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A Complete Novelette

by W. Townend
Author of "A-Roving," "Private Harris," "Irish," "Oil at San Nicolas," etc.


WAR must always be the great test character. No man can go through the ordeal of fire and emerge unscathed. And to this truth there are no real exceptions. A man may be made by war, or he may be broken, utterly and without redemption, but whatever happens neither he nor his point of view will afterward be quite the same.

Some men will always be cowards in battle. Terror paralyzes their limbs and robs their minds of all sense of shame. Merely to die like soldiers is beyond their strength. This is the one real argument against conscription, which takes all who are sound of body, rejecting none: valuing quantity rather than quality.

Others there are who know fear yet conquer it. The thought of death in all its manifold forms—by bullet, by shell or by bayonet—is terrible, yet far more terrible is the thought of what men might say were they to fail when wanted. Also, the man who turns his back on the enemy has no greater chance of safety than he who advances bravely. Why not, then, die as a man should die, with honor? It is this feeling that makes war possible at all. Many things may be forgiven, but the one unforgivable sin is fear.

But even in these days when science has forged instruments of destruction so wicked that the slaughter of bygone wars is as nothing compared with the carnage of today, there are men who can enter a battle light of heart, seeking danger as the highest earthly prize within their reach. And these are the men who by sheer indifference to death snatch victory from defeat.

Bravery as a virtue is confined to no one nation, country or creed. For that we may offer thanks. But be that as it may, no race under heaven can show such foolhardy and genuine contempt for an enemy—his horse, foot or guns—as the Irish: north, south, east or west—Belfast, Dublin, Cork or Limerick. As they were in the past, so are they now, grim and joyous fighters— impatient, reckless, vengeful—in proof of which many a hard-fought field in France and Belgium, the gossip of trench and billet, and the casualty lists, bear witness.

TONY MALLAGH was a subaltern in the South Irish. This statement should explain a good deal; for the South Irish are particular as to their officers, as many a callow youth has learned to his sorrow and dismay.

In looks and general appearance he was not unlike any other rather ordinary young man of six-and-twenty, who has spent most of his life in the open, being lean and wiry with a good-humored, sunburned face, and eyes in which there seemed always to be lurking a glint of laughter. But Tony Mallagh was not an ordinary young man. Far otherwise. He had faults, of course, as have all of us.

But Tony Mallagh's faults endeared him to people no less than his virtues. He was woefully improvident and a spendthrift, having no sense of the value of money. He bought for the mere pleasure of buying, and mainly for the benefit of others. An appeal for his help, in either time or cash, met with a ready response. He never refused a friend any request, which it might be in his power to grant. He was charitable to a degree of foolishness. He lent where there was no prospect of any return. In times of need, taking no thought for the future he borrowed from a Jew money-lender in London, and when funds were more plentiful, paid back the debt cheerfully. And if to his mind the rate of interest charged for the loan seemed exorbitant and out of all proportion to the benefit received, he let it pass unquestioned. An officer of the South Irish could not, in common justice to himself and his calling, stoop to argument over a matter of borrowed money.

For his poverty, however, Tony Mallagh had no other than himself to thank. At the age of eighteen his mother's brother, a hard-headed ship broker from Glasgow, had offered to take him into his business and to safeguard his interests as if he had been his only son. This offer rejected on the instant, lost Tony a fair chance of being a rich man before he was forty. But there were things in the world that Tony Mallagh valued above mere wealth. As an alternative to amassing a fortune he joined the army, thereby entering on a career that seemed particularly suited to his temperament.

His accomplishments were many and such as earned him the respect of his fellow subalterns. He excelled in sport of every description. He had played Rugby football for his country, he was as good a shot with a rifle as any man in the regiment, there was no horse that he would not ride, or at least try to, and he had boxed as a lightweight in the public-school championships at Aldershot. Moreover, he was absolutely without fear, and had never been known to lose his temper save on one occasion, famous in the annals of the regiment.

This was soon after he had joined the First Battalion, when he had fought and decisively beaten a brawny greengrocer in Commercial Road, Portsmouth, simply because the said greengrocer, being somewhat exhilarated by strong drink, chose to assert his prerogative as a Briton by slugging his weed of a horse over the head with the butt of his whip. Tony had interfered. The fight was the natural outcome. When the greengrocer, a head taller and perhaps fourteen or so pounds heavier, had been counted out by an enthusiastic crowd of bluejackets, and the police had interfered, and there was every prospect of a fair-sized riot being brought about by the loser's friends and supporters, Tony had settled the matter by offering to purchase the horse and wagon on the spot. The offer was promptly accepted.

This was the reason why ten minutes later Tony's commanding officer, motoring toward Cosham with his wife, had been struck almost speechless by the spectacle of his youngest subaltern, bareheaded and looking slightly the worse for wear, seated on the front of a dilapidated greengrocer's wagon with a policeman by his side, driving a dejected white horse.

"Mr. Mallagh," said the Colonel in mild astonishment, "Mr. Mallagh, may I ask——"

"It's all right, sir," said Tony blandly, "we're just taking this old horse to be destroyed."

"But, really, Mr. Mallagh, do you think that a greengrocer's wagon is er—quite a suitable vehicle? Wouldn't it be as well to er—allow the constable to take charge of the horse alone, without your er—valuable assistance?"

Fortunately none of the spectators of the fight knew that Tony was an officer in the South Irish; fortunately also the Colonel happened to be possessed of feelings somewhat akin to Tony's own. So the matter was dropped. But, so he was told, Tony was never to do anything of the kind again. Officers of His Majesty's Army must not fight in the streets as though they were ordinary mortals. It is not fitting. But the story having leaked out followed Tony out to India and home again when he was transferred to the Second Battalion, and was related as typical of himself and his methods.

Tony, indeed, was unpractical, a visionary, rather given to acting without thought and apt to be led away by a far-fetched sense of humor. His smile won him friends where others found only coldness and hostility. He made no enemies, and his men adored him. Also, though more or less poor, he was always happy.

For the rest, he was Irish, hailing from County Kerry, and in love with the sweetest and dearest girl in the world, as poor and as proud as himself, who lived with an aunt, the widow of a retired admiral, in a small house at Farnborough, within easy reach of the North Camp where Tony was stationed in the Spring of the year, 1914.

Marriage is not a risk to be entered on lightly. For six months Tony Mallagh, rendered strangely cautious by his good fortune, waited until such time as his finances showed signs of improvement. But at the end of the six months, an interminable age, his patience was worn threadbare. The novelty and charm of being engaged, even though it were to the sweetest and dearest of girls, was slightly dimmed.

As a general rule, Tony, though having a host of friends, was disinclined to consult any regarding his own affairs. Nevertheless he felt now that he needed advice. There was only one man in the whole regiment to whom he could go: Shannon, his company commander, and his senior by about ten years.

Tony's attitude of mind toward Shannon was peculiar. He admired him for what he was and for what he had done as a soldier. He had medals for the Tirah expedition in '97, the Soudan in '98, the Boer War, Somaliland, for the northwest frontier six years before, in addition the D. S. O., earned in Natal on the way to Ladysmith. He was a disciplinarian. B Company was the smartest in the battalion. He was sincere, kindly, clever. Yet from Tony Mallagh's view-point he had his failings. He was deliberate, slow in understanding, over methodical, particular as to detail, fussy and, as all confirmed bachelors must at last be, old-maidish in his tastes. But his judgments were to be relied on. He would say what he thought, making no effort to hide his opinion, favorable or not.

So to Shannon, Tony went one morning after parade and stated his case. That Shannon was a man who knew nothing of women, who was commonly reported to despise the sex, was no drawback. His advice would be free from prejudice, one way or the other. Also he knew Sybil's aunt, and Sybil as well.

Shannon, a big man with black hair and a small, close-clipped black mustache, sat in an armchair, smoking a pipe, his eyes half-closed, his square-jawed face giving no clue to what thoughts he might have. Yet Tony was strangely comforted even by the knowledge that he listened.

"So you see how things are, sir! What ought I to do? It's rotten luck on the girl, you know, to be engaged to a fat-headed chump like I am. Lord! We may drift on in this kind of way for about fifteen years, or more, till I'm a Major, if I ever get that far. I'll never have any more money than I have now, apart from my pay, I'm certain. And what's that to a girl as ripping, and as good as Sybil? Nothing—nothing at all. I know, from—well, just from knowing her, that she'd marry me on what I have now. But would it be fair? Would it be playing the game?"

Shannon frowned and looked if anything rather bored.

"She's promised to marry you, has she—some time or other, eh?"

"Rather!" said Tony.

"Said anything to any one?"

"No, sir. You see—well, we've kept it a secret for many reasons."

"Ah! And no one knows?"

"Not a blessed soul!" Tony waited, wondering at the drift of the questions that were asked. "Of course, sir, I might try and exchange into something that's better paid than the line: the A. S. C., or the Army Ordnance, for instance. Or I could get out to Egypt, perhaps, or West Africa, or——"

Shannon leaned forward suddenly.

"What's that? What's that you say? Leave the South Irish! Tony, you're a fool! You can do one thing, so far as I can see, and only one. I know your fiancee—er—well enough to er—realize that if she loves—" the word seemed to worry him—"if she er—cares for you, Tony, and you say she does, money will play only a small part in the er— affair. Poor! Of course you are, and always will be. Even if you had a million, you'd be hard up." He grunted. "Huh! Leave the battalion, indeed! Not if I know it."

"Then you think I ought to marry soon."

"At once, if you can." He hoisted himself out of his chair and stretched out his arms and yawned. "And now, get out! I'm sick and tired of hearing you talk."

Tony grinned and stood up.

"It's jolly good of you, sir, to have bothered. It is, really."

"Get out!" repeated Shannon gruffly. "Don't worry me!"

By his manner he seemed to regard the interview as of no importance, or as merely a waste of time that might be otherwise more usefully employed. But when Tony had closed the door after him, he dropped into his chair once more and stared blindly across the little room, a dull pain in his heart and his teeth pressing deeply into his lower lip.

It seemed impossible. Had his pride been so great that he had been unable to see what was passing before his very eyes? Had others seen and he been ignorant of open warnings? The girl he had thought to marry, the one girl in the whole world a man might worship unashamed, had been taken from him by Tony Mallagh. Tony, the irresponsible, extravagant, happy-go-lucky, reckless, hard-up Tony, had beaten him.

And Sybil! In the depths of his despair there yet remained a feeling of thankfulness that he had been spared the shame of hearing from her own lips what he now knew.

