With the Main Guard
by Rudyard Kipling
Der jungere Uhlanen
Sit round mit open mouth
While Breitmann tell dem stories
Of fightin' in the South;
Und gif dem moral lessons,
How before der battle pops,
Take a little prayer to Himmel
Und a goot long drink of Schnapps.
Hans Breitmann's Ballads.
"Mary, Mother av Mercy, fwhat the divil possist us to take an' kepe
this melancolius counthry? Answer me that, sorr."
It was Mulvaney who was speaking. The time was one o'clock of a
stifling June night, and the place was the main gate of Fort Amara, most
desolate and least desirable of all fortresses in India. What I was doing
there at that hour is a question which only concerns M'Grath the Sergeant
of the Guard, and the men on the gate.
"Slape," said Mulvaney, "is a shuparfluous necessity. This gyard'll
shtay lively till relieved." He himself was stripped to the waist; Learoyd
on the next bedstead was dripping from the skinful of water which
Ortheris, clad only in white trousers, had just sluiced over his
shoulders; and a fourth private was muttering uneasily as he dozed
open-mouthed in the glare of the great guard-lantern. The heat under the
bricked archway was terrifying.
"The worrst night that iver I remimber. Eyah! Is all Hell loose this
tide?" said Mulvaney. A puff of burning wind lashed through the
wicket-gate like a wave of the sea, and Ortheris swore.
"Are ye more heasy, Jock?" he said to Learoyd. "Put yer 'ead between
your legs. It'll go orf in a minute."
"Ah don't care. Ah would not care, but ma heart is plaayin' tivvy-tivvy
on ma ribs. Let me die! Oh, leave me die!" groaned the huge Yorkshireman,
who was feeling the heat acutely, being of fleshly build.
The sleeper under the lantern roused for a moment and raised himself on
his elbow,—"Die and be damned then!" he said. "I'm damned and
I can't die!"
"Who's that?" I whispered, for the voice was new to me.
"Gentleman born," said Mulvaney; "Corp'ril wan year, Sargint nex'.
Red-hot on his C'mission, but dhrinks like a fish. He'll be gone before
the cowld weather's here. So!"
He slipped his boot, and with the naked toe just touched the trigger of
his Martini. Ortheris misunderstood the movement, and the next instant the
Irishman's rifle was dashed aside, while Ortheris stood before him, his
eyes blazing with reproof.
"You!" said Ortheris. "My Gawd, you! If it was you, wot would
"Kape quiet, little man," said Mulvaney, putting him aside, but very
gently; "'tis not me, nor will ut be me whoile Dina Shadd's here. I was
but showin' something."
Learoyd, bowed on his bedstead, groaned, and the gentleman-ranker
sighed in his sleep. Ortheris took Mulvaney's tendered pouch, and we three
smoked gravely for a space while the dust-devils danced on the glacis and
scoured the red-hot plain.
"Pop?" said Ortheris, wiping his forehead.
"Don't tantalize wid talkin' av dhrink, or I'll shtuff you into your
own breech-block an'—fire you off!" grunted Mulvaney.
Ortheris chuckled, and from a niche in the veranda produced six bottles
of ginger ale.
"Where did ye get ut, ye Machiavel?" said Mulvaney. "'Tis no bazar
"'Ow do Hi know wot the Orf'cers drink?" answered Ortheris.
"Arst the mess-man."
"Ye'll have a Disthrict Coort-martial settin' on ye yet, me son," said
Mulvaney, "but"—he opened a bottle—"I will not report ye this
time. Fwhat's in the mess-kid is mint for the belly, as they say,
'specially whin that mate is dhrink, Here's luck! A bloody war or
a—no, we've got the sickly season. War, thin!"—he waved the
innocent "pop" to the four quarters of Heaven. "Bloody war! North, East,
South, an' West! Jock, ye quakin' hayrick, come an' dhrink."
But Learoyd, half mad with the fear of death presaged in the swelling
veins of his neck, was pegging his Maker to strike him dead, and fighting
for more air between his prayers. A second time Ortheris drenched the
quivering body with water, and the giant revived.
"An' Ah divn't see thot a mon is i' fettle for gooin' on to live; an'
Ah divn't see thot there is owt for t' livin' for. Hear now, lads! Ah'm
tired—tired. There's nobbut watter i' ma bones, Let me die!"
