“There wasn’t much o’ the light ’eart look about the Mong Cappytaine to-night,” said Robinson. “‘Is eyes was snappin’ like two ends o’ a live wire, and ’e ’andled them guns as business-like as a butcher cutting chops.”
“That’s it,” said ’Enery, “business-like is the word for ’em. I noticed them ‘airy-faces shootin’ to-day. They did it like they was sent there to kill somebody, and they meant doin’ their job thorough an’ competent. Afore I come this trip on the Continong I used to think a Frenchman was good for nothing but fiddlin’ an’ dancin’ an’ makin’ love. But since I’ve seen ’em settin’ to Bosh partners an’ dancin’ across the neutral ground an’ love-makin’ wi’ Rosalie,[Footnote: Rosalie—the French nickname for the bayonet.] I’ve learned better. ’Ere’s luck to ’im,” and he drained the mess-tin.
And the French, if one might judge from the story mon capitaine had to tell his major, had also revised some ancient opinions of their Allies.
“Cold!” he said scornfully; “never again tell me these English are cold. Children—perhaps. Foolish—but yes, a little. They try to kill a man between jests; they laugh if a bullet wounds a comrade so that he grimaces with pain—it is true; I saw it.” It was true, and had reference to a sight scrape of a bullet across the tip of the nose of a Towers private, and the ribald jests and laughter thereat. “They make jokes, and say a man ‘stopped one,’ meaning a shell had been stopped in its flight by exploding on him—this the interpreter has explained to me. But cold—no, no, no! If you had seen this man—ah, sublime, magnificent! With the whistling balls all round him he stands, so brave, so noble, so fine, stands—so! ‘Vive la France!’ he cried aloud, with a tongue of trumpets; ’Vive la France! A bas les Boches!’”
The captain, as he declaimed “with a tongue of trumpets,” leaped to his feet and struck an attitude that was really quite a good imitation of ’Enery’s own mock-tragedian one. But the officers listening breathed awe and admiration; they did not, as the Towers did, laugh, because here, unlike the Towers, they saw nothing to laugh at.
The captain dropped to his chair amid a murmur of applause. “Sublime!” he said. “That posture, that cry! Indeed, it was worthy of a Frenchman. But certainly we must recommend him for a Cross of France, eh, my major?”
’Enery Irving got the Cross of the Legion of Honor. But I doubt if it ever gave him such pure and legitimate joy as did a notice stuck up in the German trench next day. Certainly it insulted the English by stating that their workers stayed at home and went on strike while Frenchmen fought and died. But it was headed “Frenchman!” and it was written in French.
THE FEAR OF FEAR
"At —— we recaptured the portion of front line trench lost by us some days ago."—EXTRACT FROM DISPATCH.