He rose from his chair and stood gazing out of the window on to the barrack square. A sense of his own worthlessness gripped him. What right had he to hope that a girl like Sybil would have chosen a man like himself: a man with no knowledge beyond the Army; a man who could sit tongue-tied and half-frightened in her presence? The thought of his own conceit—which he would have hated in another—sickened him.

But it was all over now and done with. Sybil would marry Tony Mallagh, and they would be very happy together and very poor, and he himself, Captain R. B. Shannon, D. S. O., Second Battalion, Royal South Irish Fusiliers, would work hard and hope for war and try and put out of his mind the picture of the girl whom he had thought his for the mere asking.


NOT even Tony Mallagh, reckless and improvident as he was, would have risked marriage, had not matters taken an unexpected turn. It was while he was in Ireland, on leave, that he read of the death of Sybil's aunt. He left for Aldershot the same evening.

The girl, dressed in deep black, was in the garden at the back of the house when he arrived.

"Sybil," he said presently, after the first greetings were over, "what do you intend to do?"

She gave a little shrug.

"I don't know, Tony. I've got to earn a living somehow, of course."

"Oh!" said Tony sagely. "Indeed. Just so. Earn a living." He looked at her with loving admiration.

"You see, dear," said the girl, "Aunt Jane's income was for life only. And—well, that's all gone. So I must do something, mustn't I?" He said nothing and she continued, "I'm fairly clever at housekeeping, I can look after servants, keep accounts, garden, and so on, so I thought I might be useful as a companion to some one, or a governess, or——"

Tony interrupted with a grunt signifying extreme disapproval and disgust.

"Quite so. A governess, eh! Ye-es. I can just see you governessing, sweetheart. Quite so. You've no people at all, dear have you?"

"Only a sister in Dublin. Her husband's in the engineers. I could go to her for a while, but—well, she's not very well off, and it's better for me to do something for myself, isn't it?"

"No," said Tony decidedly. "It isn't— nothing of the kind. Ridicuious! Wouldn't hear of it. Sybil, my love, let us consider the facts. Why put off any longer what might be done now?"

She watched him in silence, the sunshine making her hair like spun gold, her blue eyes, blue as the sky above, very grave and tender and loving, her cheeks flushed, a little nervous smile on her lips.

"Sweetheart," said Tony, "we've nothing to lose by marriage. Nothing. All to gain. I'm sick of this everlasting waiting. At this rate we won't be married for fifty years, not if we're supposed to be waiting till I can give you what you deserve. Consider the facts, old girl, and decide. What's more, if the money I have now can keep me, * throwing it about like I do and not trying to save, it'll keep the pair of us. That's logic. We'd be poor, of course, but—will you risk it? Could you marry a poor man, Sybil dear, and be happy?"

"It's not myself I'm worried about," she said slowly, "it's you. I've always been poor, but it will be hard on you, Tony, to have to give up——"

"Rubbish and fiddlesticks!" said Tony. He took her into his arms and kissed her. "If that's all, sweetheart, we'll be married just as soon as we jolly well can. I'll tackle the Colonel first thing in the morning. You leave it to me. He won't mind when I tell him everything, I know. He's eating out of my hand these days. Tame as a white rabbit with some green-stuff."

And, allowing for exaggeration, Tony was quite correct. Married subalterns were not approved of in the South Irish for many reasons is, but for once the Colonel raised no objections.

"In your case," he said, "I think it's almost the best thing that could have happened. You've made a most excellent choice—most excellent. And, Tony, if I were you I'd leave all my financial affairs to my wife. From what I know there's more sense in that young lady's little finger than there is in your whole body. Now run along and get married as soon as you please."

And married they were within the month.

Quite the most valuable of their many presents came from Shannon, who, much to his regret, was called up to London on business on the very morning of the wedding. This was in the middle of June.

For a little over five weeks Tony lived in a kind of dream in which fact and fancy seemed strangely mingled. Never before had he known such happiness. Never indeed had he thought such happiness possible. Sybil was wonderful. Each day that passed revealed in her unexpected charms.

Deep down in his heart Tony pitied those less fortunate than himself: not only bachelors, but men with wives less lovely, or less perfect than his wife. For, after all, as he well knew, there was only one Sybil. How he had existed without her puzzled him.

But if marriage brought to him happiness, so also it brought fear. Supposing he were to die, what would become of Sybil? The thought of the future, with all its possibilities of disaster, daunted him. He must make provision, certainly. But how? This was the problem that, try as he might, he could not solve.

Shannon met him one day walking slowly across the parade-ground toward the mess.

"Tony," he said, "what's wrong?"

Tony came to himself with a start. "What's that? Hullo, sir, never saw you. Wrong! Nothing." And as if to prove his words he smiled with the utmost good nature.

Shannon shook his head.

"Known you too long, now, old son, not to know when you're worrying. How's the wife? Quite fit, eh?"

"Rather!" said Tony.

"Well, something's troubling you, I know. Tell it a mile off."

"Thinking," Tony laughed. "That's all."

"Shouldn't do it too often, then. Bad for you." He hesitated. "Finances all right?"

"Yes—so far as it goes. Sometimes one doesn't see clearly. You know, the future and all that kind of thing. But I'm not worrying." A sudden thought flashed through Tony's mind. "You don't notice that I've changed at all, do you, since I married. Because I haven't. Not in the very least." He wanted that much to be understood plainly.

"Changed!" said Shannon. "No. Why the dickens should you be changed?"

"I'm glad of that," said Tony. Then for no particular reason he added: "I think if anything happened to Sybil. I should— well, I don't know what I should do."

Shannon stared at him without comment and passed on.

THERE came an evening soon after when a certain rumor, that owed its origin to a shot fired in the streets of a town in far-off Bosnia, reached the mess of the Royal South Irish Fusiliers.

All through dinner the tide of talk had ebbed and flowed in well-worn channels. No trace of care or worry for the future showed on the faces of those gathered around the long table under the shaded lights. Life offered to man nothing of more importance than sport in all its branches, hunting, fishing, racing, shooting, golf, or the theater, perhaps, or London, or leave in the Autumn when the year's training should be finished. As if by instinct, all mention of any topic dealing with the army was avoided.

But when the last of the mess waiters, stolid privates of the regiment, had left the room, there was a sudden silence.

The Colonel, broad and thickset and gray as a badger, a string of medals adorning his scarlet mess-jacket, a bone-white scar on his forehead, bearing witness to the skill of a Boer marksman at Inniskilling Hill, leaned back in his chair and glanced from side to side through half closed eyelids.

"Well," he said after a while, "it looks like the real thing at last. Or doesn't it?"

Came, the senior Major, nodded. "Don't see how they can keep out. Not Germany; not Russia. And where's it to end, eh?"

"We're not ready for war, of course," said one of the other majors. "We never are. Yet, maybe, the first thing we know, we'll be fighting!"

Tony Mallagh, who was dining in mess, growled:

"And just because a maniac at the other side of Europe puts a bullet into some one we've never heard of! All the same, it'ull be a good job for Ireland if it does come. Any war's better than civil war." Shannon looked at him curiously. "But," and he went on with a little laugh, "we won't fight, of course. This Government of ours isn't going to let itself be dragged into a war just on account of a little nation like Serbia being wiped out, is it? We'll stay out and sell goods, ammunition and guns and undervests and boot-laces and tracts and whisky to both sides."

"And you, Shannon," said the Colonel, "what do you say, eh?"

"I don't think, sir, I know. It's a war, that's certain. The biggest thing that ever happened."

In the anteroom afterward the Mess resolved itself into a committee of public safety for the defense of the realm, and sought knowledge from books of reference, the army list and many maps.

To Tony Mallagh, seated as far as possible from the chattering groups, a volume of the Encyclopedia Britannica in his lap, came Shannon, hands in pockets, a grim smile on his lips.

He dropped into a chair beside him.

"I'm looking up the habits and customs of the Serbs," said Tony. "Curiosity, that's all."

"Shouldn't worry about Serbia," said Shannon. "Try under B."

"Why B?"


"Oh!" said Tony. "Do you mean—you don't think, sir, that—" He closed the book. "You don't mean to tell me the Germans will invade Belgium to get at France?"

"Why not?" said Shannon.

"Then," said Tony miserably, "I don't see how even this fool of a Government can keep from fighting. Good Lord!"

Shannon was troubled in his mind. How would he himself, supposing he were in Tony's shoes—a married man, married less than two months—bear the news that might send him across the Channel to the biggest war the world had ever seen?

"It's war, at last, then," said Tony in a low voice.

"Afraid so," said Shannon. "It's hard on you, though—awful hard."

Tony straightened himself with a jerk and thrust two fingers between his collar and neck as if choking.

"Yes, it's hard," he said. "As a matter of fact, sir, I'd been thinking a good deal lately of the things that might happen: sickness, illness, accidents, and so on. Marriage makes a man think, somehow. But about the only tiling I didn't think of was war. I want to see some fighting some time or other, of course. Who doesn't? But—" he uttered a hard laugh—"rather rough luck, isn't it, coming at this particular time?"

A voice hailed them.

"Here, Shannon, you're an expert. See if you can figure this out. And what's the matter with Tony Mallagh? He looks as if he'd committed a particularly beastly murder, or lost his platoon, like he did last Thursday. Tony, dearest, what is it? Ickle pain in 'oo tummy? Tell nursey!"

Tony laughed, and with that the worry passed off, not'to return until he was back in his own home with Sybil, descending the stairs.

"Sybil," he said, "I've something to tell you. Something rather important."

"Nothing wrong, is there?" she asked. Tony nodded, and she led the way into the drawing-room.

"Well, dear, what is it? Don't be afraid!" she said quietly.

She stood by the table, very slim and erect, and looking lovelier than ever.

"Sybil, I've bad news for you, dear, about the regiment. Dearest, there's going to be a war in Europe, and they think we'll have to fight."

"The South Irish!"

"Yes." The thought of what she must suffer rose up to stifle him.

"If they send you, dear, you must go, mustn't you? It's duty, isn't it? And you're worried, you poor boy, because of me!" She kissed him lightly. "Poor old Tony! You mustn't. Why, Tony, you don't mean to say you think me a coward!" Her laugh sounded almost happy. "Tony, you're forgetting I'm the daughter of a soldier, as well as being the wife of one. I'm not frightened, love—not in the least."

"You darling!" said Tony. "I think you're the bravest girl alive—and the most beautiful. I was almost afraid of telling you."