The hollow of the arch gave back Learoyd's broken whisper in a bass
boom. Mulvaney looked at me hopelessly, but I remembered how the madness
of despair had once fallen upon Ortheris, that weary, weary afternoon in
the banks of the Khemi River, and how it had been exorcised by the skilful
"Talk, Terence!" I said, "or we shall have Learoyd slinging loose, and
he'll be worse than Ortheris was. Talk! He'll answer to your voice."
Almost before Ortheris had deftly thrown all the rifles of the Guard on
Mulvaney's bedstead, the Irishman's voice was uplifted as that of one in
the middle of a story, and, turning to me, he said—
"In barricks or out of it, as you say, sorr, an Oirish rig'mint
is the divil an' more. 'Tis only fit for a young man wid eddicated
fistesses. Oh the crame av disruption is an Oirish rig'mint, an' rippin',
tearin', ragin' scattherers in the field av war! My first rig'mint was
Oirish—Faynians an' rebils to the heart av their marrow was they,
an' so they fought for the Widdy betther than most, bein'
contrairy—Oirish. They was the Black Tyrone. You've heard av thim,
Heard of them! I knew the Black Tyrone for the choicest collection of
unmitigated blackguards, dog-stealers, robbers of hen-roosts, assaulters
of innocent citizens, and recklessly daring heroes in the Army List. Half
Europe and half Asia has had cause to know the Black Tyrone—good
luck be with their tattered Colors as Glory has ever been!
"They was hot pickils an' ginger! I cut a man's head tu deep wid
my belt in the days av my youth, an', afther some circumstances which I
will oblitherate, I came to the Ould Rig'mint, bearin' the character av a
man wid hands an' feet. But, as I was goin' to tell you, I fell acrost the
Black Tyrone agin wan day whin we wanted thim powerful bad, Orth'ris, me
son, fwhat was the name av that place where they sint wan comp'ny av us
an' wan av the Tyrone roun' a hill an' down again, all for to tache the
Paythans something they'd niver learned before? Afther Ghuzni 'twas."
"Don't know what the bloomin' Paythans called it. We call it Silver's
Theayter. You know that, sure!"
"Silver's Theatre—so 'twas, A gut betune two hills, as black as a
bucket, an' as thin as a girl's waist. There was over-many Paythans for
our convaynience in the gut, an' begad they called thimselves a
Reserve—bein' impident by natur! Our Scotchies an' lashins av Gurkys
was poundin' into some Paythan rig'mints, I think 'twas. Scotchies an'
Gurkys are twins bekaze they're so onlike, an' they get dhrunk together
whin God plazes. As I was sayin', they sint wan comp'ny av the Ould an wan
av the Tyrone to double up the hill an' clane out the Paythan Reserve.
Orf'cers was scarce in thim days, fwhat with dysintry an' not takin' care
av thimselves, an' we was sint out wid only wan orf'cer for the comp'ny;
but he was a Man that had his feet beneath him, an' all his teeth in their
"Who was he?" I asked,
"Captain O'Neil—Old Crook—Cruikna-bulleen—him that I
tould ye that tale av whin he was in Burma. Hah! He was a Man. The
Tyrone tuk a little orf'cer bhoy, but divil a bit was he in command, as
I'll dimonstrate presintly. We an' they came over the brow av the hill,
wan on each side av the gut, an' there was that ondacint Reserve waitin'
down below like rats in a pit.
"'Howld on, men,' sez Crook, who tuk a mother's care av us always.
'Rowl some rocks on thim by way av visitin'-kyards.' We hadn't rowled more
than twinty bowlders, an' the Paythans was beginnin' to swear tremenjus,
whin the little orf'cer bhoy av the Tyrone shqueaks out acrost the
valley:—'Fwhat the devil an' all are you doin', shpoilin' the fun
for my men? Do ye not see they'll stand?'
"'Faith, that's a rare pluckt wan!' sez Crook. 'Niver mind the rocks,
men. Come along down an' take tay wid thim!'
"'There's damned little sugar in ut!' sez my rear-rank man; but Crook
"'Have ye not all got spoons?' he sez, laughin', an' down we wint as
fast as we cud. Learoyd bein' sick at the Base, he, av coorse, was not
"Thot's a lie!" said Learoyd, dragging his bedstead nearer. "Ah gotten
thot theer, an' you knaw it, Mulvaney." He threw up his arms, and
from the right arm-pit ran, diagonally through the fell of his chest, a
thin white line terminating near the fourth left rib.
