opened a book and started to chant the odds, but nobody
paid any attention to him.  The Hun, badly blown, dodged inside a
shattered hen-house.  Lionel Trelawney tore up handfuls of a ruined
wall and bombed him out of it with showers of brickbats.  Away went
the chase again, cheered by shrill yoicks and cat-calls from the
spectators.

Suddenly there was an upheaval of planks and brick-dust, and both
runners disappeared.

"Gone to ground, down a cellar," exclaimed the brother-officers.
"Oh, look!  Fritz is crawling out."

The white terrified face of the German appeared on the ground level,
then with a wriggle (accompanied by a loud noise of rending material)
he dragged his body up and was on his way once more.  A second later
Lionel Trelawney was up as well, waving a patch of grey cloth in his
hand.  "Molly's ripped the seat out of his pants," shouted the
grand-stand.  "Yow, tear 'm, Pup!"  "Good ole Collar and Cuffs!"
chorused the Loamshire Atkinses.

Lionel Trelawney responded nobly; he gained one yard, two yards,
five, ten.  The Hun floundered into a row of raspberry canes, tripped
and wallowed in the mould.  Trelawney fell on him like a Scot on a
three-penny bit and they rolled out of sight locked in each other's
embrace.

The Loamshires jumped down from their crazy perches and doubled to
see the finish, guided by the growlings, grunts, crashing of
raspberry canes and jets of garden mould flung sky-high.  They were
too late, however.  They met the victor propelling the remains of the
vanquished up a lane towards them.  His fawn breeches were black with
mould, his shapely tunic shredded to ribbons; his sleek hair looked
like a bird's-nest; his nose listed to starboard; one eye bulged like
a shuttered bow-window; his eye-glass was not.  But the amazing thing
about it was that he didn't seem to mind; he beamed, in fact, and
with a cheery shout to his friends--"Merry little scamper--eh,
what?"--he drop-kicked his souvenir a few yards further on,
exclaiming, "That'll teach you to slop soup over my shirt-front, you
rude fellow!"

"Soup over your shirt-front!" babbled the Loamshires.  "What are you
talking about?"

"Talking about?" said Lionel Trelawney.  "Why, this arch-ruffian used
to be a waiter at Claritz's, and he shed mulligatawny all over my
glad-rags one night three years ago--aggravated me fearfully."



XXXIV

THE BOOBY TRAP

A generous foe, the soul of chivalry, I am always ready to admit that
the Boche has many good points.  For instance, he is--er--er--oh,
well, I can't think of any particular good point just for the moment.
On the other hand, it must be admitted that he has his bad ones also,
and one of these is that he cannot stand success; he is the world's
worst winner.

Never does he pull off one of these "victorious retreats" of his but
he needs must spoil the effect by leaving behind all sorts of puerile
booby traps, butter-slides, etc., for the annoyance of the
on-sweeping vanquished, displaying a state of mind which is usually
slippered out of one at a dame school.

Most of his practical jokes are of the fifth of November order and
detonate by means of a neat arrangement of springs, wire and acid
contained in a small metal cylinder.

You open a door and the attached house blows away all round it,
leaving the door in your damaged hand.  You step on a duckboard;
something goes bang! and the duckboard ups and hits you for a
boundary to leg--and so on, all kinds of diversions.

Of course you don't really open doors and prance on duckboards;
that's only what he (Jerry) in his simple faith imagines you will do.
In reality you revive memories of the days when as a small boy you
tied trip-strings in dark passages and balanced water-jugs on
door-tops; and all the Boche's elementary parlour-tricks immediately
become revealed unto you.

Not long ago the Hun, thirsting for yet more imperishable laurels,
made a sudden masterly manoeuvre towards the East.  Our amateur Staff
instantly fell into the trap, and when battle joined again we found
we had been lured twenty miles nearer Germany.

The Hun had not left things very comfortable for us; most of the
cover had been blown up, and there was the usual generous provision
of booby traps lying about dumbly pleading to be touched off.
However, we sheltered in odd holes and corners, scrounged about for
what we could "souvenir" and made ourselves as snug as possible.

It was while riding out alone on one of these souveniring expeditions
that our William came upon a chaff-cutter standing in what had once
been the stable yard of what had once been a château.  Now to a
mounted unit a chaff-cutter is a thing of incredible value.  It is to
us what a mincing-machine is to the frugal housewife.

