Sergeant Michael Cassidy, R.E - H.C. McNeile - ebook

Sergeant Michael Cassidy, R.E ebook

H. C. Mcneile

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Opis

Cassidy is a loyal and legendary soldier in the Corps of Royal Engineers. He is brave, proud, and even his elders are afraid of him. Cassidy meets the narrator, a high-ranking officer in Flander. They talk about life at the front. Indeed, a spiritual story, the reader himself will be able to feel all those spiritual moments of life.

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Liczba stron: 173

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Contents

Episode I. Three To One

Episode II. A Fire In Billets

Episode III. Medical Inspection

Episode IV. The Guards

Episode V. A Subaltern Of The Guards

Episode VI. A Word To The Shirkers

Episode VII. The Bridge

Episode VIII. The Charge Of The Cooks

Episode IX. The Spy

Episode X. Mud And Noise

Episode XI. The Christmas Truce

Episode XII. Sapping And Mining

Episode XIII. The Heavy Lieutenant's Prisoner

Episode XIV. How To Be Happy Though Wounded

Episode XV. The Terrible Danger of "Funk"

Episode XVI. Good-bye and Good Luck

I. THREE TO ONE

An Incident in the Advance from Paris

“SURE, and it’s the neatest little girl I’ve seen this side of Connymara that you are. It’s a souvenir that you’re wanting? By jabers! it’s a souvenir you’ll have, anyway. ‘Tis the correct thing the other side of the water, whichever way you go.”

The resounding noise of a kiss assailed my scandalised ears, followed by rapidly retreating feminine footsteps.

“I’ll be after waiting for you here tomorrow morning at the same time.” Sergeant Michael Cassidy’s rich Irish voice followed the invisible recipient of his souvenir as she departed; and judging by the way he leaned over the railings waving an extremely dirty pocket-handkerchief, I came to the reluctant conclusion that the lady was not only not averse to receiving souvenirs, but would in all probability return for more.

“Are you not ashamed of yourself, Michael Cassidy – you with a wife and four children in Ballygoyle?” I remarked, as the handkerchief gradually became less violent.

“And what the devil – Ah! by all the saints! ‘tis you, sir.” Limping and leaning heavily on a crutch, Sergeant Cassidy came towards me. “‘Tis great to see you again, sir. Is it wounded you’ve been, or why are you not over yonder?” He waved his free arm vaguely in the direction of Wales: however his meaning was clear.

“I was abroad when it started, Cassidy, and they’ve caught me for Kitchener’s Army.” I held my cigarette case out to him.

“‘Tis bad luck that,” he remarked, as he lit one of my best gold-tipped cigarettes. “But bedad you’ll be after getting all you want when you do get out. It’s no picnic at all – what with the Black Marias, and coal boxes, and snipers.”

“What’s the matter with you?” I asked as we sat down.

“I stopped a bit of lead with my foot. Nothing at all: we were just putting up a bit of wire one night in a wood, and one of them snipers got an outer in my foot.”

He regarded the offending member with a critical eye, and carefully deposited it on a seat.

And here, to make things clear, I must digress for a moment. Michael Cassidy is a sergeant in His Majesty’s Corps of Royal Engineers, to which I also have the honour to belong in the humble capacity of officer. I say humble advisedly; for there are sergeants of many sorts and kinds, and there is Michael Cassidy, and in his presence even Brigadier-Generals have trembled. Now in the days before the exigencies of the service had taken me abroad to an abominable island given over almost exclusively to priests and goats (anyone who has been condemned to soldier there will at once recognise its name) – in the days before my incarceration, then, on this dread spot, I had for some years soldiered side by side with Sergeant Cassidy. For when one’s motto is “Ubique,” it follows that one may live for a space with a man, and then obeying the dictates of the Great Powers that Be at the War Office, be rudely torn away from old friends and associations, whom one may never see again, and be hurled into the midst of new faces as well as new conditions. Lucky for the man who escapes the abode of goats: but that is neither here nor there, and anyway it’s all in the day’s work, I suppose.

Be that as it may, the order of my release from its inhospitable shores having coincided most aptly with a regrettable midnight fracas with the local police, which incidentally is quite another story, I had shaken its dust rapidly and joyfully from my feet and sailed for home, full of war and cocktails. I had landed some ten days before, to find myself posted to a “Catch ‘em Alive oh!” but withal cheery crowd of solicitors, grocers, tailors, and coalheavers, who go to make up the New Army. Chancing to wander one morning round the garden of a select London mansion, which had been put at the disposal of wounded soldiers, my eyes had been gladdened by the events which I have already chronicled, and I metaphorically fell upon the neck of my old and disreputable friend.

“And how’s the old crowd getting along, Cassidy?” I asked when he was comfortably settled.