"My mind's goin'," said Mulvaney, the unabashed. "Ye were there. Fwhat
I was thinkin' of! Twas another man, av coorse. Well, you'll remimber
thin, Jock, how we an' the Tyrone met wid a bang at the bottom an' got
jammed past all movin' among the Paythans."
"Ow! It was a tight 'ole. I was squeezed till I thought I'd
bloomin' well bust," said Ortheris, rubbing his stomach meditatively,
"'Twas no place for a little man, but wan little
man"—Mulvaney put his hand on Ortheris's shoulder—"saved the
life av me. There we shtuck, for divil a bit did the Paythans flinch, an'
divil a bit dare we: our business bein' to clear 'em out. An' the most
exthryordinar' thing av all was that we an' they just rushed into each
other's arrums, an' there was no firing for a long time. Nothin' but knife
an' bay'nit when we cud get our hands free: an' that was not often. We was
breast-on to thim, an' the Tyrone was yelpin' behind av us in a way I
didn't see the lean av at first But I knew later, an' so did the
"'Knee to knee!' sings out Crook, wid a laugh whin the rush av our
comin' into the gut shtopped, an' he was huggin' a hairy great Paythan,
neither bein' able to do anything to the other, tho' both was wishful.
"'Breast to breast!' he sez, as the Tyrone was pushin' us forward
closer an' closer.
"'An' hand over back!' sez a Sargint that was behin'. I saw a sword
lick out past Crook's ear, an' the Paythan was tuk in the apple av his
throat like a pig at Dromeen fair.
"'Thank ye, Brother Inner Guard,' sez Crook, cool as a cucumber widout
salt. 'I wanted that room.' An' he wint forward by the thickness av a
man's body, havin' turned the Paythan undher him. The man bit the heel off
Crook's boot in his death-bite.
"'Push, men!' sez Crook. 'Push, ye paper-backed beggars!' he sez. 'Am I
to pull ye through?' So we pushed, an' we kicked, an' we swung, an' we
swore, an' the grass bein' slippery, our heels wouldn't bite, an' God help
the front-rank man that wint down that day!"
"'Ave you ever bin in the Pit hentrance o' the Vic. on a thick night?"
interrupted Ortheris. "It was worse nor that, for they was goin' one way
an' we wouldn't 'ave it. Leastaways, I 'adn't much to say."
"Faith, me son, ye said ut, thin. I kep' the little man betune my knees
as long as I cud, but he was pokin' roun' wid his bay'nit, blindin' an'
stiffin' feroshus. The devil of a man is Orth'ris in a
ruction—aren't ye?" said Mulvaney.
"Don't make game!" said the Cockney. "I knowed I wasn't no good then,
but I gev 'em compot from the lef' flank when we opened out. No!" he said,
bringing down his hand with a thump on the bedstead, "a bay'nit ain't no
good to a little man—might as well 'ave a bloomin' fishin'-rod! I
'ate a clawin', maulin' mess, but gimme a breech that's wore out a bit,
an' hamminition one year in store, to let the powder kiss the bullet, an'
put me somewheres where I ain't trod on by 'ulkin swine like you, an'
s'elp me Gawd, I could bowl you over five times outer seven at height
'undred. Would yer try, you lumberin' Hirishman."
"No, ye wasp, I've seen ye do ut. I say there's nothin' better than the
bay'nit, wid a long reach, a double twist av ye can, an' a slow
"Dom the bay'nit," said Learoyd, who had been listening intently, "Look
a-here!" He picked up a rifle an inch below the foresight with an
underhand action, and used it exactly as a man would use a dagger.
"Sitha," said he, softly, "thot's better than owt, for a mon can bash
t' faace wi' thot, an', if he divn't, he can breeak t' forearm o' t'
gaard, 'Tis not i' t' books, though. Gie me t' butt"
"Each does ut his own way, like makin' love," said Mulvaney, quietly;
"the butt or the bay'nit or the bullet accordin' to the natur' av the man.
Well, as I was sayin', we shtuck there breathin' in each other's faces and
swearin' powerful; Orth'ris cursin' the mother that bore him bekaze he was
not three inches taller.
