The Courting of Dinah Shadd
by Rudyard Kipling
What did the colonel's lady think?
Nobody never knew.
Somebody asked the sergeant's wife
An' she told 'em true.
When you git to a man in the case
They're like a row o' pins,
For the colonel's lady an' Judy O'Grady
Are sisters under their skins.
Barrack Room Ballad.
All day I had followed at the heels of a pursuing army engaged on one
of the finest battles that ever camp of exercise beheld. Thirty thousand
troops had by the wisdom of the Government of India been turned loose over
a few thousand square miles of country to practice in peace what they
would never attempt in war. Consequently cavalry charged unshaken infantry
at the trot. Infantry captured artillery by frontal attacks delivered in
line of quarter columns, and mounted infantry skirmished up to the wheels
of an armored train which carried nothing more deadly than a twenty-five
pounder Armstrong, two Nordenfeldts, and a few score volunteers all cased
in three-eighths-inch boiler-plate. Yet it was a very lifelike camp.
Operations did not cease at sundown; nobody knew the country and nobody
spared man or horse. There was unending cavalry scouting and almost
unending forced work over broken ground. The Army of the South had finally
pierced the centre of the Army of the North, and was pouring through the
gap hot-foot to capture a city of strategic importance. Its front extended
fanwise, the sticks being represented by regiments strung out along the
line of route backward to the divisional transport columns and all the
lumber that trails behind an army on the move. On its right the broken
left of the Army of the North was flying in mass, chased by the Southern
horse and hammered by the Southern guns till these had been pushed far
beyond the limits of their last support. Then the flying sat down to rest,
while the elated commandant of the pursuing force telegraphed that he held
all in check and observation.
Unluckily he did not observe that three miles to his right flank a
flying column of Northern horse with a detachment of Ghoorkhas and British
troops had been pushed round, as fast as the failing light allowed, to cut
across the entire rear of the Southern Army, to break, as it were, all the
ribs of the fan where they converged by striking at the transport, reserve
ammunition, and artillery supplies. Their instructions were to go in,
avoiding the few scouts who might not have been drawn off by the pursuit,
and create sufficient excitement to impress the Southern Army with the
wisdom of guarding their own flank and rear before they captured cities.
It was a pretty manoeuvre, neatly carried out.
Speaking for the second division of the Southern Army, our first
intimation of the attack was at twilight, when the artillery were laboring
in deep sand, most of the escort were trying to help them out, and the
main body of the infantry had gone on. A Noah's Ark of elephants, camels,
and the mixed menagerie of an Indian transport-train bubbled and squealed
behind the guns, when there appeared from nowhere in particular British
infantry to the extent of three companies, who sprang to the heads of the
gun-horses and brought all to a standstill amid oaths and cheers.
"How's that, umpire?" said the major commanding the attack, and with
one voice the drivers and limber gunners answered "Hout!" while the
colonel of artillery sputtered.
"All your scouts are charging our main body," said the major. "Your
flanks are unprotected for two miles. I think we've broken the back of
this division. And listen,—there go the Ghoorkhas!"
A weak fire broke from the rear-guard more than a mile away, and was
answered by cheerful howlings. The Ghoorkhas, who should have swung clear
of the second division, had stepped on its tail in the dark, but drawing
off hastened to reach the next line of attack, which lay almost parallel
to us five or six miles away.
Our column swayed and surged irresolutely,—three batteries, the
divisional ammunition reserve, the baggage, and a section of the hospital
and bearer corps. The commandant ruefully promised to report himself "cut
up" to the nearest umpires and commending his cavalry and all other
cavalry to the special care of Eblis, toiled on to resume touch with the
rest of the division.
"We'll bivouac here to-night," said the major, "I have a notion that
the Ghoorkhas will get caught. They may want us to re-form on. Stand easy
till the transport gets away,"
A hand caught my beast's bridle and led him out of the choking dust; a
larger hand deftly canted me out of the saddle; and two of the hugest
hands in the world received me sliding. Pleasant is the lot of the special
correspondent who falls into such hands as those of Privates Mulvaney,
Ortheris, and Learoyd.
"An' that's all right," said the Irishman, calmly. "We thought we'd
find you somewheres here by. Is there anything av yours in the transport?
Orth'ris 'll fetch ut out."
Ortheris did "fetch ut out," from under the trunk of an elephant, in
the shape of a servant and an animal both laden with medical comforts. The
little man's eyes sparkled.
"If the brutil an' licentious soldiery av these parts gets sight av the
thruck," said Mulvaney, making practiced investigation, "they'll loot
ev'rything. They're bein' fed on iron-filin's an' dog-biscuit these days,
but glory's no compensation for a belly-ache. Praise be, we're here to
protect you, sorr. Beer, sausage, bread (soft an' that's a cur'osity),
soup in a tin, whisky by the smell av ut, an' fowls! Mother av Moses, but
ye take the field like a confectioner! 'Tis scand'lus."
"'Ere's a orficer," said Ortheris, significantly. "When the sergent's
done lushin' the privit may clean the pot."
I bundled several things into Mulvaney's haversack before the major's
hand fell on my shoulder and he said, tenderly, "Requisitioned for the
Queen's service. Wolseley was quite wrong about special correspondents:
they are the soldier's best friends. Come and take pot-luck with us
And so it happened amid laughter and shoutings that my well-considered
commissariat melted away to reappear later at the mess-table, which was a
waterproof sheet spread on the ground. The flying column had taken three
days' rations with it, and there be few things nastier than government
rations—especially when government is experimenting with German
toys. Erbsenwurst, tinned beef of surpassing tinniness, compressed
vegetables, and meat-biscuits may be nourishing, but what Thomas Atkins
needs is bulk in his inside. The major, assisted by his brother officers,
purchased goats for the camp and so made the experiment of no effect. Long
before the fatigue-party sent to collect brushwood had returned, the men
were settled down by their valises, kettles and pots had appeared from the
surrounding country and were dangling over fires as the kid and the
compressed vegetable bubbled together; there rose a cheerful clinking of
mess-tins; outrageous demands for "a little more stuffin' with that there
liver-wing;" and gust on gust of chaff as pointed as a bayonet and as
delicate as a gun-butt.