Our own cutter was with the baggage, miles away in the rear, and
likely to remain there.

William slipped off his horse and approached the thing gingerly.  It
was a Boche engine, evidently quite new and in excellent trim.  This
was altogether too good to be true; there must be a catch somewhere.
William withdrew twenty yards and hurled a brick at it--two, three,
four bricks.  Nothing happened.  He approached again and tying one
end of a wrecked telephone wire to it, retired behind a heap of
rubble and tugged.

The chaff-cutter rocked to and fro and finally fell over on its side
without anything untoward occurring.  William, wiping beads from his
brow, came out of cover.  There was no catch in it after all.  It was
a perfectly genuine bit of treasure-trove.  The Skipper would pat his
curly head, say "Good boy," and exalt him above all the other
subalterns.  _Bon_--very _bon_!

But how to get it home?  For you cannot carry full-grown
chaff-cutters about in your breeches pockets.  For one thing it
spoils the set of your pants.  He must get a limber.  Yes, but how?

The country was quick with other cavalrymen all in the souvenir
business.  If he left the chaff-cutter in order to fetch a limber,
one of them would be sure to snap it up.  On the other hand, if he
waited for a limber to come trotting up of its own sweet will he
might conceivably wait for the rest of the War.  Limbers (G.S. Mule)
are not fairy coaches.

Our William was up against it.  He plunged his hands into his
tunic-pockets and commenced to stride up and down, thinking to the
best of his ability.

In pocketing his right hand he encountered some hard object.  On
drawing the object forth he discovered it to be his mother's gift.
William's mother, under the impression that her son spends most of
his time lying wounded and starving out in No-man's land, keeps him
liberally supplied with tabloid meals to sustain him on these
occasions--herds of bison corralled into one lozenge, the juice of
myriad kine concentrated in a single capsule.  This particular gift
was of peppermints (warranted to assuage thirst for weeks on end).
But it was not the peppermints that engaged William's young fancy; it
was the container, small, metal, cylindrical.

His inspiration took fire.  He set the tin under the chaff-cutter,
chopped off a yard of telephone wire, buried one end in peppermints,
twisted the other about the leg of the cutter, mounted his horse and
rode for dear life.

When he returned with the limber an hour later, he found three
cavalrymen, two horse-gunners and a transporteer grouped at a
respectful radius round the chaff-cutter, daring each other to jerk
the wire.

When William stepped boldly forward and jerked the wire they all
flung themselves to earth and covered their heads.  When nothing
happened and he coolly proceeded to load the cutter on the limber
they all sat up again and took notice.

When he picked up the tin and offered them some peppermints they
mounted their horses and rode away.



XXXV

THE PHANTOM ARMY

I can readily believe that war as performed by Messieurs our
ancestors was quite good fun.  You dressed up in feathers and
hardware--like something between an Indian game-cock and a tank--and
caracoled about the country on a cart-horse, kissing your hand to
balconies and making very liberal expenses out of any fat (and
unarmed) burgesses that happened along.

With the first frost you went into winter quarters--i.e. you turned
into the most convenient castle and whiled away the dark months
roasting chestnuts at a log fire, entertaining the ladies with quips,
conundrums and selections on the harpsichord and vying with the
jester in the composition of Limericks.

The profession of arms in those spacious days was both pleasant and
profitable.  Nowadays it is neither; it is a dreary _mélange_ of mud,
blood, boredom and blue-funk (I speak for myself).

Yet even it, miserable calamity that it is (or was), has produced its
piquant situations, its high moments; and one manages to squeeze a
sly smile out of it all, here and there, now and again.

I have heard the skirl of the Argyll and Sutherland battle-pipes in
the Borghese Gardens and seen a Highlander dance the sword-dance
before applauding Rome.  I have seen the love-locks of a matinée idol
being trimmed with horse-clippers (weep, O ye flappers of Suburbia!)
and a Royal Academician set to whitewash a pig-sty.  I have seen
American aviators in spurs, Royal Marines a-horse, and a free-born
Australian eating rabbit.  All these things have I seen.