"Prisintly he sez:—'Duck, ye lump, an' I can get at a man over
"'You'll blow me head off,' I sez, throwin' my arm clear; 'go through
under my arm-pit, ye bloodthirsty little scutt,' sez I, 'but don't shtick
me or I'll wring your ears round.'
"Fwhat was ut ye gave the Paythan man for-ninst me, him that cut at me
whin I cudn't move hand or foot? Hot or cowld was ut?"
"Cold," said Ortheris, "up an' under the rib-jint. 'E come down flat.
Best for you 'e did."
"Thrue, my son! This jam thing that I'm talkin' about lasted for five
minutes good, an' thin we got our arms clear an' wint in. I misremimber
exactly fwhat I did, but I didn't want Dinah to be a widdy at the
Depôt. Thin, after some promishkuous hackin' we shtuck again, an'
the Tyrone behin' was callin' us dogs an' cowards an' all manner av names;
we barrin' their way.
"'Fwhat ails the Tyrone?' thinks I; 'they've the makin's av a most
convanient fight here.'
"A man behind me sez beseechful an' in a whisper:—'Let me get at
thim! For the Love av Mary give me room beside ye, ye tall man!"
"'An' who are you that's so anxious to be kilt?' sez I, widout turnin'
my head, for the long knives was dancin' in front like the sun on Donegal
Bay whin ut's rough.
"'We've seen our dead,' he sez, squeezin' into me; 'our dead that was
men two days gone! An' me that was his cousin by blood could not bring Tim
Coulan off! Let me get on,' he sez, 'let me get to thim or I'll run ye
through the back!'
"'My troth,' thinks I, 'if the Tyrone have seen their dead, God help
the Paythans this day!' An' thin I knew why the Oirish was ragin' behind
us as they was.
"I gave room to the man, an' he ran forward wid the Haymaker's Lift on
his bay'nit an' swung a Paythan clear off his feet by the belly-band av
the brute, an' the iron bruk at the lockin'-ring.
"'Tim Coulan 'll slape easy to-night,' sez he, wid a grin; an' the next
minut his head was in two halves and he wint down grinnin' by
"The Tyrone was pushin' an' pushin' in, an' our men was swearin' at
thim, an' Crook was workin' away in front av us all, his sword-arm
swingin' like a pump-handle an' his revolver spittin' like a cat. But the
strange thing av ut was the quiet that lay upon. 'Twas like a fight in a
drame—except for thim that was dead.
"Whin I gave room to the Oirishman I was expinded an' forlorn in my
inside. 'Tis a way I have, savin' your presince, sorr, in action. 'Let me
out, bhoys,' sez I, backin' in among thim. 'I'm goin' to be onwell!' Faith
they gave me room at the wurrud, though they would not ha' given room for
all Hell wid the chill off. When I got clear, I was, savin' your presince,
sorr, outragis sick bekaze I had dhrunk heavy that day.
"Well an' far out av harm was a Sargint av the Tyrone sittin' on the
little orf'cer bhoy who had stopped Crook from rowlin' the rocks. Oh, he
was a beautiful bhoy, an' the long black curses was slidin' out av his
innocint mouth like mornin'-jew from a rose!
"'Fwhat have you got there?' sez I to the Sargint.
"'Wan av Her Majesty's bantams wid his spurs up,' sez he. 'He's goin'
to Coort-martial me.'
"'Let me go!' sez the little orf'cer bhoy. 'Let me go and command my
men!' manin' thereby the Black Tyrone which was beyond any
command—ay, even av they had made the Divil a Field orf'cer.
"'His father howlds my mother's cow-feed in Clonmel,' sez the man that
was sittin' on him. 'Will I go back to his mother an' tell her that
I've let him throw himself away? Lie still, ye little pinch av dynamite,
an' Coort-martial me aftherward.'
"'Good,' sez I; ''tis the likes av him makes the likes av the
Commandher-in-Chief, but we must presarve thim. Fwhat d'you want to do,
sorr?' sez I, very politeful.
"'Kill the beggars—kill the beggars!' he shqueaks; his big blue
eyes brimmin' wid tears.
"'An' how'll ye do that?' sez I. 'You've shquibbed off your revolver
like a child wid a cracker; you can make no play wid that fine large sword
av yours; an' your hand's shakin' like an asp on a leaf. Lie still an'
grow,' sez I.