"Oh!" said the girl. "As far as that goes, we were talking it over tonight at dinner, Mrs. Carne and I. Besides I've been thinking for the last day or so we might have war. If we fight, well and good. It can't be helped, can it? And I wouldn't have you hold back, Tony, or feel that marriage made you any less of a soldier, for all the money in the world."

And after that Tony Mallagh put from him all thoughts of worry or gloom. The future could take care of itself. If the South Irish Fusiliers were sent to the war, if there were a war at all, he could go, lightheartedly, free from anxiety, knowing that Sybil wished him to fight and to fight his hardest, and what could a man want more than that?


WITHIN the week war was declared and there followed days of worry and endless labor for those in authority: suppressed excitement, feverish activity, much drilling of reservists, musketry, field days, inoculation, inspections, with a vague undercurrent of emotion apparent throughout the whole regiment. Rumors abounded, both in the officers' mess and the men's canteen.

Imperceptibly but surely the bonds of discipline tightened. The Colonel, so it was said, was feeling the reins, and the regiment responded. The number of defaulters grew all of a sudden beautifully less, even the most confirmed of offenders became cautious, drunkenness decreased as by some miracle, nor was it that the non-commissioned officers turned blind eyes on those who fell from the path of virtue. If this were war, war that would bring to the South Irish much honor and glory and more fighting than even an Irish regiment had ever dreamed of, then was it necessary that each man should take the field ready and fit to do credit to himself and his battalion. Also, from the point of view of the rank and file, it behooved the mere private to walk warily lest when the order came, he should be left alone, at home, confined to cells, doomed to inaction and misery, while others more virtuous, fought and perchance died.

The time for good-bys drew near. Shannon, busy with the affairs of his company, had seen little of Tony Mallagh for some days, save in the presence of others, or on duty.

Then, one afternoon, Tony overtook him and said that Sybil was leaving for London the next morning and would he come up to the house, if he could spare half-an-hour or so, to say good-by.

"Yes," said Shannon. "Yes, certainly. Very glad."

"She said she'd like to see you," continued Tony, "and I've been so rushed lately I never thought anything more about it until today. You see, we decided it would be better for her not to be here when the regiment leaves. She didn't want it. No more did I. Too depressing. And she's going to stay with Mrs. Carne in London."

So that evening Shannon sat in the small, bare drawing-room, by the tall window that opened on to the lawn, while the girl, wrapped in a big white cloak—for the night air was cool — talked lightly as one without care.

It was not until Tony, whistling cheerfully, growling about his kit, went off and left them together, that she told why it was she had sent for him.

"It's very good of you to come, Captain Shannon," she said quietly. "I wanted to ask you a favor."

"Anything I can do, Mrs. Mallagh, I will."

"I'm leaving tomorrow," she said, "and this is the last time I'll see you——"

"Till er—we come back," put in Shannon. "Till we er—come back, eh?"

"When will that be? There's always the 'when,' Captain Shannon, isn't there?" For a while she was silent.

From the road there came the sound of some one whistling. In the distance a train rumbled through the night, bound perhaps to tide-water with troops. The breeze whispered in the leaves of the trees, bearing with it the scent of roses. The clear notes of a bugle sounded faintly from the direction of the North Camp.

"Captain Shannon," said the girl suddenly, "the regiment, you and the rest, are going to fight. That's as it should be. No woman worth her salt would wash for anything else."

"It's hard on the married men," said Shannon gruffly. —— hard! I beg your pardon, Mrs. Mallagh—inexcusable."

"It's not easy for us women," she continued in a low voice. "But that doesn't alter facts, does it? And if we are to fight, why—we must fight our best. It's the waiting that tries one, I know, waiting until there's a telegram, or a letter, or even a line in the paper and we learn that what we feared has happened, and—and life isn't worth living any more." For an instant a shade of worry showed in the blue eyes. "I remember when I was only a small girl, my eldest brother, twenty-one he was, was killed at Spion Kop—you were there with the regiment,, weren't you? And we saw his name in the paper before the wire arrived from the War Office. Breakfast-time it was, and mother——"

She stopped and her fingers plucked idly at the white fur on her cloak.

"But it doesn't do any good to think of what might happen. That's why I'm always so cheerful; Tony, too. Thinking makes you imagine things, and then they happen."

"You mustn't talk like that, Mrs. Mallagh," said Shannon, "it's not right. Why—good Lord! Don't you understand that—that——"

He, in his turn, broke off, helpless to say what should be said.

She shook her head.

"Don't think, for one moment, that I'd keep him at home, even if I had the power, or that—that I think he's going to die. I don't. But, Captain Shannon—" she leaned forward in her chair, and her eyes sought his as if seeking some ray of hope or comfort—"listen! I know he'll come back to me, I feel it, but I can't help being a little anxious. I can't really, though I try not to."

"Well!" said Shannon doubtfully.

"What I wanted to ask you was: Would you just keep an eye on Tony when he gets out to the front, and pull him up if you think he's deliberately trying to get himself killed!" She gave a little laugh.

Shannon stared at her in dumb bewilderment. Did she think he could help? Did she think that it was within his power or the power of any mortal to save her husband from harm? Had she no idea what war was or meant? The very calmness of her words and her steady smile was an added mystery.

"Of course I know that he's got to run into danger. I want him to. He's got to prove himself as good as the best. I want to be proud of him. But you know* what Tony is. He's foolish in some ways. He's never seen any fighting yet, and he's bound to be reckless over it, just to show that he's brave, so I thought that if you could give him a word of advice it might help him." She raised her eyebrows. "You don't think I'm panicky, do you, Captain Shannon? I'm not. I'm not even worrying. But— he's all I've got in the world, and—well, if he went, life wouldn't be worth the trouble of living."

A deep pity swept over Shannon, but he did not speak.

"You're not angry with me, Captain Shannon?" she asked.

"Angry! Of course not."

"1 asked you because you've been a friend to him, and—" she hesitated, her cheeks flaming—"and a friend to me, also."

A friend! The word seemed to mock him. A friend! And somehow the old heartache 'and longing that he had imagined put aside forever, came back. He himself had suffered, far more than he had thought possible. So, now, he could feel the agony that gripped the girl seated by the open window —the girl he had once hoped to make his wife. If Tony died, she would lose everything life had to offer. She said as much herself.

"I'll do my best," he said quietly.

"Thank you," she said. "I knew you would."

There were footsteps in the hall, and Tony entered.

"Hope you didn't think I was neglecting you, sir. I've been working over the everlasting problem of packing my kit. How on earth do they expect us to manage with only thirty-seven pounds of baggage, eh?"

Shannon dragged his wandering thoughts out of the future to the present.

"You either leave half what you want behind, or else you start off to the war with about a hundredweight of stuff strapped on to you beside what you've got to carry already."

"Lord! I'm no blighted dromedary. And think of the looks of the thing. I want to look like a soldier, not like a traveling tinker. Bad for the illustrated papers, too. Special attraction: double-page photograph from the front, 'Charge of the South Irish' spoiled by honorable self in foreground, carrying a portable bath-tub, and a pair of waders, and a gramaphone, on my back, and encouraging my brave lads to go on without me, waving a fishing-rod in one hand and the parrot's cage in the other. Not a nice thought, is it? And I couldn't really charge, carrying everything I ought to take with me, could I?"

"You'll excuse him, Captain Shannon, I'm sure. He's not often taken like that. We try and keep it quiet. Sad, isn't it?"

Shannon laughed and stood up.

"I must go now, I'm afraid."

Sybil was also standing, smiling as if they had been discussing the most unimportant topics imaginable.

"Good-by, then, and thank you very much, indeed. You'll write sometimes, won't you? You won't forget, will you?"

"Rather not. Only too delighted."

She held out a small hand. "Good-by, then. And we'll meet after the war is over!"

"Tell you what," said Tony with sudden enthusiasm, "we'll all have dinner together in London as soon as we get back. At the Savoy or the Carlton. Sybil, you won't forget, will you? Or—or if we're all broke by that time, the cabman's shelter at Hyde Park Corner."

"Right," said Shannon gravely. "Mind, that's settled. And we'll go to the theater afterward."

As he closed the gate of the front garden and turned away he saw Tony and the girl standing in the doorway side by side, silhouetted against the light. He wondered as he waved his hand what bitterness and sorrow good-by might mean for them. Less than two months of marriage and then the parting.

And for once Shannon could feel glad that he at least left no one to mourn his going.

TWO days later, very early in the morning, the Second Battalion of the Royal South Irish Fusiliers swung out of barracks and down the white road that led to the station and the battlefields of Belgium. And the tune to which they marched, played by the drums and fifes was "Garry Owen," a tune to which their forbears had set out nearly a hundred years before on a like errand of mercy.

As they passed through the village, men and women came to the door of the houses, windows were thrown open and heads thrust forth, and, as if sprung into existence from nowhere, a swarm of small boys kept pace with the band. The men, marching at ease, laughed and joked their good-bys.

Shannon, picking up the old familiar landmarks with his eyes, listening to the shrill whimper of the fifes, saw standing by the front of a small shop, apart from the people, a girl wrapped in a long coat.

Something about her seemed vaguely familiar. Tony Mallagh marching with the platoon immediately ahead had halted and was waiting for him to come abreast.

He quickened his pace.

"Tony," he said, "there's Sybil!"

"What!" Tony uttered a little exclamation of despair, then making his way through the crowd reached the girl in the long coat.

"Sybil," he whispered. "You shouldn't have. Why did you?"

She held out her hands and smiled.

"I had to."

Whether people were watching or not made no difference now. He drew her to him and kissed her.

"I just had to," she said. "But I never intended that you should see me, Tony. Never."

"My dear, my dear!"

Her lips quivered, and it seemed as if her strength were failing, yet she still smiled at him.

"You'd better go, Tony. I mustn't keep you."

"It's hard, love—I never knew how hard till now."

"Hush! Don't make it worse, dear. I'll be all right while you're away. Remember that, won't you!"

"The war won't last very long, love, I know. It can't."

And why should it? They were only going to fight Germany. And what was Germany? The greatest military power on earth—nothing more. And were they to be frightened because of that? What were mere numbers? Did he not belong to the Royal South Irish Fusiliers, the finest regiment in the whole world, bar none? Was not that sufficient in itself? So:

"It will be all over by the new year," said Tony. "You see if it isn't."

She flashed a little smile at him through her tears, for she was cry ing now, and tried to laugh.

"Of course. Sooner, I hope."

"Good-by, sweetheart. Good-by."

She kissed him on the lips, twice, then gave him a little shove.

"Go, dear. Please."

He turned and hurried after the regiment, a tightness in his throat and a mist before his eyes.


