“That gives us two votes for the army,” remarked MacShaugnassy, as Brown tore his sister’s letter in two, and threw the pieces into the waste-paper basket. “What says the common-sensed girl?”
“First catch your common-sensed girl,” muttered Jephson, a little grumpily, as it seemed to me. “Where do you propose finding her?”
“Well,” returned MacShaugnassy, “I looked to find her in Miss Medbury.”
As a rule, the mention of Miss Medbury’s name brings a flush of joy to Jephson’s face; but now his features wore an expression distinctly approaching a scowl.
“Oh!” he replied, “did you? Well, then, the common-sensed girl loves the military, also.”
“By Jove!” exclaimed MacShaugnassy, “what an extraordinary thing. What reason does she give?”
“That they look so nice when they’re dressed, and that they dance so divinely,” answered Jephson, shortly.
“Well, you do surprise me,” murmured MacShaugnassy, “I am astonished.”
Then to me he said: “And what does the young married woman say? The same?”
“Yes,” I replied, “precisely the same.”
“Does she give a reason?” he asked.
“Oh, yes,” I explained; “because you can’t help liking them.”
There was silence for the next few minutes, while we smoked and thought. I fancy we were all wishing we had never started this enquiry.
That four distinctly different types of educated womanhood should, with promptness and unanimity quite unfeminine, have selected the soldier as their ideal, was certainly discouraging to the civilian heart. Had they been nursemaids or servant girls, I should have expected it. The worship of Mars by the Venus of the white cap is one of the few vital religions left to this devoutless age. A year or two ago I lodged near a barracks, and the sight to be seen round its huge iron gates on Sunday afternoons I shall never forget. The girls began to assemble about twelve o’clock. By two, at which hour the army, with its hair nicely oiled and a cane in its hand, was ready for a stroll, there would be some four or five hundred of them waiting in a line. Formerly they had collected in a wild mob, and as the soldiers were let out to them two at a time, had fought for them, as lions for early Christians. This, however, had led to scenes of such disorder and brutality, that the police had been obliged to interfere; and the girls were now marshalled in queue, two abreast, and compelled, by a force of constables specially told off for the purpose, to keep their places and wait their proper turn.
At three o’clock the sentry on duty would come down to the wicket and close it. “They’re all gone, my dears,” he would shout out to the girls still left; “it’s no good your stopping, we’ve no more for you to-day.”