"'Get back to your comp'ny,' sez he; 'you're insolint!'
"'All in good time,' sez I, 'but I'll have a dhrink first.'
"Just thin Crook comes up, blue an' white all over where he wasn't
"'Wather!' sez he; 'I'm dead wid drouth! Oh, but it's a gran' day!'
"He dhrank half a skinful, and the rest he tilts into his chest, an' it
fair hissed on the hairy hide av him. He sees the little orf'cer bhoy
undher the Sargint.
"'Fwhat's yonder?' sez he.
"'Mutiny, sorr,' sez the Sargint, an' the orf'cer bhoy begins pleadin'
pitiful to Crook to be let go: but divil a bit wud Crook budge.
"'Kape him there,' he sez, ''tis no child's work this day. By the same
token,' sez he, 'I'll confishcate that iligant nickel-plated
scent-sprinkler av yours, for my own has been vomitin' dishgraceful!'
"The fork av his hand was black wid the backspit av the machine. So he
tuk the orf'cer bhoy's revolver. Ye may look, sorr, but, by my faith,
there's a dale more done in the field than iver gets into Field
"'Come on, Mulvaney,' sez Crook; 'is this a Coort-martial?' The two av
us wint back together into the mess an' the Paythans were still standin'
up. They was not too impart'nint though, for the Tyrone was callin'
wan to another to remimber Tim Coulan.
"Crook stopped outside av the strife an' looked anxious, his eyes
"'Fwhat is ut, sorr?' sez I; 'can I get ye anything?'
"'Where's a bugler?' sez he.
"I wint into the crowd—our men was dhrawin' breath behin' the
Tyrone who was fightin' like sowls in tormint—an' prisintly I came
acrost little Frehan, our bugler bhoy, pokin' roun' among the best wid a
rifle an' bay'nit.
"'Is amusin' yoursilf fwhat you're paid for, ye limb?' sez I, catchin'
him by the scruff. 'Come out av that an' attind to your duty.' I sez; but
the bhoy was not pleased.
"'I've got wan,' sez he, grinnin', 'big as you, Mulvaney, an' fair half
as ugly. Let me go get another.'
"I was dishpleased at the personability av that remark, so I tucks him
under my arm an' carries him to Crook who was watchin' how the fight wint.
Crook cuffs him till the bhoy cries, an' thin sez nothin' for a
"The Paythans began to flicker onaisy, an' our men roared. 'Opin
ordher! Double!' sez Crook. 'Blow, child, blow for the honor av the
"That bhoy blew like a typhoon, an' the Tyrone an' we opined out as the
Paythans broke, an' I saw that fwhat had gone before wud be kissin' an'
huggin' to fwhat was to come. We'd dhruv thim into a broad part av the gut
whin they gave, an' thin we opined out an' fair danced down the valley,
dhrivin' thim before us. Oh, 'twas lovely, an' stiddy, too! There was the
Sargints on the flanks av what was left av us, kapin' touch, an' the fire
was runnin' from flank to flank, an' the Paythans was dhroppin'. We opined
out wid the widenin' av the valley, an' whin the valley narrowed we closed
again like the shticks on a lady's fan, an' at the far ind av the gut
where they thried to stand, we fair blew them off their feet, for we had
expinded very little ammunition by reason av the knife work."
"Hi used thirty rounds goin' down that valley," said Ortheris, "an' it
was gentleman's work. Might 'a' done it in a white 'andkerchief an' pink
silk stockin's, that part. Hi was on in that piece."
"You could ha' heard the Tyrone yellin' a mile away," said Mulvaney,
"an' 'twas all their Sargints cud do to get thim off. They was
mad—mad—mad! Crook sits down in the quiet that fell whin we
had gone down the valley, an' covers his face wid his hands. Prisintly we
all came back again accordin' to our natures and disposishins, for they,
mark you, show through the hide av a man in that hour.
"'Bhoys! bhoys!' sez Crook to himself. 'I misdoubt we could ha' engaged
at long range an' saved betther men than me.' He looked at our dead an'
said no more.
"'Captain dear,' sez a man av the Tyrone, comin' up wid his mouth
bigger than iver his mother kissed ut, spittin' blood like a whale;
'Captain dear,' sez he, 'if wan or two in the shtalls have been
discommoded, the gallery have enjoyed the performinces av a Roshus.'