"The boys are in a good temper," said the major. "They'll be singing
presently. Well, a night like this is enough to keep them happy."
Over our heads burned the wonderful Indian stars, which are not all
pricked in on one plane, but, preserving an orderly perspective, draw the
eye through the velvet darkness of the void up to the barred doors of
heaven itself. The earth was a grey shadow more unreal than the sky. We
could hear her breathing lightly in the pauses between the howling of the
jackals, the movement of the wind in the tamarisks, and the fitful mutter
of musketry-fire leagues away to the left. A native woman from some unseen
hut began to sing, the mail-train thundered past on its way to Delhi, and
a roosting crow cawed drowsily. Then there was a belt-loosening silence
about the fires, and the even breathing of the crowded earth took up the
The men, full fed, turned to tobacco and song,—their officers
with them. The subaltern is happy who can win the approval of the musical
critics in his regiment, and is honored among the more intricate
step-dancers. By him, as by him who plays cricket cleverly, Thomas Atkins
will stand in time of need, when he will let a better officer go on alone.
The ruined tombs of forgotten Mussulman saints heard the ballad of Agra
Town, The Buffalo Battery, Marching to Kabul, The long, long Indian Day,
The Place where the Punkah-coolie died, and that crashing chorus which
Youth's daring spirit, manhood's fire,
Firm hand and eagle eye,
Must he acquire who would aspire
To see the grey boar die.
To-day, of all those jovial thieves who appropriated my commissariat
and lay and laughed round that waterproof sheet, not one remains. They
went to camps that were not of exercise and battles without umpires.
Burmah, the Soudan, and the frontier,—fever and fight,—took
them in their time.
I drifted across to the men's fires in search of Mulvaney, whom I found
strategically greasing his feet by the blaze. There is nothing
particularly lovely in the sight of a private thus engaged after a long
day's march, but when you reflect on the exact proportion of the "might,
majesty, dominion, and power" of the British Empire which stands on those
feet you take an interest in the proceedings.
"There's a blister, bad luck to ut, on the heel," said Mulvaney. "I
can't touch ut. Prick ut out, little man,"
Ortheris took out his house-wife, eased the trouble with a needle,
stabbed Mulvaney in the calf with the same weapon, and was swiftly kicked
into the fire.
"I've bruk the best av my toes over you, ye grinnin' child av
disruption," said Mulvaney, sitting cross-legged and nursing his feet;
then seeing me, "Oh, ut's you, sorr! Be welkim, an' take that maraudin'
scutt's place, Jock, hold him down on the cindhers for a bit."
But Ortheris escaped and went elsewhere, as I took possession of the
hollow he had scraped for himself and lined with his greatcoat. Learoyd on
the other side of the fire grinned affably and in a minute fell fast
"There's the height av politeness for you," said Mulvaney, lighting his
pipe with a flaming branch. "But Jock's eaten half a box av your sardines
at wan gulp, an' I think the tin too. What's the best wid you, sorr, an'
how did you happen to be on the losin' side this day whin we captured
"The Army of the South is winning all along the line," I said.
"Then that line's the hangman's rope, savin' your presence. You'll
learn to-morrow how we rethreated to dhraw thim on before we made thim
trouble, an' that's what a woman does. By the same tokin, we'll be
attacked before the dawnin' an' ut would be betther not to slip your
boots. How do I know that? By the light av pure reason. Here are three
companies av us ever so far inside av the enemy's flank an' a crowd av
roarin', tarin', squealin' cavalry gone on just to turn out the whole
hornet's nest av them. Av course the enemy will pursue, by brigades like
as not, an' thin we'll have to run for ut. Mark my words. I am av the
opinion av Polonius whin he said, 'Don't fight wid ivry scutt for the pure
joy av fightin', but if you do, knock the nose av him first an'
frequint.'. We ought to ha' gone on an' helped the Ghoorkhas."
"But what do you know about Polonius?" I demanded. This was a new side
of Mulvaney's character.
"All that Shakespeare iver wrote an' a dale more that the gallery
shouted," said the man of war, carefully lacing his boots. "Did I not tell
you av Silver's theatre in Dublin, whin I was younger than I am now an' a
patron av the drama? Ould Silver wud never pay actor-man or woman their
just dues, an' by consequince his comp'nies was collapsible at the last
minut. Thin the bhoys wud clamor to take a part, an' oft as not ould
Silver made them pay for the fun. Faith, I've seen Hamlut played wid a new
black eye an' the queen as full as a cornucopia. I remimber wanst Hogin
that 'listed in the Black Tyrone an' was shot in South Africa, he sejuced
ould Silver into givin' him Hamlut's part instid av me that had a fine
fancy for rhetoric in those days. Av course I wint into the gallery an'
began to fill the pit wid other people's hats, an' I passed the time av
day to Hogin walkin' through Denmark like a hamstrung mule wid a pall on
his back, 'Hamlut,' sez I, 'there's a hole in your heel. Pull up your
shtockin's, Hamlut,' sez I, 'Hamlut, Hamlut, for the love av decincy dhrop
that skull an' pull up your shtockin's.' The whole house begun to tell him
that. He stopped his soliloquishms mid-between. 'My shtockin's may be
comin' down or they may not,' sez he, screwin' his eye into the gallery,
for well he knew who I was. 'But afther this performince is over me an'
the Ghost 'll trample the tripes out av you, Terence, wid your ass's
bray!' An' that's how I come to know about Hamlut. Eyah! Those days, those
days! Did you iver have onendin' devilmint an' nothin' to pay for it in
your life, sorr?"