TO THOSE ignorant of war, and they A be many, a regiment's history and traditions may seem of small importance. But a regiment that bears on its colors the names of famous victories, and can trace its ancestry back to the days of Wellington or Marlborough or Clive or Wolfe, has a faith in its own prowess that counts for much when there is an enemy to be faced and beaten.

The very thought of failure was to the men of the South Irish, not merely remote, but impossible. Would they, men who had joined the army of their own free will, men who had served in the four quarters of the globe, go down before those who were conscripts, forced to serve? Not though they were outnumbered, ten to one.

What German regiment was fit to breathe the same air as the South Irish? The rank and file had faith not only in themselves, but in their officers. If there were fighting to be done, the Royal South Irish Fusiliers would show the way to any battalion of any regiment, Scots, Irish, Welch or English, in the army. The Guards themselves could do no more. Even the recruits, fresh from their training at the depot in the South of Ireland, non-commissioned officers, or newly joined reservists, not yet free of the taint of civil life, who talked of war as men who knew its meaning, could feel that they were fighters no less than those others, old soldiers of twenty years of service.

So Tony Mallagh watching his men, hearing their talk and laughter and songs, could rejoice and feel certain in his heart that wheresoever it might be his duty to lead, there they would follow. For were they not of the same blood as the men of Irikerman, and Delhi, and Barossa and Waterloo? The campaign might go against them—generals and staff officers might blunder, plans might miscarry, the artillery" be outranged—but whatever happened, though the machine itself might break down through overwork, the blame could never rest with the men —or not with the men of the South Irish. Not even the thought of Sybil waiting at home for news, entirely took from him the pride he had in his regiment.

Whatever the future might have in store, the present with its steady tramping of many feet, the passing of horse and guns in clouds of thick dust, the little towns in the hot sunlight, the bivouac under the stars, the meeting at cross-roads of other regiments, the bustle and movement and change of scene, was all that mattered.

And then one afternoon there was borne on the breeze a faint far-off rumbling.

"What's that?" said a young private. "Thundher?"

"Thundher?" Telford, the company Sergeant-Major, grimly humorous, chuckled. "That's no thundher. 'Tis a lullaby that ye re hearin. Did ye niver leshen to guns before?"


"Sure, an' it's guns. 'Tis fiel' arthillery in acthioa an' they're fightin' yonda already."

Shannon who had overheard the conversation laughed.

"Remember the morning we heard the guns at Colenso, Sergeant-Major?"

"Colenso! Shall I iver forgit, sorr? An' what happened afther!"

NEXT morning the South Irish Fusiliers were under fire. By noon they were blooded, two men being killed by shrapnel.

The success or failure of a regiment in battle depends on its officers no less than on the rank and file. This is beyond argument. And although skill in the art of war —a knowledge of tactics, strategy, topography, military history and higher mathematics—are no doubt highly useful, the private soldier, and more especially the Irish private, demands in his officer not only skill, but also courage—the courage that stops short of nothing, not even death.

In Shannon, the men of the South Irish found one after their own hearts—their ideal fighter. In the agony and despair of the long retreat from Mons to the Marne, when day after day they were driven along without mercy, footsore and sleepy and famished, turning at times and fighting fierce rearguard actions to save both themselves and others, Shannon never for a moment lost their confidence. Even when things were at their worst—when the German guns raked the trenches, when men were dying like flies in Autumn, when the mere horror and helplessness of modern war sapped the courage and weakened the resolution of the strongest—Shannon was at his best.

And when the limit had been reached beyond which human endurance can not go— when even the finest soldiers on earth, outnumbered, must break—his voice and presence, scornfully tolerant of their weakness, brought back to the men around him their self-respect. He asked no man to go where he himself would not venture. His life he seemed to regard as of no importance. He was without fear. Even casualties that reduced the regiment to less than two-thirds its strength left him unmoved. This was the attitude he purposely adopted. Nothing could be gained, so he argued rightly, in letting his men see that he too felt the shock and horror of death in its most awful form.

Tony Mallagh watched him with despair. For in spite of the tales that he had heard of past campaigns, Tony had never in his heart believed it possible that any man could bear himself in action as did Shannon. Yet what Shannon could do, he, Tony Mallagh, must do also. No matter how fierce the fire, an officer of the Royal South Irish Fusiliers, the finest regiment in the army, must show himself proof against the slightest sign of fear. He must remember always that his men trusted in him to lead them, and that whatever happened, no matter what others in other regiments might say or do, no sign of panic or hesitation in the face of danger should escape him. This was the law of the regiment that must not be broken.

There are some secrets a man will try and hide even from himself. When first he had heard the distant thudding of the field-guns Tony had felt a thrill of fierce excitement. Yet as the time drew near when he should find himself in action a dull lassitude crept over him. His limbs seemed to lose their power. His throat was dry and parched. This, he knew, was nothing. Merely over-excitement. Nervousness. He had had the feeling before, often, before entering the ring to box. It was nothing.

And yet when the regiment came at length into the zone of fire, when the shells began to burst on every side, and the bullets whispered overhead, and men dropped, then did Tony Mallagh, Lieutenant in the Royal South Irish Fusiliers, find himself in the grip of a fear more terrible than anything he could have dreamed. Nor did the fear pass, as he had fondly hoped. Rather did it grow and grow, fed on the sights and sounds of battle.

But though his whole being craved for safety, though had he obeyed his instincts he would have turned and fled, he forced himself to a semblance of indifference to danger. He laughed and jested with his men, he talked easily, he steadied his voice and controlled his movements through sheer force of wall. He was afraid of being killed, afraid of being wounded, and yet still more afraid of being called a coward. This was the greater fear. Had he been less a coward, so he reasoned bitterly, he would have shamed himself forever.

War was terrible. War was the waiting hour upon hour while the enemy's guns searched for the hidden trench. War was the listening to the sobs of the dying and of the wounded who could not die. War was the witnessing of sights more terrible than hell itself could offer. War was the remembering in dead of night those left at home to wait and mourn. Yet, only a few short weeks before—and this was to Tony the most bitter thought of all—war had seemed no more than the long awaited chance to prove his manhood. The first day's fighting in the trendies had told him everything he wished to know. He, Tony Mallagh, who had looked on courage as man's highest virtue, was a coward.

EARLY one morning, before it was light, a large force of the enemy attacked a post held by B Company of the South Irish, a shallow trench thrown up the night before on the edge of a small wood.

When the sky was no more than a pale gray in the east, scattered shots were heard from in front. Soon after, the men of the outlying picket arrived at a double, dragging with them one who was wounded. The Germans were close at hand.

Tony, who had been talking with Shannon, caught his breath. So the Germans were coming, were they? How many? The corporal in charge of the picket did not know. "Swarrms of thim!" he said. Tony found himself shaking as if cold.

But cold or not—and he had not felt that he was cold—he must stand his ground or else people might say he was frightened! And that would never do.

Shannon was speaking.

"They'll be coming along in a minute or so, now, and we've got to give 'em a bit of a dusting."

Shannon's voice was filled with a curious exultation. Tony turned to him, heavy and listless. He was going to fight. He was going to be shot at. And perhaps he was going to die.

Nevertheless, true to his training, he forced a laugh.

"Rather!" he said. "We're in for a jolly scrap, I hope. Like their infernal impudence trying to rush us, isn't it?"

He moved off to that portion of the trench held by his platoon.

His platoon sergeant stretched out his arm and pointed.

"Luk, sorr! Do ye see thim?"

And in the dimness Tony made out advancing toward the trench a gray mass, huge and indistinct and vague.

He gulped unsteadily. Were the Germans so near as that then? Ought he not to be doing something? Did Shannon know?

And then, as in a dream, he heard in succession his own voice giving the word of command, "Number five platoon—at the enemy in front—rapid fire!" the answering volleys from the rifies of his men, and a wild cheering, unlike the deep cheers of British troops, from the foe. Like the oncoming of a wall, the Germans advanced. Tony, fighting back the fears that had gripped him, shivered.

"Let them have it, South Irish!" he said. "Let them have it!"

His men were strangely restive. Their firing was ragged. Three or four were not even firing at all.

"What's the matter, there?" said Tony. "You, Reilly, you're not wounded, are you?"

At another time these same men would have resisted to the death. But now, either one night's waiting, or the mystery and chill of the dawn, or the suddenness of the attack, had sapped their resolution, for without waiting, without warning, as if the movement were prearranged or ordered, they clambered out of their trench and ran.

Tony, knowing that if they left him his only hope of hiding his fears ?was gone, made a half-hearted, despairing effort to stop their flight.

"—— you!" he cried, and his voice was lost in the crash of musketry from the right and in front. "—— you, you fools! Get back! What the blazes do you think you're doing?"

"Go on, bhoys!" shouted a man. "They're on top of us, the divils!"

Tony staggered against a tree, overborne by the rush. The bullets from the Germans, who advanced firing from the hip, were swishing through the branches. A man stumbled and dropped his rifle, then went on slowly, limping. Another shrieked in mortal agony and fell.

And that settled it, so far as Tony Mallagh was concerned. He turned and ran, without a thought save for his own safety. Was he to be left to face the Germans single-handed? Was he to be killed, for the sake of a mere, outworn tradition? Was not his life as valuable to himself as the life of any private, and was it not much more valuable to the regiment?

He had made his way at a quick, shuffling run, almost to the other side of the small wood when his foot caught in a projecting root. He tripped and fell. His head crashed against a tree-trunk and he knew no more until faintly, as if at a great distance, he seemed to hear a voice calling his name.

"Tony, old chap, come on, what is it?"

Shannon's voice, surely!

Tony opened his eyes, to find himself in the wood, huddled against a tree, with the sun just risen, showing like a red orb through the mist, and Shannon on his knees beside him. His head throbbed. He felt dazed and stupid. He put his hand to his forehead and brought it away, covered with blood. Two or three privates stood looking at him. One was wounded.

"Hullo! Why—why——"

"Feeling better?" said Shannon. "We haven't much time to spare, you know."

He noticed then that Shannon was staring at him in a curious way, almost as if he were angry or disappointed or puzzled. He tried to think. Shannon helped him to his feet.

"We've got to be moving, and pretty quick," he said. "They'll be coming on again in a minute or two."

Taking him by the arm, he hurried him off.

"Who'll be coming on?" asked Tony.

And then a dull feeling of horror crept over him. He had turned his back on the enemy. The others had beaten them off; he had run. Did Shannon know? Had he seen him make off? Surely not. It had been too dark. And then....