"Thin I knew that man for the Dublin dockrat he was—wan av the
bhoys that made the lessee av Silver's Theatre grey before his time wid
tearin' out the bowils av the benches an' t'rowin' thim into the pit. So I
passed the wurrud that I knew when I was in the Tyrone an' we lay in
Dublin. 'I don't know who 'twas,' I whispers, 'an' I don't care, but
anyways I'll knock the face av you, Tim Kelly.'
"'Eyah!' sez the man, 'was you there too? We'll call ut Silver's
Theatre.' Half the Tyrone, knowin' the ould place, tuk ut up: so we called
ut Silver's Theatre.
"The little orf'cer bhoy av the Tyrone was thremblin' an' cryin', He
had no heart for the Coort-martials that he talked so big upon. 'Ye'll do
well later,' sez Crook, very quiet, 'for not bein' allowed to kill
yourself for amusemint.'
"'I'm a dishgraced man!' sez the little orf'cer bhoy.
"Put me undher arrest, sorr, if you will, but by my sowl, I'd do ut
again sooner than face your mother wid you dead,' sez the Sargint that had
sat on his head, standin' to attention an' salutin'. But the young wan
only cried as tho' his little heart was breakin'.
"Thin another man av the Tyrone came up, wid the fog av fightin' on
"The what, Mulvaney?"
"Fog av fightin'. You know, sorr, that, like makin' love, ut takes each
man diff'rint. Now I can't help bein' powerful sick whin I'm in action.
Orth'ris, here, niver stops swearin' from ind to ind, an' the only time
that Learoyd opins his mouth to sing is whin he is messin' wid other
people's heads; for he's a dhirty fighter is Jock. Recruities sometime
cry, an' sometime they don't know fwhat they do, an' sometime they are all
for cuttin' throats an' such like dirtiness; but some men get
heavy-dead-dhrunk on the fightin'. This man was. He was staggerin', an'
his eyes were half shut, an' we cud hear him dhraw breath twinty yards
away. He sees the little orf'cer bhoy, an' comes up, talkin' thick an'
drowsy to himsilf. 'Blood the young whelp!' he sez; 'blood the young
whelp;' an' wid that he threw up his arms, shpun roun', an' dropped at our
feet, dead as a Paythan, an' there was niver sign or scratch on him. They
said 'twas his heart was rotten, but oh, 'twas a quare thing to see!
"Thin we wint to bury our dead, for we wud not lave thim to the
Paythans, an' in movin' among the haythen we nearly lost that little
orf'cer bhoy. He was for givin' wan divil wather and layin' him aisy
against a rock. 'Be careful, sorr,' sez I; 'a wounded Paythan's worse than
a live wan.' My troth, before the words was out of my mouth, the man on
the ground fires at the orf'cer bhoy lanin' over him, an' I saw the helmit
fly. I dropped the butt on the face av the man an' tuk his pistol. The
little orf'cer bhoy turned very white, for the hair av half his head was
"'I tould you so, sorr!' sez I; an', afther that, whin he wanted to
help a Paythan I stud wid the muzzle contagious to the ear. They dare not
do anythin' but curse. The Tyrone was growlin' like dogs over a bone that
had been taken away too soon, for they had seen their dead an' they wanted
to kill ivry sowl on the ground. Crook tould thim that he'd blow the hide
off any man that misconducted himself; but, seeing that ut was the first
time the Tyrone had iver seen their dead, I do not wondher they were on
the sharp. 'Tis a shameful sight! Whin I first saw ut I wud niver ha'
given quarter to any man north of the Khaibar—no, nor woman either,
for the women used to come out afther dhark—Auggrh!
"Well, evenshually we buried our dead an' tuk away our wounded, an'
come over the brow av the hills to see the Scotchies an' the Gurkys taking
tay with the Paythans in bucketsfuls. We were a gang av dissolute
ruffians, for the blood had caked the dust, an' the sweat had cut the
cake, an' our bay'nits was hangin' like butchers' steels betune ur legs,
an' most av us were marked one way or another.
"A Staff Orf'cer man, clean as a new rifle, rides up an' sez: 'What
damned scarecrows are you?'
"'A comp'ny av Her Majesty's Black Tyrone an' wan av the Ould
Rig'mint,' sez Crook very quiet, givin' our visitors the flure as
"'Oh!' sez the Staff Orf'cer; 'did you dislodge that Reserve?'