"Never, without having to pay," I said.
"That's thrue! 'Tis mane whin you considher on ut; but ut's the same
wid horse or fut. A headache if you dhrink, an' a belly-ache if you eat
too much, an' a heart-ache to kape all down. Faith, the beast only gets
the colic, an' he's the lucky man."
He dropped his head and stared into the fire, fingering his moustache
the while. From the far side of the bivouac the voice of Corbet-Nolan,
senior subaltern of B Company, uplifted itself in an ancient and much
appreciated song of sentiment, the men moaning melodiously behind him.
The north wind blew coldly, she dropped from that hour,
My own little Kathleen, my sweet little Kathleen,
Kathleen, my Kathleen, Kathleen O'Moore!
With forty-five O's in the last word: even at that distance you might
have cut the soft South Irish accent with a shovel.
"For all we take we must pay, but the price is cruel high," murmured
Mulvaney when the chorus had ceased.
"What's the trouble?" I said gently, for I knew that he was a man of an
"Hear now," said he. "Ye know what I am now. I know what I mint
to be at the beginnin' av my service. I've tould you time an' again, an'
what I have not Dinah Shadd has. An' what am I? Oh, Mary Mother av Hiven,
an ould dhrunken, untrustable baste av a privit that has seen the reg'ment
change out from colonel to drummer-boy, not wanst or twice, but scores av
times! Ay, scores! An' me not so near gettin' promotion as in the first!
An' me livin' on an' kapin' clear av clink, not by my own good conduck,
but the kindness av some orf'cer-bhoy young enough to be son to me! Do I
not know ut? Can I not tell whin I'm passed over at p'rade, tho' I'm
rockin' full av liquor an' ready to fall all in wan piece, such as even a
suckin' child might see, bekaze, 'Oh, 'tis only ould Mulvaney!' An' whin
I'm let off in ord'ly-room through some thrick of the tongue an' a ready
answer an' the ould man's mercy, is ut smilin' I feel whin I fall away an'
go back to Dinah Shadd, thryin' to carry ut all off as a joke? Not I! 'Tis
hell to me, dumb hell through ut all; an' next time whin the fit comes I
will be as bad again. Good cause the reg'ment has to know me for the best
soldier in ut. Better cause have I to know mesilf for the worst man. I'm
only fit to tache the new drafts what I'll niver learn mesilf; an' I am
sure, as tho' I heard ut, that the minut wan av these pink-eyed recruities
gets away from my 'Mind ye now,' an' 'Listen to this, Jim,
bhoy,'—sure I am that the sergint houlds me up to him for a warnin'.
So I tache, as they say at musketry-instruction, by direct and ricochet
fire. Lord be good to me, for I have stud some throuble!"
"Lie down and go to sleep," said I, not being able to comfort or
advise. "You're the best man in the regiment, and, next to Ortheris, the
biggest fool. Lie down and wait till we're attacked. What force will they
turn out? Guns, think you?"
"Try that wid your lorrds an' ladies, twistin' an' turnin' the talk,
tho' you mint ut well. Ye cud say nothin' to help me, an' yet ye niver
knew what cause I had to be what I am."
"Begin at the beginning and go on to the end," I said, royally. "But
rake up the fire a bit first."
I passed Ortheris's bayonet for a poker.
"That shows how little we know what we do," said Mulvaney, putting it
aside. "Fire takes all the heart out av the steel, an' the next time, may
be, that our little man is fighting for his life his bradawl 'll break,
an' so you'll ha' killed him, manin' no more than to kape yourself warm.
'Tis a recruity's thrick that. Pass the clanin'-rod, sorr."
I snuggled down abased; and after an interval the voice of Mulvaney
"Did I iver tell you how Dinah Shadd came to be wife av mine?"
I dissembled a burning anxiety that I had felt for some
months—ever since Dinah Shadd, the strong, the patient, and the
infinitely tender, had of her own good love and free will washed a shirt
for me, moving in a barren land where washing was not.
"I can't remember," I said, casually. "Was it before or after you made
love to Annie Bragin, and got no satisfaction?"
The story of Annie Bragin is written in another place. It is one of the
many less respectable episodes in Mulvaney's checkered career.
"Before—before—long before, was that business av Annie
Bragin an' the corp'ril's ghost. Niver woman was the worse for me whin I
had married Dinah. There's a time for all things, an' I know how to kape
all things in place—barrin' the dhrink, that kapes me in my place
wid no hope av comin' to be aught else."
"Begin at the beginning," I insisted. "Mrs. Mulvaney told me that you
married her when you were quartered in Krab Bokhar barracks."
"An' the same is a cess-pit," said Mulvaney, piously. "She spoke thrue,
did Dinah. 'Twas this way. Talkin' av that, have ye iver fallen in love,
I preserved the silence of the damned. Mulvaney continued—
"Thin I will assume that ye have not. I did. In the days av my
youth, as I have more than wanst tould you, I was a man that filled the
eye an' delighted the sowl av women. Niver man was hated as I have bin.
Niver man was loved as I—no, not within half a day's march av ut!
For the first five years av my service, whin I was what I wud give my sowl
to be now, I tuk whatever was within my reach an' digested ut—an'
that's more than most men can say. Dhrink I tuk, an' ut did me no harm. By
the Hollow av Hiven, I cud play wid four women at wanst, an' kape them
from findin' out anythin' about the other three, an' smile like a
fullblown marigold through ut all. Dick Coulhan, av the battery we'll have
down on us to-night, could drive his team no better than I mine, an' I
hild the worser cattle! An' so I lived, an' so I was happy till afther
that business wid Annie Bragin—she that turned me off as cool as a
meat-safe, an' taught me where I stud in the mind av an honest woman.