"Not going too fast, am I?" said Shannon suddenly.

"No," said Tony. "My head aches, but I'm better. Much better. And, what—what happened?"

"You ought to know, Tony. What were you doing, eh?" There was a note of doubt in Shannon's voice.

My fellows bolted. God only knows why!"

"Some of them did. Not all. But what about you, man? What were you doing? Where were you going?"

"Me! I went after them—to rally them. To try and get them back. And as I was doing my best to turn them, I caught my foot and fell. That's all I remember." He ended abruptly.

"Oh!" said Shannon. "I understand. I wondered."

"Looked queer, perhaps," said Tony with a nervous laugh.

"Oh, nonsense! Might have happened to any one."

And Tony felt that a burden had been lifted from off his mind. Shannon understood. Shannon knew now that he had been rallying his men. His secret was safe. But there remained in his consciousness the dread that when next the hour of trial came, when he should be tested once more, he should fail again. For whatever might be believed of him, the truth remained. He, an officer in the Royal South Irish Fusiliers, had run in action.

They joined the rest of the battalion.

"Hullo, Tony, what's wrong? Not wounded, are you?" One of the other subalterns spoke to him.

"Not exactly," said Tony. "Fell and cut my head open."

"Hard luck! Some of your people arrived back here some time ago. looking like lost sheep."

"I know. I tried to stop them."

"Shouldn't worry, old thing. They'll not do it again."

"Hope not, anyway," said Tony.

Shannon was troubled. Even in the fighting that followed, for the Germans attacked once more, and in the retirement early in the afternoon, at the back of his mind, obtruding itself when least expected, was a strange wonderment.

Tony had run, of course. That was obvious. But why? And to hide the truth be had lied. Had he tried to rally his men he would not have followed them so far. What fear was it that had driven him to do what no man should do and call himself a man? Had he been seized with sudden panic? Or could it be that Tony Mallagh, as good a man as ever walked—Tony, die boxer, the best rider in the battalion, Tony, the man who had fought the greengrocer at Portsmouth, was a coward! To Shannon it seemed impossible. And yet it was true Tony had turned his back on the enemy and run. Why?

And then there was Sybil. Sybil waiting at home for news! And Shannon. remembering that last evening in the little drawing-room and how proudly she had talked of Tony, felt a sudden wild anger. Tony, her husband, had proved himself unworthy.

After this Shannon noticed many things about Tony Mallagh that were puzzling. He studied him under fire, on the march and in billets. By the time that the retreat had ended lie had changed greatly. He looked years older, tired, dispirited. He was cool enough in action, that was evident, almost too cool. At a glance it seemed as if he held himself in check. He was cheerful, after a fashion; he still talked in the same amusing, self-assertive manner; he bore, without murmuring or showing himself impatient, every hardship and discomfort; he showed no sign of weariness nor doubt of victory; he was firm with his men, yet always kind and considerate.

Nevertheless there remained to Shannon the memory of the morning when Tony had chosen dishonor rather than face death. Men did run in action, of course. Sometimes even the best were liable to panic. But that Tony Mallagh should have proved himself a coward was to Shannon almost as if he himself had been detected in some wrong.

True to his promise, he wrote to Sybil at the first opportunity, a few' lines scribbled in pencil—

Tony is splendid; you have no idea. He is happy and contented, always. I have heard no word of complaint from him at any time. And he is as brave in battle as any man could be. The men worship him. Honestly, you would think to see him that he had been fighting all his life. He took to it naturally, like a duck takes to water. The best subaltern in the battalion, that's what they call him. We are all very proud of him. He fights as if he were playing football or boxing. If you should imagine from anything lie writes to you that he has reason to be disappointed or worried, perhaps, do not pay any attention. It is not true. We all of us think he has done splendidly, from the Colonel downward.

And the part about the Colonel was, as he discovered soon after writing, quite true. For the Colonel thought well of Tony.

"I'm not saying a word against the rest of 'em," he said, "but Tony Mallagh's the best—far and away the best. I'm very satisfied, indeed."

"Yes, sir," Shannon nodded. "We've as good a crowd of subalterns in the South Irish as you'd want."

"And he's not foolish like young O'Connell, for instance. O'Connell er—seems all the time bent on—well, on showing off. Tony Mallagh's sound. Looks after his men, keeps 'em in hand, won't let 'em kill themselves off just for effect. And you know yourself, Shannon, what that means with a crowd like we've got. No, I'm very pleased with young Mallagh, very pleased, indeed, lie's steadied down immensely of late—since he's been married, in fact. Good wife he's got, too. Very good! Yes, I'm pleased with him. He'll go far."

And, as Shannon discovered, the men were of a like opinion.

THE regiment had halted for a brief rest one night and the men were bivouacked in a large field. The rifles were stacked; the smoke of the fires drifted upward; the sky was a dull orange in the west. Men were scattered about on the grass, smoking or sleeping, worn out by the day's toil, waiting for their evening meal.

Shannon coming in from the pickets stopped to speak to the company Sergeant-Major. He had said all he had wanted to. and was about to move off, when the voices of a group of men seated only a few yards distant drew his attention.

"Did ye see him today whin owld McGinnis was like to dhrop with fatigue, an' his feet worn to ribbons by the dint of the mar chin' we're afther havin'? A good lad is Misther Mallagh, an' no mistake."

"He's unbelaivably sthrick."

"An' with raison. For what wud the reg'mint be like if he warn't, with malingerers an' skrimshankers in it like you, Tim Rafferty?"

There was a laugh at this and another began to speak.

"There's wan fault in him, an' to my way of thin kin' the greathest fault that a soldhier can have. He's a good little man, I'm not denyin' the same, but he ought to be betther. He takes his fightin' too aisy, without judgmint. If he cud but remimber now that we are not at anny fiel'-day, but that the inemy are thryin' their besht fer to kill us, he'd be- as good a man as ye'd want. There's somethin' he lacks. He's no inmity agin' the Gerrmans. But, on the day that he first gits angry, ye'll see great tilings. There'll be no howldin' him."

Shannon was startled.

"That's funny," he said. "Did you hear, Telford, what the men were saying just then?"

"About Misther Mallagh, soit? I heard that, sorr. I dunno' but what they're right, too. Thrust the men to pick out the wake point in an orf'ccr, whin it comes to a matther of flfchtin'. An' Misther Mallagh, sorr, for all that he's as good a young orf'cer as ye'd want over ye, has not yit been worrked up to the pitch where he fights as if ivry wan of the Gerrmans was a privut, personal inemy. He's too cowld an' collected. Wait till he gits angry."


LATE in the afternoon Tony Mallagh and some dozen or so men strung out in open order, made their way down a steep wooded hill-slope toward a small farm, tucked away in the narrow valley. The day was very hot and still, the sky a deep blue, flecked with white clouds. Guns thundered incessantly in the distance.

At the edge of the wood, where the trees grew thin, Tony halted and let his eyes wander from right to left, suspicious of danger. Across a field of bleached stubble lay the farmhouse, small and white, with a red-tiled roof, overgrown with moss and ivy, and showing no sign of life save the thin trickle of smoke from the chimney. Beyond was a large barn and outbuildings, a well and an apple-orchard. Further off again were more trees and the ridge that made up the opposite slope of the valley.

"Purty as a picthure," said one of the men. "Sure, it puts me in mind of Kerry."

"Don't see any one around, do you, Sergeant-Major?" said Tony. "But we'd better be careful."

"There'll be no Germans lift this way, sorr, if that's what ye mane."

"There's a cow yonda, sorr. By the threes."

"I think," said Tony deliberately, "that we'll investigate. Corporal Birkett, you, and Kelly, you, just work 'round to the left, will you. O'Connor and Madden bear away to the right." He paused. "And I think the rest of us can risk walking right up to the front door."

"Mebbe there'll be such a thing as a dhrink o' milk to be had for the axin'," said a private cheerfully. "Or beer."

As they drew near the house, a woman came to the door and stood looking toward them with a hand shielding her eyes from the glare of the sun.

"I wondher now can she sphake English?" said the Sergeant-Major doubtfully.

"Niver yit do I remimber meetin' anny wan what cudn't, save an' ixciptin' that Gerrman orf'cer what we caught in the dhrain two mornin's back—him that swore so fluent in his own tongue whin Tim Dolan dhropped his rifle on top of him."

Tony opened the little wooden gate and walked up the path between masses of flowers. When he was within a few paces of the woman he halted and saluted. She looked at him with a grave face and then as if reassured gave a little nervous bow. A small girl ran out and clung shyly to her skirts. From the back of the house there arose the frantic barking of a dog and the voice of Private O'Connor uttering soothing sounds.

Racking his memory for the right words, Tony began to speak in French, slowly and badly. The woman laughed.

"N'importe," she said. "Je park Anglais—a little. Is it not so? And, monsieur is English?"

Tony nodded, surprised.

From behind his back came a low whisper.

"She's makin' a big mistake. It's Irish we are. South Irish. Corrk, Tipperary. The place it's a long way to."

"Have you had any Germans here?" asked Tony.

She shook her head. They had seen no soldiers at all. Not one. No Germans had come into the valley. Not yet at least. Nor would they. Not now. She made a little gesture of contempt with her hands. They were going. Like frost before the sud. She had no fear of Germans. Why should she have? She was only a woman, doing the work that the good God had given her. Who would harm her? Not even the Germans.

"But," said Tony, "are you here all by yourself? Aren't there any men—belonging to the place? Haven't you a husband?"

To Tony it seemed impossible that a woman should be living with her children alone in the midst of a battle. Surely she must have some man who could help, if help were needed!

Her husband! The woman laughed proudly. Where would he be at such a time? He was fighting—pour la patrie. She hoped, she said, that he was killing Germans. He had left her when war broke out. She might not see him again till the Boches were driven back across the Rhine. If he should die— She gave a shrug of her shoulders. "Monsieur, soyez certain que qu'il mourra bien."

There was no man nearer the farm, she added, than those in the little town across the hill, only her father. But would the officer care to step inside and see for himself? He saw strangers seldom, her father. It would cheer him up. Also, there was milk to be had, and some cider, and perhaps an egg or so.

Tony glanced at the little group of dirty, unshaven Irishmen in their war-worn khaki.

"Telford," he said to the Sergeant-Major, "come along in, and see what her father's like. Queer, eh?"

They entered the house. In the little kitchen which was very clean and neat, with a stone floor and low ceiling and a row of red geraniums in flower-pots on the long window-sill, there sat a withered little old man, with bowed shoulders and wrinkled face and bright eyes. He smiled at Tony, but made no attempt to rise from the big chair in which he was seated in front of the stove.