And of high moments I have experienced plenty of late, for it has
been my happy lot to be in the front of the hunt that has swept the
unspeakable Boche back off a broad strip of France and Belgium, and
the memory of the welcome accorded to us, the first British, by the
liberated inhabitants will remain with us until the last "Lights
Out."  The procedure was practically the same throughout.

There would come a crackle of wild rifle-fire from the front of a
village; then, as we worked round to the flank, a dozen or so
blue-cloaked Uhlans would scamper out of the rear and disappear at a
non-stop gallop for home.  In a second the street would be full of
people, emptying out of houses and cellars, pressing about us,
shaking hands, kissing us and our horses even, smothering us with
flowers, cheering "_Vivent les Anglais!_", "_Vive la France!_"
clamouring, laughing, crying, mad with joy.

_Grandmères_ would appear at attic windows waving calico tricolours
(hidden for four long years) while others plastered up tricolour
hand-bills--"_Hommage à nos Liberateurs_," "God's blessing unto
Tommy."

However, touching and delightful though it all might be, it was not
getting on with the war; this _embarras des amis_ was saving the
Uhlans' hide.

Furthermore, though I can bring myself to bear with a certain amount
of embracing from attractive young things, I do not enjoy the
salutations of unshorn old men; and when Mayors and Corporations got
busy my native modesty rebelled, and I would tear myself loose and,
with my steed decorated from ears to croup with flowers, so that I
looked more like a perambulating hot-house than a poor soldier-man,
take up the pursuit once more.

In due course we came to the considerable town of X.  All happened as
before.  As we popped in at one flank the bold Uhlan popped out at
the other, and the townsfolk flooded the streets.  I was dragged out
of the saddle, kissed, pump-handled and cheered while my bewildered
charger was led aside and festooned with pink roses.  Tricolours
appeared at every window; handbills of welcome were distributed
broadcast.  The Mayor and Corporation arrived at the double, and we
struggled together for some moments while they rasped me with their
stubbly beards.  When the first ecstasies had somewhat abated I
gathered my troop and prepared to move again.

"Whither away?" the Mayor enquired, a fine old veteran he, wearing
two 1870 medals and the ribbon of the Legion.

"To Z.," said I.

"_Ecoutez, donc_," he warned.  "They are waiting for you there in
force, machine-guns and cannon."

I intimated that nevertheless I must go and have a look-see, at any
rate, and so rode out of town, the vast crowd accompanying us to the
outskirts, cheering, shouting advice, warnings and blessings.  In
sight of Z. we shed our floral tributes and, debouching off the
highway into the open, worked forwards on the look-out for trouble.

It came.  A dozen pip-squeaks shrilled overhead to cause considerable
casualties among some neighbouring cabbages, and shortly afterwards
rifle-fire opened from outlying cottages.  I swung round and tried
for an opening to the north, but a couple of machine-guns promptly
gave tongue on that flank.  Another flock of pip-squeaks kicked up
the mould in front of us and some fresh rifles and machine-guns
joined in.  Too hot altogether.

I was just deciding to give it best and cut for cover when all
hostile fire suddenly switched off, and a few minutes later I beheld
light guns on lorries, machine-guns in motor-cars and Uhlans on
horses stampeding out of the village by all roads east.

The day was mine.  Yip, Yip!  Bonza!  Skoo-kum!  Hurroosh!
Nevertheless I was properly bewildered, for it was absurd to suppose
that an overwhelming force of heavily-armed Huns could have been
bluffed out of a strong position by the merest handful of unsupported
cavalry.  Manifestly absurd!

I turned about, and in so doing my eye lit on the poplar-lined
highway from X., and I understood.  Along the road poured the hordes
of an advancing army, advancing in somewhat irregular column of
route, with banners flying.  The head of the column was not a mile
distant.  The Infantry must be on my heels, thought I.  Stout
marching!  I grabbed up my glasses, took a long look and bellowed
with laughter.  It was not the Infantry at all; it was the liberated
population of X., headed by the Mayor and Corporation, come out to
see the fun, the _grandmères_ and _grandpères_, the girls and boys,
the dogs and babies, marching, hobbling, skipping, toddling down the
pave, waving their calico tricolours and singing the _Marseillaise_.
I thought of the Boche fleeing eastward with the fear of God in his
soul, and rolled about in my saddle drunk with joy.





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