"'No!' sez Crook, an' the Tyrone laughed.
"'Thin fwhat the divil have ye done?'
"'Disthroyed ut,' sez Crook, an' he took us on, but not before Toomey
that was in the Tyrone sez aloud, his voice somewhere in his stummick:
'Fwhat in the name av misfortune does this parrit widout a tail mane by
shtoppin' the road av his betthers?'
"The Staff Orf'cer wint blue, an' Toomey makes him pink by changin' to
the voice av a minowderin' woman an' sayin': 'Come an' kiss me, Major
dear, for me husband's at the wars an' I'm all alone at the Depot.'
"The Staff Orf'cer wint away, an' I cud see Crook's shoulthers
"His Corp'ril checks Toomey. 'Lave me alone,' sez Toomey, widout a
wink. 'I was his batman before he was married an' he knows fwhat I mane,
av you don't. There's nothin' like livin' in the hoight av society.' D'you
remimber that, Orth'ris!"
"Hi do. Toomey, 'e died in 'orspital, next week it was, 'cause I bought
'arf his kit; an' I remember after that"—
"GUARRD, TURN OUT!"
The Relief had come; it was four o'clock. "I'll catch a kyart for you,
sorr," said Mulvaney, diving hastily into his accoutrements. "Come up to
the top av the Fort an' we'll pershue our invistigations into M'Grath's
shtable." The relieved Guard strolled round the main bastion on its way to
the swimming-bath, and Learoyd grew almost talkative. Ortheris looked into
the Fort ditch and across the plain. "Ho! it's weary waitin' for Ma-ary!"
he hummed; "but I'd like to kill some more bloomin' Paythans before my
time's up. War! Bloody war! North, East, South, and West."
"Amen," said Learoyd, slowly.
"Fwhat's here?" said Mulvaney, checking at a blurr of white by the foot
of the old sentry-box. He stooped and touched it. "It's Norah—Norah
M'Taggart! Why, Nonie, darlin', fwhat are ye doin' out av your mother's
bed at this time?"
The two-year-old child of Sergeant M'Taggart must have wandered for a
breath of cool air to the very verge of the parapet of the Fort ditch, Her
tiny night-shift was gathered into a wisp round her neck and she moaned in
her sleep. "See there!" said Mulvaney; "poor lamb! Look at the heat-rash
on the innocint skin av her. 'Tis hard—crool hard even for us. Fwhat
must it be for these? Wake up, Nonie, your mother will be woild about you.
Begad, the child might ha' fallen into the ditch!"
He picked her up in the growing light, and set her on his shoulder, and
her fair curls touched the grizzled stubble of his temples. Ortheris and
Learoyd followed snapping their fingers, while Norah smiled at them a
sleepy smile. Then carolled Mulvaney, clear as a lark, dancing the baby on
"If any young man should marry you,
Say nothin' about the joke;
That iver ye slep' in a sinthry-box,
Wrapped up in a soldier's cloak."
"Though, on my sowl, Nonie," he said, gravely, "there was not much
cloak about you. Niver mind, you won't dhress like this ten years to come.
Kiss your friends an' run along to your mother."
Nonie, set down close to the Married Quarters, nodded with the quiet
obedience of the soldier's child, but, ere she pattered off over the
flagged path, held up her lips to be kissed by the Three Musketeers.
Ortheris wiped his mouth with the back of his hand and swore
sentimentally; Learoyd turned pink; and the two walked away together. The
Yorkshireman lifted up his voice and gave in thunder the chorus of The
Sentry-Box, while Ortheris piped at his side.
"'Bin to a bloomin' sing-song, you two?" said the Artilleryman, who was
taking his cartridge down to the Morning Gun, "You're over merry for these
"I bid ye take care o' the brat," said he,
"For it comes of a noble race"
Learoyd bellowed. The voices died out in the swimming-bath.
"Oh, Terence!" I said, dropping into Mulvaney's speech, when we were
alone, "it's you that have the Tongue!"
He looked at me wearily; his eyes were sunk in his head, and his face
was drawn and white, "Eyah!" said he; "I've blandandhered thim through the
night somehow, but can thim that helps others help thimselves? Answer me
And over the bastions of Fort Amara broke the pitiless day.