“So I draw the old logarithm-book outa my coat and ease up gently to the edge of the grave. The doughboys and the gobs, all except Rathbone, who is wise, acourse, begin to nudge each other and snicker. I oughta warned ’em what was comin’, but I didn’t have no time, it come to me so quick. So I pretended to read from the book, and sez, in a low voice and very solemn, like I was openin’ the funeral, ’If any you birds here starts laughin’ I’ll see him after the show and I’ll knock the daylight outa him.’
“‘Amen,’ sez Rathbone, very piously.
“‘We’ve come here to-day,’ I sez, always like I was readin’ from the book—’we’ve come here to-day to plant a frawg soldier who’s the only son of his mother and her a widow. And she’s so broke that there ain’t no regular priest or no regular cemetery that’ll offer their services. So I’m the priest, and it’s goin’ to make a lotta difference to that poor widow’s feelin’s when she thinks her son’s got a swell U. S. Navy priest administering the rites. Now, get that straight and don’t start whinnyin’ like a buncha horses and gum the game.’
“Well, I stop there for breath, and Rathbone, who’s right on the job, comes across with another ‘Amen,’ and Reilly, who’s a good Catholic, sez, ’Pax vobiscum.’
“So that’s all right, and I give her the gun and go ahead.
“‘This here poiloo,’ I sez, ’I don’t know much about him, but he was a regular fellow and a good old bird and treated his mother swell and everything, and I guess if we was wise to everything he’d done we’d be proud to be here and we’d ‘a’ brung a lotta flowers and things. He most likely was at the battle of the Marne and the Soam and Verdun, and maybe he was at Chateau-Teery. Anyway, he was a grand fighter, and done his bit all the time and kep’ the Huns from passin’.”
’And I wanta tell you that we gotta hand it to these French, because they may be little guys, but they carry the longest bayonets I ever see in any man’s army.’
“‘Amen,’ sez all the doughboys and the gobs, except one that yells, ‘Alleluia!’ He musta been from the South or somewheres.
“‘And so,’ I sez, ’we’re proud to give this frawg a good send-off, and even if we ain’t got a real chaplain and the guns to fire a salute with, we’re doin’ the poor widow a lotta good, and that’s somethin’—I’ll say it is.’
“‘Amen,’ sez the audience.
“Then I sez, ‘Glory be,’ and cross myself and signal the doughboys to lower away on the coffin, and I flung a handfula dirt in on top like I see ’em do always.
“Well, the poor old widow near collapsed and Rathbone and the marine had to hold hard to keep her on her pins. But Reilly created a diversion by startin’ up the motor-bike, and it back-fired like a buncha rookies tryin’ to fire a volley. If we’d hadda bugle we coulda sounded taps, and the musical accompaniment woulda been complete.