'Twas no sweet dose to swallow.
"Afther that I sickened awhile an' tuk thought to my reg'mental work;
conceiting mesilf I wud study an' be a sargint, an' a major-gineral twinty
minutes afther that. But on top av my ambitiousness there was an empty
place in my sowl, an' me own opinion av mesilf cud not fill ut. Sez I to
mesilf, 'Terence, you're a great man an' the best set-up in the reg'mint.
Go on an' get promotion.' Sez mesilf to me, 'What for?' Sez I to mesilf,
'For the glory av ut!' Sez mesilf to me, 'Will that fill these two strong
arrums av yours, Terence?' 'Go to the devil,' sez I to mesilf, 'Go to the
married lines,' sez mesilf to me. 'Tis the same thing,' sez I to mesilf.
'Av you're the same man, ut is,' said mesilf to me; an' wid that I
considhered on ut a long while. Did you iver feel that way, sorr?"
I snored gently, knowing that if Mulvaney were uninterrupted he would
go on. The clamor from the bivouac fires beat up to the stars, as the
rival singers of the companies were pitted against each other.
"So I felt that way an' a bad time ut was. Wanst, bein' a fool, I wint
into the married lines more for the sake av spakin' to our ould
color-sergint Shadd than for any thruck wid womenfolk. I was a corp'ril
then—rejuced aftherward, but a corp'ril then. I've got a photograft
av mesilf to prove ut. 'You'll take a cup av tay wid us?' sez Shadd. 'I
will that,' I sez, 'tho' tay is not my divarsion.'
"''Twud be better for you if ut were,' sez ould Mother Shadd, an' she
had ought to know, for Shadd, in the ind av his service, dhrank bung-full
"Wid that I tuk off my gloves—there was pipe-clay in thim, so
that they stud alone—an' pulled up my chair, lookin' round at the
china ornaments an' bits av things in the Shadds' quarters. They were
things that belonged to a man, an' no camp-kit, here to-day an' dishipated
next. 'You're comfortable in this place, sergint,' sez I. ''Tis the wife
that did ut, boy,' sez he, pointin' the stem av his pipe to ould Mother
Shadd, an' she smacked the top av his bald head apon the compliment. 'That
manes you want money,' sez she.
"An' thin—an' thin whin the kettle was to be filled, Dinah came
in—my Dinah—her sleeves rowled up to the elbow an' her hair in
a winkin' glory over her forehead, the big blue eyes beneath twinklin'
like stars on a frosty night, an' the tread av her two feet lighter than
wastepaper from the colonel's basket in ord'ly-room whin ut's emptied.
Bein' but a shlip av a girl she went pink at seein' me, an' I twisted me
moustache an' looked at a picture forninst the wall. Niver show a woman
that ye care the snap av a finger for her, an' begad she'll come bleatin'
to your boot-heels!"
"I suppose that's why you followed Annie Bragin till everybody in the
married quarters laughed at you," said I, remembering that unhallowed
wooing and casting off the disguise of drowsiness.
"I'm layin' down the gin'ral theory av the attack," said Mulvaney,
driving his boot into the dying fire. "If you read the Soldier's Pocket
Book, which niver any soldier reads, you'll see that there are
exceptions. Whin Dinah was out av the door (an' 'twas as tho' the sunlight
had shut too)—'Mother av Hiven, sergint,' sez I, 'but is that your
daughter?'—'I've believed that way these eighteen years,' sez ould
Shadd, his eyes twinklin'; 'but Mrs. Shadd has her own opinion, like iv'ry
woman,'—'Tis wid yours this time, for a mericle,' sez Mother Shadd.
'Thin why in the name av fortune did I niver see her before?' sez I.
'Bekaze you've been thrapesin' round wid the married women these three
years past. She was a bit av a child till last year, an' she shot up wid
the spring,' sez ould Mother Shadd, 'I'll thrapese no more,' sez I. 'D'you
mane that?' sez ould Mother Shadd, lookin' at me side-ways like a hen
looks at a hawk whin the chickens are runnin' free. 'Try me, an' tell,'
sez I. Wid that I pulled on my gloves, dhrank off the tay, an' went out av
the house as stiff as at gin'ral p'rade, for well I knew that Dinah
Shadd's eyes were in the small av my back out av the scullery window.
Faith! that was the only time I mourned I was not a cav'lry man for the
pride av the spurs to jingle.
"I wint out to think, an' I did a powerful lot av thinkin', but ut all
came round to that shlip av a girl in the dotted blue dhress, wid the blue
eyes an' the sparkil in them. Thin I kept off canteen, an' I kept to the
married quarthers, or near by, on the chanst av meetin' Dinah. Did I meet
her? Oh, my time past, did I not; wid a lump in my throat as big as my
valise an' my heart goin' like a farrier's forge on a Saturday morning?
'Twas 'Good day to ye, Miss Dinah,' an' 'Good day t'you, corp'ril,' for a
week or two, and divil a bit further could I get bekaze av the respect I
had to that girl that I cud ha' broken betune finger an' thumb."
Here I giggled as I recalled the gigantic figure of Dinah Shadd when
she handed me my shirt.