“Fine, sir, fine. ‘Tis a lot of officers we’ve lost, though – killed and wounded.” He gave a little sigh. “Do you recall young Mr Trentham, him that came to us last Christmas, just before you went away?”

“I do,” I answered. “I see he’s wounded, in today’s list.”

“‘Tis that that made me speak, sir. You remember him – quiet he was – without the necessary swallow which helps an officer to drink the healths of his men properly on Christmas Day.”

I had vivid recollections of his inability to do so – but that is neither here nor there.

“Well, sir, he may not be able to drink like some of us” – I indignantly repudiated this monstrous aspersion – “he may not, I say, be able to drink like some of us, but glory be he can fight. I have not seen his equal outside Ballygoyle. You mind the manner of young gentleman he was, sir, strong as a bull, with an arm like the hind leg of an elephant. He was fair crazy to get at them, was Mr Trentham; he couldn’t stand the sort of fighting we were getting at all. ‘It is not fighting,’ he says to me one day, ‘when you can’t bill someone over the head with the butt end of a rifle once in a way.’ I said to myself at the time, I said: ‘May Heaven help the Boche you do put your hands on, for he’ll want all of that and more.’

“Well, one day, I misremember the name of the place we were at, but it wasn’t like what it is now, all one long line – there was a chance of striking a stray Uhlan on his own, scouting, if he wasn’t drunk – and when them fellows do get on the drink, you can take it from me, sir, the races at Ballygoone ain’t in it. Well, Mr Trentham and I were out one day, things being fairly quiet, and we thought we might visit one of those cafés they call them, and see if we could raise a bottle of the good. ‘Tis poor stuff they have there, but we thought it was worth trying. We came along the road, and there in front of the café we were going to, we saw some horses tied up.

“‘Steady,’ says he to me all of a sudden; ‘they aren’t our horses, nor French either, unless I’m much mistaken.’ At that moment out walks a man. ‘Jove, Cassidy,’ says he, pulling me behind a bush, ‘it’s Germans they are: a patrol of Uhlans.’

“‘They are that, sir,’ says I. ‘What will we do? for not a drop will they have left in that café.”

“He thought a moment, and then a lovely look came over his face. ‘What will we do, Cassidy?’ he says. ‘What do you think?’

“‘The same as you, sir,’ says I.

“With that I followed him as fast as we could leg it towards that café, keeping under cover of some bushes by the road. At last we got to the place, and crept in through the back. Just as we got to the window, creeping, we were, along the side of the house, we heard a girl scream inside, followed by a roar of laughter. Mr Trentham, he forgot the risk, straightens himself up and looks in through the window. I do the same. Mother of Heaven! ‘twas awful. There was six of them in all, six of the dirty traitorous swine. They’d been drinking hard, and the old lady that kept the café was trussed up in a corner. They’d been having pot shots at her with the empty bottles. Her face was all cut, and half stunned she was. The old man was bound to the table, but they hadn’t stunned him. They’d left him in the full possession of his senses that he might the better appreciate the fun. They’d got the daughter – a pretty girl, of maybe twenty – in a chair. Well, I needn’t say more, but every time the poor old man tried to get to her, they pulled the table back and roared with laughter. The swine – the cowardly swine!”

The veins were standing out in Cassidy’s neck as he spoke: he was back again looking through that window. “Mr Trentham he turns to me and mutters. ‘Three to one, Michael Cassidy, three to one,’ he says, and his face was white, saving only his eyes, and they were blood-red. ‘Three to one,’ and his voice was thick, and he shook like a man with the ague as we crept through the back door. ‘Three to one,’ he snarled as we got to the door, while his hand, that had been shaking with the fury of his passion, grew steady as a rock. For a moment we stood outside of the door, and as I looked at him I said to myself, I said, ‘You were dangerous at the window when you saw red,’ I says; ‘but by the Holy Mother a regiment of Uhlans wouldn’t stop you now.’ And then we went in. ‘Twas great, oh! ‘twas great. They stood there, that six – gaping, they were. Then one of them muttered ‘English.’ Then I saw Mr Trentham go in. Oh! ‘twas an education – a dream. And then I lost sight of him in the box-up. I got home on one of their heads with my rifle belt, and split it like a pumpkin. My backhander hit the lamp, and spoilt the next one, but it reached his face, and it was enough for him. And then I saw one getting out of the door. I caught him in the garden: he will not play that game again. When I got back I found everything was silent, saving only the poor old woman moaning in the corner. It was an awful sight. Mr Trentham, he’d swung two of them together, and cracked both their skulls. They was dead as mutton. The other one he’d got at with his hands.

“‘Is there any more of them, Michael Cassidy?’ he says.

“‘There is not, sir,’ says I. ‘They are all dead, the devils, and their horses are without.’

“‘‘Twas a great blow that first one of yours,’ he says.

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