I dissembled a burning anxiety that I had felt for some monthsever 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.
Beforebeforelong before was that business av Annie Bragin an the corprils ghost. Never woman was the worse for me whin I had married Dinah. Theres a time for all things, an I know how to kape all things in placebarrin the dhrink, that kapes me in my place, wid no hope av comin to be aught else.
Thin I will assume that ye have not. I did. In the days av my youth, as I have more than wanst towld you, I was a man that filled the eye an delighted the sowl av women. Niver man was hated as I have been. Niver man was loved as Ino, not within half a days 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 widin my reach an digested ut, an thats more than most men can say. Dhrink I tuk, an ut did me no harm. By the hollow av hiven, I could play wid four women at wanst, an kape thim from findin out anything about the other three, and smile like a full-blown marigold through ut all. Dick Coulhan, of the battery well have down on us to-night, could dhrive 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 Braginshe 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 take.
Afther that I sickened awhile, an tuk thought to my regmental work, conceiting mesilf I wud study an be a sarjint, an a major-gineral twinty minutes afther that. But on top o 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, youre a great man an the best set up in the regment. 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 youre the same man, ut is, sez 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 clamour 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 went into the married lines, more for the sake av spakin to our owld colour-sarjint Shadd than for any thruck wid wimmenfolk. I was a corpril thenrejuced aftherward; but a corpril then. Ive got a photograft av mesilf to prove ut. Youll take a cup av tay wid us? sez he. I will that, I sez; tho tay is not my divarsion. Twud be better for you if ut were, sez owld Mother Shadd. An she had ought to know, for Shadd, in the ind av his service, dhrank bung-full each night.
Wid that I tuk off my glovesthere was pipe-clay in thim so that they stud alonean pulled up my chair, lookin round at the china ornamints an bits av things in the Shadds quarters. They were things that belong to a woman, an no camp kit, here to-day an dishipated next. Youre comfortable in this place, sarjint, sez I. Tis the wife that did ut, boy, sez he, pointin the stem av his pipe to owld Mother Shadd, an she smacked the top av his bald head apon the compliment. That manes you want money, sez she.
An thinan thin whin the kettle was to be filled, Dinah came inmy Dinahher sleeves rowled up to the elbow, an her hair in a gowlden glory over her forehead, the big blue eyes beneath twinklin like stars on a frosty night, an the tread of her two feet lighter than waste-paper from the colonels basket in ordly room when uts 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. Never show a woman that ye care the snap av a finger for her, an begad shell come bleatin to your boot-heels.
Im layin down the ginral theory of the attack, said Mulvaney, driving his foot into the dying fire. If you read the Soldiers Pocket-Book, which never any soldier reads, youll see that there are exceptions. When Dinah was out av the door (an twas as tho the sunlight had gone too), Mother av Hiven, sarjint! sez I, but is that your daughter? Ive believed that way these eighteen years, sez owld Shadd, his eyes twinklin. But Mrs. Shadd has her own opinion, like ivry other woman. Tis wid yours this time, for a mericle, sez Mother Shadd. Then why, in the name av fortune, did I never see her before? sez I. Bekase youve been thraipsin 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 owld Mother Shadd. Ill thraipse no more, sez I. Dyou mane that? sez ould Mother Shadd, lookin at me sideways, like a hen looks at a hawk whin the chickens are runnin free. Thry me, an tell, sez I. Wid that I pulled on my gloves, dhrank off the tea, an wint out av the house as stiff as at genral prade, for well I knew that Dinah Shadds 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 cavlryman, for the sake 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 farriers forge on a Saturday mornin! Twas Good-day to ye, Miss Dinah, an Good-day tyou, corpril, for a week or two, an divil a bit further could I get, bekase av the respict I had to that girl that I cud ha broken betune finger an thumb.
Ye may laugh, grunted Mulvaney. But Im 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 mornin she had. That is my wife to-dayowld Dinah, an never aught else than Dinah Shadd to me.
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 Im not the only wan that doesnt kape to barricks, sez he. I tuk him by the scruff av his neckmy heart was hung on a hair-thrigger those days, you will understandan, Out wid ut, sez I, or Ill lave no bone av you unbruk. Speak to Dempsey, sez he, howlin. Dempsey which, sez I, ye unwashed limb av Satan? Of the Bobtailed Dhragoons, sez he. Hes seen her home from her aunts house in the civil lines four times this fortnight. Child, sez I, dhroppin him, your tongues stronger than your body. Go to your quarthers. Im 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 cavlryman not fit to trust on a mule thrunk. Presintly I found him in our linesthe Bobtails was quarthered next usan a tallowy, top-heavy son av a she-mule he was, wid his big brass spurs an his plastrons on his epigastons an all. But he niver flinched a hair.
