And so, seeing that you know the constituents, I must let you imagine how they all mixed....
* * * * *
This is a beastly war. But it has its times; and when our own particular bit of the battle is over, and what is left of the battalion is marching back to rest, I doubt if, even in England (which seems very far off), you will find two people more contented with the morning than Toby and I, as we jog along together.
Seated in your comfortable club, my very dear sir, or in your delightful drawing-room, madam, you may smile pityingly at the idea of a mascot saving anybody’s life. “What will be, will be,” you say to yourself (or in Italian to your friends), “and to suppose that a charm round the neck of a soldier will divert a German shell is ridiculous.” But out there, through the crumps, things look otherwise.
Common had sat on the mantelpiece at home. An ugly little ginger dog, with a bit of red tape for his tongue and two black beads for his eyes, he viewed his limited world with an air of innocent impertinence very attractive to visitors. Common he looked and Common he was called, with a Christian name of Howard for registration. For six months he sat there, and no doubt he thought that he had seen all that there was to see of the world when the summons came which was to give him so different an outlook on life.
For that summons meant the breaking up of his home. Master was going wandering from trench to trench, Mistress from one person’s house to another person’s house. She no doubt would take Common with her; or perhaps she couldn’t be bothered with an ugly little ginger dog, and he would be stored in some repository, boarded out in some Olympic kennel. “Or do you possibly think Master might—”
He looked very wistful that last morning, so wistful that Mistress couldn’t bear it, and she slipped him in hastily between the revolver and the boracic powder, “Just to look after you,” she said. So Common came with me to France.
His first view of the country was at Rouen, when he sat at the entrance to my tent and hooshed the early morning flies away. His next at a village behind the lines, where he met stout fellows of “D” Company and took the centre of the table at mess in the apple orchard; and moreover was introduced to a French maiden of two, with whom, at the instigation of the seconds in the business—her mother and myself—a prolonged but monotonous conversation in the French tongue ensued, Common, under suitable pressure, barking idiomatically, and the maiden, carefully prompted, replying with the native for “Bow-wow.” A pretty greenwood scene beneath the apple-trees, and in any decent civilization the great adventure would have ended there. But Common knew that it was not only for this that he had been brought out, and that there was more arduous work to come.