"Bon jour, m'sieu'," said Tony.

The little old man, who was dressed in black and about whose legs was a shawl of some reddish plaid stuff, nodded and smiled and said a few words in a high, thin voice so quickly that Tony could not grasp their meaning. He turned to the woman.

"He helps you in the work, eh?"

She shook her head, as if such a thing were unheard of.

"Once. Not now. See, monsieur." And then Tony, seeing the crutches leaning against the wall, understood.

"Poor old chap, I'm sorry."

The woman's face clouded suddenly. It was sad. He was helpless, able to walk only with such pain and labor. Helpless. Since five years now he had done nothing. He was not old, but he had aged greatly. His grief when war came—ah, but it was terrible! In 1870 he had been too young to fight; now he was unable. She spoke to the little man and he smiled at her and nodded his head.

"Aren't you afraid to stay here, so near the lighting?" asked Tony.

"And if I left, monsieur, who would look after the farm? The men go to the war for their country's safety, and honor. May not a woman work? Where would the harvest have been but for me? And I am strong, monsieur, as strong almost as my man himself who is a soldier." She laughed. "And if I left, monsieur, where would I go? Also—" she nodded toward the opposite corner of the room where in a cradle between the window and a tall oak dresser lay a baby soundly sleeping—"one has responsibilities, is it not? And where should I go? To Paris! No, monsieur. If my man returns and finds me gone, what would he think? Does a soldier desert his regiment, or his flag? No more does a woman desert her home. I have my duty, even as my husband. If I stay here no one will do me harm. A woman with two little ones is safe."

Tony watched her while she spoke. Hard work, and she must have worked hard since her husband left, had not stolen away her looks. She was well built, not tall, but straight and strong and slender. Her skin was a warm dusky bronze, with a rich red in her cheeks; her hair was a golden brown; her eyes were blue. Once she must have been pretty he was certain. She was that now, indeed, if she were nicely dressed.

The woman was filling a jug from a cask that stood by the dresser, still chattering away in her queer, clipped English, as if glad to have the chance to air her knowledge.

The cider was good, she said, of her own making. Her husband had said that her cider was better than any. And he was a judge. She straightened her back and laughed happily.

And then like the flashing of a searchlight in the darkness it came over Tony that there was something about her, an indefinable something, that put him in mind of Sybil. His lips twisted into a little smile of amusement at the fancy. Like Sybil! But, of course, that was ridiculous! Was he to compare a French farmer's wife with Sybil? As well might he compare Telford, strong and active and healthy, with the little cripple in the arm-chair.

But was the fancy, as he had termed it, so foolish? She did not resemble Sybil in the very least and yet there was a likeness. Her eyes were the same blue, her hair was the same golden-brown. Even her laugh had the same joyous freshness as had Sybil's. And when asked a question of which she was not quite sure, she had the same trick of raising her eyebrow's before answering.

Moreover, there was the certainty that as this girl had spoken of her husband fighting for his country, so also would Sybil speak of him.

The French woman approached, a glass of cider in each hand.

"But, perhaps, monsieur would prefer some wine?"

Tony shook his head. The cider would do splendidly.

"And you're not afraid to be here by yourself?" he asked. "It's very brave of you, but I think somehow it's running a great risk. You're so very near the fighting. And we don't know which way it may go."

She shrugged her shoulders. The good God would preserve her. She knew it. No harm would come if she stayed at home and did the work of the farm.

Tony set down his empty glass.

"Very good, indeed," he said. "Tres bon."

The woman held out the jug. Would monsieur care for some more then? He shook his head and smiled. No, he had had sufficient. They ought to be moving on. If she had a glass or so to spare for the men, though, he would be grateful. She nodded and led the way out of the little kitchen into the sunshine where the soldiers were waiting.

While they drank she watched them with an air of pride and good-nature, and when Tony offered to pay, refused firmly. No, they were fighting for France, for her, for her children. Money, no! It was a pleasure.

Tony beckoned to the little girl and when she came to him, smiling shyly, put a gold coin into her tiny palm.

"Merci, m'sieu'," she said, and running to her mother hid her rosy cheeks in her skirts.

"Where did you learn English?" asked Tony suddenly. "You speak very well indeed. Have you been in England?"

She laughed and shook her head. In England! No, never. What little English she knew, she had learned from an English lady and gentleman for whom she had cooked in Paris. A fine couple, generous to a degree, but so simple! They had stayed a Winter and Spring in Paris to learn French. They had learned no more than a few words, that went without saying, but —again she shrugged her shoulders—but she herself, she had had to learn English. And she laughed once more, as if it had been the greatest joke in the world, and as if the men before her were her own friends and countrymen, and not soldiers of another nation on active service, warning her that the fighting was near and might come nearer.

"Well," said Tony, "we must go now. Maybe we'll see you again. Au revair, madame, and good luck."

They went away, past the barn and sheds and the orchard at the back of the house to the wooded slope on the opposite side of the valley.

When they reached the foot of the hill, Tony turned and looked back. The little farm with its meadows and orchard was like some quiet haven far from the world's trouble and turmoil. For the first time since the morning when he had left home, there had stolen into Tony Mallagh's consciousness a sense of restfulness and peace. There was no war. Men no longer killed and wounded each other to show their love for their countries. The booming of the big guns that never ended became as the murmuring of waves on the shore. In the valley one might live and be happy. Even he, Tony Mallagh, of the South Irish.

And as he gazed he saw the woman standing at the back of the house. He waved his hand in farewell, and with a little sigh followed his men.

"Funny, isn't it," he said to the company Sergeant-Major, "that a woman should stop here all alone with fighting so near! Plucky of her, of course."

"It is so," said Telford. "But I'm thinkin' she's as safe where she is as she'd be if she moved We've no manes of knowin' how matthers are goin' yit, but from what we have seen this past few days, an' the way we're afther pushin' ahead, it luks like the Germans can do nothin' but go bacl^ where they come from."

For a time Tony said nothing. When he spoke again they were nearing the crest of the ridge.

"It's rough on her having to be by herself, isn't it? And she' so everlastingly cheerful. That's what beats me. You wouldn't think her husband was away fighting, would you? He may be dead by this time for all she knows, too."

And once more he thought of Sybil, at home, wondering if he were still alive, hoping and trusting, yet never knowing what minute might bring the news that would take from her life all hope of happiness.

"It's harrd on the women, is war," said Telford. "You an' me, sorr, we're men, an' what do we know what fears that poor sowl down in the valley yonda is sufferin'? An' what's more, we'll niver see her again to find out what's become of her."

In this the Sergeant-Major was wrong.

THAT night Tony found a letter from Sybil awaiting him, the first he had had at the front.


I am wondering where you will be when you get this, or if indeed you will get it at all. I have heard from you four times already, and when your last letter was written you had not had so much as a line from me. But, dear, I have written more than a dozen times. You don't think, Tony dear, that I haven't, do you? I hate to think of your wondering why I don't write, for I did, Tony, really and truly. And I sent off parcels of socks and shirts, for the nights will be cold out of doors. And there were also some cigarettes and cake and chocolate. I do hope, dearest, that something has reached you by now.

I have no news. And the little I have had I told you in my other letters. If you have had them you will know. But it's nothing more than each day the same as the day before. I am very happy with Mrs. Came. She is a perfect dear. We do a good deal of sewing and knitting, socks and things, for the troops. And we read the papers, all of them, and are so proud to hear that the South Irish have done so well. We heard there was a wounded soldier at the London Hospital who belonged to the South Irish, so we went to see him. He was a man called O'Sullivan, in Mr. Packman's platoon, and so interesting. He had seen you in the retreat after Mons, and he said that you were so brave and cheerful, and kind. Oh, my dear, my dear! I nearly cried when he told us. You are having such hardships out at the front, and here am I at home, safe and living in comfort while you are fighting. It seems unfair.

Tony, I never realized how much you were—are to me while I had you at home. Now, I know. You're everything, my dear, everything. And sometimes I wake up at night with a start and imagine I can hear the guns in the distance and I wonder whether you arc lying out in the open, and if it is raining and cold, and where you are. My dear, you are never out of my thoughts. I pray for you night and morning, and sweetheart—don't laugh dear—whenever I've nothing particular to do, whenever I find myself with a minute or two to spare—and that's very often, alas!—I say little prayers to God that He will bring you back to me. I know He will. T feel certain. And I know, love, that you will fight bravely and make your men feel I was so glad to know that they liked' and admired you so much. Sullivan, poor chap, has lost both his arms. Isn't it awful? I do not know what he will do when he gets better. We are hoping that the Government pension will he really enough for him and his wife to live on.

And now, dear, I must end. I do pray that this cruel war may soon be over, and that the South Irish will help to win the victory that is coming. And the day can't come too soon. Tony mine, when I shall see you again. But I am so proud of you, Tony dear. And I just hate and despise any man that at the present time will not see that he is wanted, and that it is his duty to train and prepare himself to fight for his country.

With love, old boy, and heaps of good luck,

from SYBIL.

P. S.—Poor Mrs. Keane! I was so sorry for her when she had news that her husband was taken risoner. She was so sad about it. But I comforted er by saying that there was one thing good in the news, and that was that he was safe at least. If be was a prisoner of war he would at least be out of the fighting. And that cheered her up quite a lot. We hear that his wound is not as bad as it might have been. Major Came wrote and told her. But she felt that it was such a blow on poor Captain Keane to be out of everything from now on.

Tony read and reread the letter. He could almost see Sybil as she wrote it, and he felt that though far away in the flesh, in the spirit she was very near. Had he ever realized properly, in the past, in those few short dream-weeks when they had been man and wife, the depth of feeling in a woman's heart? The letter told him far more fully than the mere words could express what Sybil thought of him, how much her happiness depended on his safe return. Supposing he were killed! It almost hurt him, like some physical pain, to think what life would be for her, the loneliness, the dreariness. If it was bad now, what would it be if he were dead?

He folded the letter and placed it in his pocketbook. What was the use of fretting? Worry would only make things the harder to bear. Because his country was at war he must risk his life. A feeling of sick helplessness came over him. He might be killed at any moment of the day or night.

Nothing could save him. Nothing, except to turn and run. And would that help? Sybil was proud of him. Proud! Oh, God! Proud of a man who was a coward at heart, who had deserted his post in battle, who had to fight his own fears at every turn. And at that the helplessness gave way to a fierce anger. —— war! Why should a man, a free man, consent to do what his whole being loathed. Why? Because he had to. Because there was no escape. He laughed.