"Ye may laugh," grunted Mulvaney. "But I'm speakin' the trut', an' 'tis
you that are in fault. Dinah was a girl that wud ha' taken the
imperiousness out av the Duchess av Clonmel in those days. Flower hand,
foot av shod air, an' the eyes av the livin' mornin' she had that is my
wife to-day—ould Dinah, and niver aught else than Dinah Shadd to
"'Twas after three weeks standin' off an' on, an' niver makin' headway
excipt through the eyes, that a little drummer boy grinned in me face whin
I had admonished him wid the buckle av my belt for riotin' all over the
place, 'An' I'm not the only wan that doesn't kape to barricks,' sez he. I
tuk him by the scruff av his neck,—my heart was hung on a
hair-thrigger those days, you will onderstand—an' 'Out wid ut,' sez
I, 'or I'll lave no bone av you unbreakable,'—'Speak to Dempsey,'
sez he howlin'. 'Dempsey which?' sez I, 'ye unwashed limb av
Satan.'—'Av the Bob-tailed Dhragoons,' sez he, 'He's seen her home
from her aunt's house in the civil lines four times this
fortnight,'—'Child!' sez I, dhroppin' him, 'your tongue's stronger
than your body. Go to your quarters. I'm sorry I dhressed you down.'
"At that I went four ways to wanst huntin' Dempsey. I was mad to think
that wid all my airs among women I shud ha' been chated by a basin-faced
fool av a cav'lryman not fit to trust on a trunk. Presintly I found him in
our lines—the Bobtails was quartered next us—an' a tallowy,
topheavy son av a she-mule he was wid his big brass spurs an' his
plastrons on his epigastrons an' all. But he niver flinched a hair.
"'A word wid you, Dempsey,' sez I. 'You've walked wid Dinah Shadd four
times this fortnight gone.'
"'What's that to you?' sez he. 'I'll walk forty times more, an' forty
on top av that, ye shovel-futted clod-breakin' infantry
"Before I cud gyard he had his gloved fist home on my cheek an' down I
went full-sprawl. 'Will that content you?' sez he, blowin' on his knuckles
for all the world like a Scots Greys orf'cer. 'Content!' sez I. 'For your
own sake, man, take off your spurs, peel your jackut, an' onglove. 'Tis
the beginnin' av the overture; stand up!'
"He stud all he know, but he niver peeled his jacket, an' his shoulders
had no fair play. I was fightin' for Dinah Shadd an' that cut on my cheek.
What hope had he forninst me? 'Stand up,' sez I, time an' again whin he
was beginnin' to quarter the ground an' gyard high an' go large. 'This
isn't ridin'-school,' I sez. 'O man, stand up an' let me get in at ye.'
But whin I saw he wud be runnin' about, I grup his shtock in my left an'
his waist-belt in my right an' swung him clear to my right front, head
undher, he hammerin' my nose till the wind was knocked out av him on the
bare ground. 'Stand up,' sez I, 'or I'll kick your head into your chest!'
and I wud ha' done ut too, so ragin' mad I was.
"'My collar-bone's bruk,' sez he. 'Help me back to lines. I'll walk wid
her no more.' So I helped him back."
"And was his collar-bone broken?" I asked, for I fancied that only
Learoyd could neatly accomplish that terrible throw.
"He pitched on his left shoulder point. Ut was. Next day the news was
in both barricks, an' whin I met Dinah Shadd wid a cheek on me like all
the reg'mintal tailor's samples there was no 'Good mornin', corp'ril,' or
aught else. 'An' what have I done, Miss Shadd,' sez I, very bould,
plantin' mesilf forninst her, 'that ye should not pass the time of
"'Ye've half-killed rough-rider Dempsey,' sez she, her dear blue eyes
"'May be,' sez I. 'Was he a friend av yours that saw ye home four times
in the fortnight?'
"'Yes,' sez she, but her mouth was down at the corners, 'An'—an'
what's that to you?' she sez.
"'Ask Dempsey,' sez I, purtendin' to go away.
"'Did you fight for me then, ye silly man?' she sez, tho' she knew ut
"'Who else?' sez I, an' I tuk wan pace to the front.
"'I wasn't worth ut,' sez she, fingerin' in her apron.
"'That's for me to say,' sez I. 'Shall I say ut?'
"'Yes,' sez she, in a saint's whisper, an' at that I explained mesilf;
and she tould me what ivry man that is a man, an' many that is a woman,
hears wanst in his life.
"'But what made ye cry at startin', Dinah, darlin'?' sez I.
"'Your—your bloody cheek,' sez she, duckin' her little head down
on my sash (I was on duty for the day) an' whimperin' like a sorrowful
"Now a man cud take that two ways. I tuk ut as pleased me best an' my
first kiss wid ut. Mother av Innocence! but I kissed her on the tip av the
nose and undher the eye; an' a girl that let's a kiss come tumble-ways
like that has never been kissed before. Take note av that, sorr. Thin we
wint hand in hand to ould Mother Shadd like two little childher, an' she
said 'twas no bad thing, an' ould Shadd nodded behind his pipe, an' Dinah
ran away to her own room. That day I throd on rollin' clouds. All earth
was too small to hould me. Begad, I cud ha' hiked the sun out av the sky
for a live coal to my pipe, so magnificent I was. But I tuk recruities at
squad-drill instid, an' began wid general battalion advance whin I shud
ha' been balance-steppin' them. Eyah! that day! that day!"
A very long pause. "Well?" said I.
"'Twas all wrong," said Mulvaney, with an enormous sigh. "An' I know
that ev'ry bit av ut was my own foolishness. That night I tuk maybe the
half av three pints—not enough to turn the hair of a man in his
natural senses. But I was more than half drunk wid pure joy, an' that
canteen beer was so much whisky to me, I can't tell how it came about, but
bekaze I had no thought for anywan except Dinah, bekaze I
hadn't slipped her little white arms from my neck five minuts,
bekaze the breath of her kiss was not gone from my mouth, I must go
through the married lines on my way to quarters an' I must stay talkin' to
a red-headed Mullingar heifer av a girl, Judy Sheehy, that was daughter to
Mother Sheehy, the wife of Nick Sheehy, the canteen-sergint—the
Black Curse av Shielygh be on the whole brood that are above groun' this
"'An' what are ye houldin' your head that high for, corp'ril?' sez
Judy. 'Come in an' thry a cup av tay,' she sez, standin' in the doorway.