Before I could gyard he had his gloved fist home on me cheek, an down I went full sprawl. Will that content you? sez he, blowin on his knuckles for all the world like a Scots Grays orfcer. Content? sez I. For your own sake, man, take off your spurs, peel your jackut, and onglove. Tis the beginnin av the overture. Stand up!
He stud all he knew, but he niver peeled his jackut, an his shoulders had no fair play. I was fightin for Dinah Shadd an that cut on me cheek. What hope had he forninst me? Stand up! sez I, time an again, when he was beginnin to quarther the ground an gyard high an go large. This isnt riding-school, sez I. Oh, man, stand up, an let me get at ye! But whin I saw he wud be runnin about, I grup his shtock in me left an his waist-belt in me right an swung him clear to me right front, head undher, he hammerin me nose till the wind was knocked out av him on the bare ground. Stand up, sez I, or Ill kick your head into your chest. An I wud ha done ut, too, so ragin mad I was.
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 like all the regmintal tailors samples, there was no Good-mornin, corpril, or aught else. An what have I done, Miss Shadd, says I, very bowld, plantin mesilf forninst her, that ye should not pass the time of day?
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 an undher the eye, an a girl that lets a kiss come tumble-ways like that has never been kissed before. Take note av that, sorr. Thin we wint, hand in hand, to owld Mother Shadd like two little childher, an she said it was no bad thing; an owld 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 howld me. Begad, I cud ha picked the sun out av the sky for a live coal to me pipe, so magnificent I was. But I tuk recruities at squad drill, an began with general battalion advance whin I should ha been balance-steppin em. Eyah! that day! that day!
It was all wrong, said Mulvaney, with an enormous sigh. An sure I know that ivry bit uv ut was me own foolishness. That night I tuk maybe the half of three pintsnot enough to turn the hair of a man in his natural sinses. But I was more than half-dhrunk wid pure joy, an that canteen beer was so much whisky to me. I cant tell how ut came about, but bekase I had no thought for any wan except Dinah, bekase I hadnt slipped her little white arms from me neck five minutes, bekase the breath av her kiss was not gone from my mouth, I must go through the married lines on me way to quarthers, an I must stay talkin to a red-headed Mullengar heifer av a girl, Judy Sheehy, that was daughter to Mother Sheehy, the wife av Nick Sheehy, the canteen-sarjintthe black curse av Shielygh be on the whole brood that are above groun this day!
I can endure, sez I. Owld 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 them square. I dhrew back, thinkin of Dinah.
Theres 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 whin a man has put the comether on wan woman hes sure bound to put ut on another? Tis the same thing at musketry. Wan day ivry shot goes wide or into the bank, an the nextlay high, lay low, sight or snapye cant get off the bulls-eye for ten shots runnin.
Thankin you for the complimint, sorr, ut may be so; but Im doubtin 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 Id 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.
Prisently, quiet as a cat, owld Mother Sheehy came in velvet-dhrunk. She had her daughters red hair, but twas bald in patches, an I cud see in her wicked owld face, clear as lightnin, what Judy wud be twenty year to come. I was for jumpin up, but Judy niver moved.
Owld Mother Sheehy sat down of a heap, an began playin wid the cups. Thin youre a well-matched pair, she sez, very thick; for hes the biggest rogue that iver spoiled the queens shoe-leather, an
Nonsinse? sez the owld 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. Im goin to bed.
I ran out into the dhark, me head in a stew an me heart sick, but I had sinse enough to see that Id brought ut all on mesilf. Its this to pass the time av day to a panjandhrum of hell-cats, sez I. What Ive said an what Ive not said do not matther. Judy an her dam will howld 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 forgit about ut, for tis plain Im not a marryin man.
On me way to canteen I ran against Lascelles, colour-sarjint that was, av E Compnya hard, hard man, wid a tormint av a wife. Youve the head of a drowned man on your shoulders, sez he, an youre goin where youll get a worse wan. Come back, sez he. Let me go, sez I. Ive thrown me luck over the wall wid me own hand. Then thats not the way to get ut back again, sez he. Have out wid your throuble, ye fool-bhoy. An I towld him how the matther was.