"Hullo, young feller, why the mirth?"

Shannon, big and broad and smiling, had entered the little room. Tony felt a sudden envy. What cares had Shannon? Shannon had no one at home depending on him. Shannon went into action free from anxiety. What did Shannon know of the sorrow and grief of parting?

"Just heard from Sybil," he said.

"Ah!" Shannon's square, sunburnt face became very serious. "Ah! and how is she? Fit, I hope."

"I think so," said Tony. "Seems to be. She's a little worried, of course."

"Of course!" said Shannon, and he nodded his head once or twice as if he could understand and sympathize, which, thought Tony bitterly, was the one thing a man like Shannon could not do.

He understand? He sympathize? Why, Shannon had no more feeling about him than a graven image! His whole existence was bound up in the regiment. Anything beyond had no interest. A good chap, that much Tony granted, a splendid soldier, none better, a brave man, but in some ways strangely stupid.

Shannon seated himself on a high-backed chair at the opposite end of the table. The room was rather dark, lit only by one dim oil lamp, hanging from the ceiling. Red-hot embers glowed in the small grate; occasionally ashes fell into the hearth. In a corner wrapped in a blanket one of the other subalterns was sleeping.

Tony raised his eyes to find Shannon gazing at him with a puzzled expression.

"Aren't you going to get any sleep tonight, Tony?" he asked. "It's latish, you know, and we're as likely as not to be routed up by four."

"Dunno'," said Tony. "I'm not tired. As a matter of fact, I'm not sleeping very well these nights."

"Huh!" Shannon grunted. "Why don't you speak of it then, eh? You can't do much if you're not sleeping, you know."

For a minute or so there was silence in the little room. Tony rested his chin on his knuckles and gazed at the blue of the sky that showed through the open window and pondered.

Why had Shannon said that he could do no good unless he slept? Did that mean that he was in fact doing badly? Were people talking of him behind his back? Was the secret, that he had guarded with such jealous care, common property in the regiment? Had Shannon known all along that he had run from the Germans in panic? Had he known that his excuse of rallying his men had been untrue? Perhaps even now he pitied him.

He leaned forward, seized with a sudden determination to learn the worst.

"Would you mind if I asked you a question, sir? It's rather important."

"Ask away, son. Nothing wrong, is there?"

"Well—well—" Tony reddened. It was harder than he had expected. "Well, sir, it's this: How do you think I'm doing?"

"I think you're doing very well," said Shannon deliberately. "Very well, indeed."

Tony considered. The answer was satisfactory, as far as it went. Did it go far enough?

"Have you seen anything to make you think I don't care for fighting, sir? Or that I'm afraid when we're in action?"

"Afraid!" said Shannon. "Nonsense!" But to himself he said: "Now, what's he driving at? What is it he's trying to tell me?"

"Sometimes," said Tony, "I think I'm scared."

"Nine-tenths of the men who go under fire for the first time are."

"Then you wouldn't call me a coward," persisted Tony.

Shannon frowned.

"What the devil's wrong with you tonight, Tony? A coward! No. Don't be an idiot! You're as good as any man in the regiment. I'll tell you one thing, though, and that is——"

He shot a quick glance at Tony. "You don't mind my speaking plainly, do you?"

"Very glad, sir, if you would," said Tony, and his heart began to beat a trifle faster. But now that his doubts were set at rest, Shannon might say whatever he choose. Compared with what he had thought, nothing mattered.

"I'm not quite sure what it is," continued Shannon, "or whether indeed it's anything at all, but you give the impression, Tony, of—well, of not being interested in your work."

Tony nodded nervously.

"I'm interested enough, in a way." He stopped short, wondering what in the world Shannon meant. Not interested! "I don't quite understand," he said. "I shouldn t like the war to go on forever, sir, of course."

"Nobody would," said Shannon dryly.

"It's the uselessness of the whole thing that I hate most," said Tony.

"Is that the sum total of your impressions?" asked Shannon. "I'd like to know what you really do think about it."

"It's hard to say," said Tony, and he felt rather uncomfortable and ill at ease. "I'm a soldier and I have to fight. That I know. But—why should I have to kill Germans? I don't hate them. All I can think of in action is that the men we're pumping lead into, the men who are trying to attack us and are being wiped out, are men like we are; that there are wives in Germany waiting for news—wives and mothers and daughters—just as Sybil at home waits tor news of me. Poor devils! It makes me sick to see the way they go down when they attack in those masses of theirs. It's murder. Poor wretched conscripts! And being driven on by their officers. You've seen them, eh? Like cattle being driven to the slaughter-house. Why?" He ended abruptly.

Shannon was bewildered, out of his depth.

"D'you mean to tell me, Tony Mallagh, that you go into action with thoughts like those. Good Lord, man, it's a mystery to me you don't take to your heels and bolt!" He saw the sudden shame and fear in Tony's face, and hurried on. "Don't you realize that those fathers and husbands and brothers of yours are doing their darn'dest to kill you and me and the rest of us? You kill or be killed. There's no other alternative. Do you think they'd have any mercy on you just because you've a wife at home?"

"No-o," said Tony doubtfully. "Of course not."

There came into Shannon's mind the memory of the conversation he had overheard some nights before.

"Tony," he said. "War's not a game. It's dead earnest. There's only one way to end it quickly and that's by smashing the men we're fighting. Half measures won't do. You're too —— casual about it. I wonder what you'd be like if you got angry. If you're thinking how hard it is on the Germans to be wiped out by our chaps, you'll never do any good.

"And, Tony, remember this: though you're in France you're fighting to keep the Germans out of your own country. And you're fighting for Sybil. And if you'll take my advice you'll get angry and fight as if every German was a personal, particular enemy of your own who was trying to smash up your home and all that you have. If you do that, if you once lose your temper, and see red, well—remembering the story of the greengrocer's horse and the light at Portsmouth, you'll be hard to beat."

Tony sighed a trifle wearily. Shannon had meant to be kind, of course. But he didn't understand. How could he?

As for the advice he had given, it was useless. Had he not enough to do as it was, without worrying his head about matters of no importance? With heartfelt thankfulness he realized that his secret was safe. But for how long? The foe that he fought was Dot the German army, neither horse nor foot nor guns, but himself. Would the day ever come when he could claim the victory? The knowledge of what he really was, sickened him. For Sybil's sake he must live; for Sybil's sake he must overcome his fear.

He laughed abruptly, and then forced a yawn.

"Lord! I'm tired. I think I'll turn in, sir. It was awfully good of you to have told me all that. I'll remember. He stood up and collected his belongings. "Hope there'll be a mail soon again. It's like Heaven hearing from home occasionally. That's the worst of being out here—you're lost."

And the last thing he saw as he dropped off to sleep was Shannon seated in the high-backed chair, his elbows on the table, his head propped by his hands, as one deep in thought.


IN THE three days that followed, though the battle continued with unabated fun', stretching over avast frontage, the South Irish Fusiliers saw but little of the actual fighting, being in reserve. For this Tony was devoutly thankful. The rest put fresh heart into him.

And then one morning when the mists were fading before the sun, a platoon was sent forward to reconnoitre and occupy a lull. Thus it was that shortly before noon Tony Mallagh saw from the slope of the thickly-wooded ridge the small valley and the farm and remembered once more the woman who had reminded him of Sybil.

"I wonder if there've been any Germans around since we were here last," he said, and a corporal standing near him shook his head.

"By the luk of the house, sorr, 'tis the same."

"Maybe it is," said Tony, "but it might be worth our while making sure."

They pushed their way through thickets and tangled undergrowth, under the shade of tall oaks, as fair and full of God's glory as if the grim carnage of war were but a mortal dream, until in a clearing lit by the sun, half-way down the hill, they came across a man who lay on his back, a Highlander, his blind eyes staring up into the blue, his face set in a mocking smile, a line of blood marking his last, lonely pilgrimage on earth.

Tony shivered. The men had halted and were waiting, uncertain, peering through the screen of trees.

"Now, I wonder," said Tony half to himself, "I wonder what brought him here. Poor devil!"

"He wasn't killed here, sorr," said Telford. "It was on the top of the hill he was wounded, he came to the valley to die. Maybe he was makin' for the farm."

Tony glanced over his shoulder.

"Corporal Birkett, I'll get you, and O'Connor, you, to go forward and see if there's any sign of the enemy. There won't be. They couldn't have got in here, or we'd have seen 'em, but we'll make sure. We'll wait at the edge of the field and have you covered in case—Understand!"

They watched the two men crossing the yellow stubble. Everything was very still. The farm seemed even more desolate and forsaken than it had been the first time they had seen it. A heavy silence seemed to brood over the whole place, a silence that was broken at intervals by the crash and re-echoing roar of artillery.

Telford uttered a sudden, half-choked exclamation.

"Luk there, sorr, at the top of the roof, will ye? There's a piece that's missin', an'—sorr, was there no chimney at all, at all!"

The two scouts had reached the door of the house, and it seemed to Tony, a dull anxiety numbing his heart, that they started back in horror.

"Come on," he said, "there are no Germans there anyhow." And he hastened on down the slope in the direction of the farm, outstripping his men.

At the little gate leading to the front garden, O'Connor made as if to stop him.

"Sorr, there's nothin' lift—nothin'."

With a curt nod Tony passed on and stood at the doorway peering in at what had only a few short days before, been the kitchen.

He felt as if some power had robbed him of his senses. He saw, but he could not attach any meaning to what was before his eyes. The effect was clear, the cause was lacking.

The ceiling and part of the wall opposite had gone. The blue sky and the green trees and a shattered barn showed in the gap. The floor, once so white and clean, was covered with debris, rubble and plaster and brick and woodwork. The table in the center of the room was broken. The oak dresser stood to all appearance undamaged, but its neat rows of crockery ware, the cups and saucers and dishes and jugs had been cast down as if by some gigantic hand, obeying some devil's wall.

Tony shook off the stupor that bound him and entered.

Against the stove, crumpled up like a bundle of old clothes, discarded after years of use, thrown carelessly aside, was the little old man, the woman's father, the stone hearth smeared and splashed with dried blood.

Tony stared at him with a feeling of cold fear gripping his heart. Nor could he have spoken, had he been ordered.

There were footsteps behind him. He turned and saw Telford.

"God dheliver us! They're afther shellin' the place. Then—then, then, what in the name of all that's howly—what's become of the woman what give us the dhrink?"