Bein' an ontrustable fool, an' thinkin' av anything but tay, I wint.
"'Mother's at canteen,' sez Judy, smoothin' the hair av hers that was
like red snakes, an' lookin' at me corner-ways out av her green cats'
eyes. 'Ye will not mind, corp'ril?'
"'I can endure,' sez I; ould Mother Sheehy bein' no divarsion av mine,
nor her daughter too. Judy fetched the tea things an' put thim on the
table, leanin' over me very close to get thim square. I dhrew back,
thinkin' av Dinah.
"'Is ut afraid you are av a girl alone?' sez Judy.
"'No,' sez I. 'Why should I be?'
"'That rests wid the girl,' sez Judy, dhrawin' her chair next to
"'Thin there let ut rest,' sez I; an' thinkin' I'd been a trifle
onpolite, I sez, 'The tay's not quite sweet enough for my taste. Put your
little finger in the cup, Judy. 'Twill make ut necthar.'
"'What's necthar?' sez she.
"'Somethin' very sweet,' sez I; an' for the sinful life av me I cud not
help lookin' at her out av the corner av my eye, as I was used to look at
"'Go on wid ye, corp'ril,' sez she. 'You're a flirrt.'
"'On me sowl I'm not,' sez I.
"'Then you're a cruel handsome man, an' that's worse,' sez she, heaving
big sighs an' lookin' crossways.
"'You know your own mind,' sez I.
"''Twud be better for me if I did not,' she sez.
"'There's a dale to be said on both sides av that,' sez I,
"'Say your own part av ut, then, Terence, darlin',' sez she; 'for begad
I'm thinkin' I've said too much or too little for an honest girl,' an' wid
that she put her arms round my neck an' kissed me.
"'There's no more to be said afther that,' sez I, kissin' her back
again—Oh the mane scutt that I was, my head ringin' wid Dinah Shadd!
How does ut come about, sorr, that when a man has put the comether on wan
woman, he's sure bound to put it on another? 'Tis the same thing at
musketry, Wan day ivry shot goes wide or into the bank, an' the next, lay
high lay low, sight or snap, ye can't get off the bull's-eye for ten shots
"That only happens to a man who has had a good deal of experience. He
does it without thinking," I replied.
"Thankin' you for the complimint, sorr, ut may be so. But I'm doubtful
whether you mint ut for a complimint. Hear now; I sat there wid Judy on my
knee tellin' me all manner av nonsinse an' only sayin' 'yes' an' 'no,'
when I'd much better ha' kept tongue betune teeth. An' that was not an
hour afther I had left Dinah! What I was thinkin' av I cannot say,
Presintly. quiet as a cat, ould Mother Sheehy came in velvet-dhrunk. She
had her daughter's red hair, but 'twas bald in patches, an' I cud see in
her wicked ould face, clear as lightnin', what Judy wud be twenty years to
come. I was for jumpin' up, but Judy niver moved.
"'Terence has promust, mother,' sez she, an' the could sweat bruk out
all over me. Ould Mother Sheehy sat down of a heap an' began playin' wid
the cups. 'Thin you're a well-matched pair,' she sez, very thick. 'For
he's the biggest rogue that iver spoiled the queen's shoe-leather,'
"'I'm off, Judy,' sez I. 'Ye should not talk nonsinse to your mother.
Get her to bed, girl.'
"'Nonsinse!' sez the ould woman, prickin' up her ears like a cat an'
grippin' the table-edge. ''Twill be the most nonsinsical nonsinse for you,
ye grinnin' badger, if nonsinse 'tis. Git clear, you. I'm goin' to
"I ran out into the dhark, my head in a stew an' my heart sick, but I
had sinse enough to see that I'd brought ut all on mysilf. 'It's this to
pass the time av day to a panjandhrum av hellcats,' sez I. 'What I've
said, an' what I've not said do not matther. Judy an' her dam will hould
me for a promust man, an' Dinah will give me the go, an' I desarve ut. I
will go an' get dhrunk,' sez I, 'an' forget about ut, for 'tis plain I'm
not a marrin' man.'
"On my way to canteen I ran against Lascelles, color-sergeant that was
av E Comp'ny, a hard, hard man, wid a torment av a wife. 'You've the head
av a drowned man on your shoulders,' sez he; 'an' you're goin' where
you'll get a worse wan. 'Come back,' sez he. 'Let me go,' sez I. 'I've
thrown my luck over the wall wid my own hand!'—'Then that's not the
way to get ut back again,' sez he. 'Have out wid your throuble, ye
fool-bhoy.' An' I tould him how the matther was.
"He sucked in his lower lip. 'You've been thrapped,' sez he. 'Ju Sheehy
wud be the betther for a man's name to hers as soon as can. An' ye thought
ye'd put the comether on her,—that's the natural vanity of the
baste. Terence, you're a big born fool, but you're not bad enough to marry
into that comp'ny. If you said anythin', an' for all your protestations
I'm sure ye did—or did not, which is worse,—eat ut
all—lie like the father of all lies, but come out av ut free av
Judy. Do I not know what ut is to marry a woman that was the very spit an'
image av Judy whin she was young? I'm gettin' old an' I've larnt patience,
but you, Terence, you'd raise hand on Judy an' kill her in a year. Never
mind if Dinah gives you the go, you've desarved ut; never mind if the
whole reg'mint laughs you all day. Get shut av Judy an' her mother. They
can't dhrag you to church, but if they do, they'll dhrag you to hell. Go
back to your quarters and lie down,' sez he. Thin over his shoulder, 'You
must ha' done with thim,'
"Next day I wint to see Dinah, but there was no tucker in me as I
walked. I knew the throuble wud come soon enough widout any handlin' av
mine, an' I dreaded ut sore.