He sucked in his lower lip. Youve been thrapped, sez he. Ju Sheehy wud be the betther for a mans name to hers as soon as she can. An ye thought yed put the comether on her. Thats the naturil vanity av the baste. Terence, youre a big born fool, but youre not bad enough to marry into that compny. If you said anythin, an for all your protestations Im sure you didor did not, which is worseeat ut all. Lie like the father av all lies, but come out av ut free of Judy. Do I not know what ut is to marry a woman that was the very spit av Judy when she was young? Im gettin owld, an Ive larnt patience; but you, Terence, youd raise hand on Judy an kill her in a year. Never mind if Dinah gives you the go; youve desarved ut. Never mind if the whole regmint laughs at you all day. Get shut av Judy an her mother. They cant dhrag you to church, but if they do, theyll dhrag you to hell. Go back to your quarthers an lie down, sez he. Thin, over his shoulder, You must have done with thim.
Will ye not step in? sez Dinah, pretty and polite, though the Shadds had no dealins with the Sheehys. Owld Mother Shadd looked up quick, an she was the fust to see the throuble, for Dinah was her daughter.
He was there from nine till tin, Dinah Shadd, an the betther half av that time I was sittin on his knee, Dinah Shadd. Ye may look an ye may look an ye may look me up an down, but ye wont look away that Terence is my promust man. Terence darlin, tis time for us to be comin home.
Dinah Shadd never said a word to Judy. Ye left me at half-past eight, she sez to me, an I never thought that yed leave me for Judy, promises or no promises. Go back wid her, you that have to be fetched by a girl! Im done with you, sez she; and she ran into her own room, her mother followin. So I was alone with those two women, and at liberty to spake me sintiments.
An tho ut choked me where I stud Id not change, sez I. Go home, Judy. I take shame for a decent girl like you dhraggin your mother out bareheaded on this errand. Here, now, an have ut for an answer. I gave me word to Dinah Shadd yesterday, an more blame to me I was with you last night talkin nonsinse, but nothin more. Youve chosen to thry to howld me on ut. I will not be held thereby for anythin in the world. Is that enough?
Judy wint pink all over. An I wish you joy av the perjury, sez she. Youve 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 isdeed I am! Yeve lost a fool av a girl thatll never look at you again, an yeve lost what ye niver hadyour common honesty. If you manage your men as you manage your love-makin, small wondher they call you the worst corpril in the compny. Come away, mother, sez she.
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 of a sutler? Am I shameless? Who put the open shame on me an my child that we shud go beggin through the lines in 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 uts 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 divils hands against your own will! Clear-eyed you are? May your eyes see clear ivry step av the dark path you take till the hot cindhers av hell put thim out! May the ragin dry thirst in my own owld bones go to you that you shall never pass bottle full nor glass empty! God preserve the light av your onderstandin to you, my jewel av a bhoy, that ye may niver forget what you mint to be an do, when youre wallowin in the muck! May ye see the betther and follow the worse as long as theres 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!
An you! said owld Mother Sheehy, spinnin round forninst Dinah. Will ye take the half av that mans load? Stand off from him, Dinah Shadd, before he takes you down tooyou that look to be a quarthermaster-sarjints wife in five years. Ye look too high, child. Ye shall wash for the quarthermaster-sarjint, whin he plases to give you the job out av charity; but a privits wife ye shall be to the end, an ivry sorrow of a privits wife ye shall know, an niver a joy but wan, that shall go from you like the tide from a rock. The pain of bearin ye shall know, but niver the pleasure of givin the breast; an you shall put away a man-child into the common ground wid niver 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 youll niver have another, tho you pray till your knees are bleedin. The mothers av children shall mock you behind your back whin youre wringin over the wash-tub. You shall know what ut is to take a dhrunken husband home an see him go to the gyard-room. Will that plase you, Dinah Shadd, that wont be seen talkin to my daughter? You shall talk to worse than Judy before alls over. The sarjints wives shall look down on you, contemptuous daughter av a sarjint, an you shall cover ut all up wid a smilin face whin your hearts burstin. Stand off him, Dinah Shadd, for Ive put the black curse of Shielygh upon him, an his own mouth shall make ut good.
Eyah! said the owld woman. Hard words break no bones, an Dinah Shaddll kape 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 tay-cup av tay, Mrs. Shadd?
Is ut like Id forgit? Ivry word that wicked owld woman spoke fell thrue in my life aftherward; an I cud ha stud ut allstud ut all, except fwhen little Shadd was born. That was on the line av march three months afther the regmint was taken with cholera. We were betune Umballa an Kalka thin, an I was on picket. When I came off, 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 days march behind wid the heavy baggage, so the compny captain read a prayer. An since then Ive been a childless man, an all else that owld 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 Mulvaneys hand. This demonstration nearly cost me the use of three fingers. Whatever he knows of his weaknesses, Mulvaney is entirely ignorant of his strength.