"I heard Judy callin' me, but I hild straight on to the Shadds'
quarthers, an' Dinah wud ha' kissed me but I put her back.
"'Whin all's said, darlin',' sez I, 'you can give ut me if ye will,
tho' I misdoubt 'twill be so easy to come by then.'
"I had scarce begun to put the explanation into shape before Judy an'
her mother came to the door. I think there was a veranda, but I'm
"'Will ye not step in?' sez Dinah, pretty and polite, though the Shadds
had no dealin's with the Sheehys. Old Mother Shadd looked up quick, an'
she was the fust to see the throuble; for Dinah was her daughter.
"'I'm pressed for time to-day,' sez Judy as bould as brass; 'an' I've
only come for Terence,—my promust man. Tis strange to find him here
the day afther the day.'
"Dinah looked at me as though I had hit her, an' I answered
"'There was some nonsinse last night at the Sheehys' quarthers, an'
Judy's carryin' on the joke, darlin',' sez I.
"'At the Sheehys' quarthers?' sez Dinah very slow, an' Judy cut in wid:
'He was there from nine till ten, Dinah Shadd, an' the betther half av
that time I was sittin' on his knee, Dinah Shadd. Ye may look and ye may
look an' ye may look me up an' down, but ye won't look away that Terence
is my promust man, Terence, darlin', 'tis time for us to be comin'
"Dinah Shadd niver said word to Judy. 'Ye left me at half-past eight,'
she sez to me, 'an' I niver thought that ye'd leave me for
Judy,—promises, or no promises. Go back wid her, you that have to be
fetched by a girl! I'm done with you,' sez she, and she ran into her own
room, her mother followin'. So I was alone wid those two women and at
liberty to spake my sentiments.
"'Judy Sheehy,' sez I, 'if you made a fool av me betune the lights you
shall not do ut in the day. I niver promised you words or lines.'
"'You lie,' sez ould Mother Sheehy, 'an' may ut choke you waere you
stand!' She was far gone in dhrink.
"'An' tho' ut choked me where I stud I'd not change,' sez I. 'Go home,
Judy. I take shame for a decent girl like you dhraggin' your mother out
bareheaded on this errand. Hear now, and have ut for an answer. I gave my
word to Dinah Shadd yesterday, an', more blame to me, I was wid you last
night talkin' nonsinse but nothin' more. You've chosen to thry to hould me
on ut. I will not be held thereby for anythin' in the world. Is that
"Judy wint pink all over. 'An' I wish you joy av the perjury,' sez she,
duckin' a curtsey. 'You've lost a woman that would ha' wore her hand to
the bone for your pleasure; an' 'deed, Terence, ye were not thrapped....'
Lascelles must ha' spoken plain to her. 'I am such as Dinah is—'deed
I am! Ye've lost a fool av a girl that'll niver look at you again, an'
ye've lost what ye niver had,—your common honesty. If you manage
your men as you manage your love-makin', small wondher they call you the
worst corp'ril in the comp'ny. Come away, mother,' sez she.
"But divil a fut would the ould woman budge! 'D'you hould by that?' sez
she, peerin' up under her thick grey eyebrows.
"'Ay, an wud,' sez I, 'tho' Dinah give me the go twinty times. I'll
have no thruck with you or yours,' sez I. 'Take your child away, ye
"'An' am I shameless?' sez she, bringin' her hands up above her head.
'Thin what are you, ye lyin', schamin', weak-kneed, dhirty-souled son av a
sutler? Am I shameless? Who put the open shame on me an' my child
that we shud go beggin' through the lines in the broad daylight for the
broken word of a man? Double portion of my shame be on you, Terence
Mulvaney, that think yourself so strong! By Mary and the saints, by blood
and water an' by ivry sorrow that came into the world since the beginnin',
the black blight fall on you and yours, so that you may niver be free from
pain for another when ut's not your own! May your heart bleed in your
breast drop by drop wid all your friends laughin' at the bleedin'! Strong
you think yourself? May your strength be a curse to you to dhrive you into
the divil's hands against your own will! Clear-eyed you are? May your eyes
see dear evry step av the dark path you take till the hot cindhers av hell
put thim out! May the ragin' dry thirst in my own ould bones go to you
that you shall niver pass bottle full nor glass empty. God preserve the
light av your onder-standin' to you, my jewel av a bhoy, that ye may niver
forget what you mint to be an' do, whin you're wallowin' in the muck! May
ye see the betther and follow the worse as long as there's breath in your
body; an' may ye die quick in a strange land; watchin' your death before
ut takes you, an' onable to stir hand or foot!'
"I heard a scufflin' in the room behind, and thin Dinah Shadd's hand
dhropped into mine like a rose-leaf into a muddy road.
"'The half av that I'll take,' sez she, 'an' more too if I can. Go
home, ye silly talkin' woman,—go home an' confess.'
"'Come away! Come away!' sez Judy, pullin' her mother by the shawl.
''Twas none av Terence's fault. For the love av Mary stop the
"'An' you!' said ould Mother Sheehy, spinnin' round forninst Dinah.
'Will ye take the half av that man's load? Stand off from him, Dinah
Shadd, before he takes you down too—you that look to be a
quarther-master-sergeant's wife in five years. You look too high, child.
You shall wash for the quarther-master-sergeant, whin he plases to
give you the job out av charity; but a privit's wife you shall be to the
end, an' evry sorrow of a privit's wife you shall know and nivir a joy but
wan, that shall go from you like the running tide from a rock. The pain av
bearin' you shall know but niver the pleasure av giving the breast; an'
you shall put away a man-child into the common ground wid never a priest
to say a prayer over him, an' on that man-child ye shall think ivry day av
your life. Think long, Dinah Shadd, for you'll niver have another tho' you
pray till your knees are bleedin'. The mothers av childer shall mock you
behind your back when you're wringing over the washtub. You shall know
what ut is to help a dhrunken husband home an' see him go to the
gyard-room. Will that plase you, Dinah Shadd, that won't be seen talkin'
to my daughter? You shall talk to worse than Judy before all's over. The
sergints' wives shall look down on you contemptuous, daughter av a
sergint, an' you shall cover ut all up wid a smiling face when your
heart's burstin'. Stand off av him, Dinah Shadd, for I've put the Black
Curse of Shielygh upon him an' his own mouth shall make ut good."
"She pitched forward on her head an' began foamin' at the mouth. Dinah
Shadd ran out wid water, an' Judy dhragged the ould woman into the veranda
till she sat up.
"'I'm old an' forlore,' she sez, thremblin' an' cryin', 'and 'tis like
I say a dale more than I mane.'
"'When you're able to walk,—go,' says ould Mother Shadd. 'This
house has no place for the likes av you that have cursed my daughter.'
"'Eyah!' said the ould woman. 'Hard words break no bones, an' Dinah
Shadd 'll keep the love av her husband till my bones are green corn, Judy
darlin', I misremember what I came here for. Can you lend us the bottom av
a taycup av tay, Mrs. Shadd?'
"But Judy dhragged her off cryin' as tho' her heart wud break. An'
Dinah Shadd an' I, in ten minutes we had forgot ut all."
"Then why do you remember it now?" said I.
"Is ut like I'd forget? Ivry word that wicked ould woman spoke fell
thrue in my life aftherward, an' I cud ha' stud ut all—stud ut
all—excipt when my little Shadd was born. That was on the line av
march three months afther the regiment was taken with cholera. We were
betune Umballa an' Kalka thin, an' I was on picket. Whin I came off duty
the women showed me the child, an' ut turned on uts side an' died as I
looked. We buried him by the road, an' Father Victor was a day's march
behind wid the heavy baggage, so the comp'ny captain read a prayer. An'
since then I've been a childless man, an' all else that ould Mother Sheehy
put upon me an' Dinah Shadd. What do you think, sorr?"
I thought a good deal, but it seemed better then to reach out for
Mulvaney's hand. The demonstration nearly cost me the use of three
fingers. Whatever he knows of his weaknesses, Mulvaney is entirely
ignorant of his strength.
"But what do you think?" he repeated, as I was straightening out the
My reply was drowned in yells and outcries from the next fire, where
ten men were shouting for "Orth'ris," "Privit Orth'ris," "Mistah
Or—ther—ris!" "Deah boy," "Cap'n Orth'ris," "Field-Marshal
Orth'ris," "Stanley, you pen'north o' pop, come 'ere to your own comp'ny!"
And the cockney, who had been delighting another audience with recondite
and Rabelaisian yarns, was shot down among his admirers by the major
"You've crumpled my dress-shirt 'orrid," said he, "an' I shan't sing no
more to this 'ere bloomin' drawin'-room."
Learoyd, roused by the confusion, uncoiled himself, crept behind
Ortheris, and slung him aloft on his shoulders.
"Sing, ye bloomin' hummin' bird!" said he, and Ortheris, beating time
on Learoyd's skull, delivered himself, in the raucous voice of the
Ratcliffe Highway, of this song:—
My girl she give me the go onst,
When I was a London lad,
An' I went on the drink for a fortnight,
An' then I went to the bad.
The Queen she give me a shillin'
To fight for 'er over the seas;
But Guv'ment built me a fever-trap,
An' Injia give me disease.
Ho! don't you 'eed what a girl says,
An' don't you go for the beer;
But I was an ass when I was at grass,
An' that is why I'm here.
I fired a shot at a Afghan,
The beggar 'e fired again,
An' I lay on my bed with a 'ole in my 'ed,
An' missed the next campaign!
I up with my gun at a Burman
Who carried a bloomin' dah,
But the cartridge stuck and the bay'nit bruk,
An' all I got was the scar.
Ho! don't you aim at a Afghan
When you stand on the sky-line clear;
An' don't you go for a Burman
If none o' your friends is near.
I served my time for a corp'ral,
An' wetted my stripes with pop,
For I went on the bend with a intimate friend,
An' finished the night in the "shop."
I served my time for a sergeant;
The colonel 'e sez "No!
The most you'll see is a full C.B." 
An' ... very next night 'twas so.
Ho! don't you go for a corp'ral
Unless your 'ed is clear;
But I was an ass when I was at grass,
An' that is why I'm 'ere.
I've tasted the luck o' the army
In barrack an' camp an' clink,
An' I lost my tip through the bloomin' trip
Along o' the women an' drink.
I'm down at the heel o' my service
An' when I am laid on the shelf,
My very wust friend from beginning to end
By the blood of a mouse was myself!
Ho! don't you 'eed what a girl says,
An' don't you go for the beer:
But I was an ass when I was at grass,
An' that is why I'm 'ere,
"Ay, listen to our little man now, singin' an' shoutin' as tho' trouble
had niver touched him. D' you remember when he went mad with the
homesickness?" said Mulvaney, recalling a never-to-be-forgotten season
when Ortheris waded through the deep waters of affliction and behaved
abominably. "But he's talkin' bitter truth, though. Eyah!
"My very worst frind from beginnin' to ind By the blood av a mouse
* * * * *
When I woke I saw Mulvaney, the night-dew gemming his moustache,
leaning on his rifle at picket, lonely as Prometheus on his rock, with I
know not what vultures tearing his liver.