Through the open doorway on his left Tony could see a pile of rubbish, like that in the room in which he now stood, bricks and mortar and beams of wood, with a glimpse of the farmyard, the dark green of the trees and the slope of the hill beyond, taking the place of the wall which was once there.

Nerving himself to do his duty, he entered.

On her knees, crouching by the side of a big, old-fashioned bed, was the woman. Her whole attitude betokened terror, a terror that was far beyond her strength to bear. Her face was turned away, hidden from view, her shoulders were bowed, in her arms she held her baby, with one hand shielding its head.

Tony approached softly, spoke to her in a husky voice, then touched her. She did not move. Great beads of perspiration trickled down his cheeks, his tongue clove to the roof of his mouth. And at last, by an effort, he found his voice.

"What is it?" he asked hoarsely, "What is it? Tell me, can't you?"

He tugged at her arm, tugged and tugged, until unresisting, strangely limp, she moved and he saw her face. Her cheeks were pale, her eyes closed, her white teeth pressed into her lower lip, and under the mass of heavy golden hair, hair that was so like Sybil's—Sybil waiting at home for news of him—was red blood, blood that had trickled down over her forehead, down her other cheek, on to the bed.

Unable to bear the sight, Tony dropped her arm and turned away. His men watched him with curious eyes, silent, apprehensive.

"God!" he whispered. "Oh, my God! Did you see her? Did you see what they've done?"

"What is it, Misther Mallagh?" said Telford. "Ah! don't now, don't let it be disturrbin' ye. Poor things, sure, an' they're out of harrm's way, an' with their throubles inded."

"Both of them," said Tony. "Both. It was the one shell that did it. The one shell, Telford, do you hear me? Oh, my God! Let's get out of it. And they wouldn't leave when I told them. Telford, you heard yourself, didn't you? It isn't my fault, it isn't, is it?"

He staggered out of the ruined house into the open air, shaking in every limb, his senses reeling.

The farm-yard was wrecked beyond repairing: barns and out-houses were crumbling ruins. A few melancholy hens wandered to and fro. A horse lay dead by the well, its legs stretched stiffly out.

O'Connor approached slowly, a dead rooster in one hand, his rifle in the other, his red, dirty face strangely serious.

"Sorr, was there not a little gerrl as well?" he asked.

"Well!" said Tony sharply. "Well!"

"I think, sorr, that we have found her."


The man gave a hard laugh. "Sorr, she is not. Alive? Mother of Jasus! Would ye say that if ye'd seen her? She was frightened, poor little gerrl, an' ran. For yer pace of mind this night, sorr, an' for manny a night afther, ye'll have no wish to luk. Does a shell give life or beauty where it burrshts?"

"I've seen enough," said Tony. "I've seen enough. There's no mercy in war, not in this war. They lake them all—men, women, and even the children. Is there one that they'd spare?" He turned on his heel and went wearily back to the house. "Sergeant-Major!"

"Sorr!" said Telford.

"They've gone, all of them."

"The little gerrl, sorr?"

"Yes." He paused. "Telford, I think I'll leave you here, while I go on with a dozen or so men to the top of the hill. I just want to—to have a look the other side of the ridge. You'd better follow me as soon as you've—you've——"

He broke short, abruptly. His head was throbbing as with fever. He felt sick and dazed. Thoughts came and went haphazard. A fierce anger burned within him; a hatred of war; a horror of what he had seen. For he knew, as surely as if he had been told, that never while he had life in his body—never, sleeping or waking, would he forget, would he shut out of mind the things he had seen that day. And this was war— war, the magnificent; war that men worshiped.

The Sergeant-Major was looking at him with a curious intensity of gaze. He shivered as if chilled to the bone.

"Maybe you'll find some spades and picks in the barn," he said, "or what's left of it—and—and anywhere'll do for the grave, Telford; anywhere you like."

THE South Irish were bivouacking in an orchard near a small village. An unwonted cheerfulness seemed to have taken possession of the men. There were rumors coming from where no man knew, that in the morning the regiment was to be sent into action with the remainder of the division.

To Tony Mallagh, sick at heart, tortured by his own imaginings, pacing to and fro by himself, came Shannon.

"Tony, I want to speak to you."

Tony halted.

"Well," he said slowly, "what is it?"

The light of a fire threw a red reflection on to his worn face. Shannon stared at him, puzzled by his appearance. He looked ill. All the life and strength and resolution seemed to have vanished.

"Hullo! Hullo! What's all this? What's the matter, Tony?"

"The matter!" Tony answered in a dull voice. "The matter, sir. Nothing."

The older man took him by the arm.

"Yes, there is." he said. "Better tell me. Perhaps I can help."

Tony laughed softly. Help! The very idea amused him. "Shannon," he said dropping his voice. "I'm sick of it. That's what's the matter. I'm sick of everything. There!"

Shannon whistled under his breath.

"Steady the Buffs! Come on, Tony, what is it?"

Tony, gazing across the open fields at the distant hills dark against the blue-gray sky, wondered if it were over those same hills that the South Irish were destined to fight their way on the morrow.

"There was a farmhouse in a small valley," he said. "I was there three days ago. I don't know when I've seen any place I liked so much—green woods, yellow cornfields, a farmhouse, covered with ivy, an orchard. The man was away fighting. The wife looked after the farm. You understand, si. She did all the work, everything, and wasn't frightened. She had an old father, a cripple, and two kiddies. The Germans wouldn't harm her, she knew. And she was as happy and busy as if there were no war within a hundred miles. And then today——"

"Well," said Shannon quietly. "Today?"

"Today!" said Tony. "We went that way again. The back of the house was blown to pieces. A battery had had the wrong range or something. Even the airmen might have spotted the farm. Or they might have thought— Oh! God knows! I don't. I daren't think of it, too much. The old man was dead. So was the woman. She had her arms around her baby to save it from the shells. The baby was dead. And in the garden was the little girl. They didn't let me see her. She was dead, of course. Oh, yes, she was dead right enough. That s what we found when we passed there today.

"And me—God forgive me! There've been times when I thought that war brought out all that was best in man. Today—" he snapped his fingers—"today, Shannon, I understood what war was. They'd gone, each one of them. Wiped out. Smashed. And at the end of the war, perhaps, the husband will come home to find—what? Nothing. Only the grave and a wooden cross."

"But, Tony, listen." In spite of himself Shannon was troubled. "Tony, you know what war is by this time, don't you? It's cruel, yes, but—"

"Cruel!" said Tony. "So it seems. Shannon, I wish you could have seen that poor girl today, with the shell wound in her head and her arms around her poor dead baby. What harm had she done? None at all. She thought she was safe. Who'd touch a poor woman who had to work hard? God would preserve her. That's what she said. And a battery two miles away, perhaps, killed her.

"I'll never forget, Shannon. Never. And, Shannon, when I saw her that first time, it came over me that she looked like Sybil. Yes. It's a fact. Like Sybil. That makes it worse. War's killing women and little children and old men. Shells dropping on little houses. What's it matter to us? We re men and we're strong. War's good. It gives us a chance to win medals and V. C.'s and quick promotion. But the women —God help them! No one else will. And perhaps a' home, in London, Sybil is wondering if I'm alive or dead, or—what? And —I dunno, I feel that my nerve's broken for good and all. I'm done."

"As bad as that, old chap?" Shannon patted his shoulder. "Tony, it's no use fretting. You've got to turn in. And—and you'll be feeling better in the morning. You see if you aren't. War's war, old son——"

Something seemed to snap in Tony's brain. He laughed harshly and walked off, leaving the other staring after him. bewildered and worried and somewhat frightened by his manner.

A square, thick-set figure passed him by.

"Is that you, Telford?"

"Sorr." The company Sergeant-Major saluted.

"Telford, what's happened to Mr. Mallagh?"

"He was all right this afthernoon. sorr." said Telford.

"You noticed nothing different about him then?"

"Well, sorr, mebbe he was a bit quiet like afther we seen where the Gerrmans had dhropped a few shells on top of a house. An' I don't wondher. It wasn't a sight ye could luk at an' not feel, sorr."

"Oh, I see! Thank you, Telford. It doesn't matter, I thought perhaps he was sick, that's all."

The Sergeant-Major drifted off. For some minutes Shannon did not move. And as he pondered on what Tony Mallagh had said, there came to his mind the thought of Sybil waiting at home and the memory of the evening when they had sat opposite each other in the small drawing-room and he had heard from her own lips why she had wanted him. Little more than a month had passed since then. It seemed impossible. Whole years could not have made more difference to her husband. And the future!

At that moment the future seemed to Shannon dark and dreary, full of misery and doubt and uncertainty. Supposing that on the morrow when the South Irish went into action Tony were once more to show himself a coward! Supposing that this time there would be do hiding it from others! Supposing he tinned and ran, not in the gray of the dawn, but in broad day in full view of his company! Supposing he ran and lived! Would even Sybil consider his life worth the price he would have to pay?

Yet if ever a man had showed fear in his words and looks and manner, thatman was Tony Mallagh.


TO THE man who does the actual fighting, who goes into the firing-line and with rifle and bayonet endeavors to drive back the foe, a battle is but a grim dream, incoherent and vague, a series of disconnected incidents. His range of observation is limited. He knows what is happening in his immediate neighborhood and nowhere else. His regiment or brigade may be hurled forward in a fierce onslaught, their losses may appal him—surely this is the hardest fighting that man has ever seen— yet the attack may be but a feint, a mere pretense to cover the real attack elsewhere.

He and his comrades may be sacrificed so that others may win. He may be ordered to advance and retire, and then to advance once more, to all appearance without reason. And what he may think a defeat, judging from what he has seen with his own eyes, from the losses in his own regiment or company, may be as great a victory as ever army won.

Thus it was with the men of the South Irish. For, although they were in the firing line, one of the leading regiments in the movement, they knew but little of what was happening, even in their own immediate front.

By noon they had reached the shelter of a wood where they were told to wait. Later the German field-guns opened a heavy fire. A few men were killed and a few more wounded, and the stretcher-bearers were busy.

Murmurs came from the ranks.

"The curse of Cromwell on all Gerrraans! Where are they now? Why is there nothin' to be shootin' at?"

"Are we niver to go forward at all?"

"Sure, it's naythur shell-fire nor muskethry nor yit chan-gin' that's the worrst part of bein' in acthion; 'tis the iverlastin' settin' around doin' nothin' that wears a man more than annything."

Shannon came hurrying up just as a shell burst among the trees some yards in front of where a dozen or so privates were lying. They rose to their feet as one man and ran back. One fell on his face and did not move. From the enemy's position in front the crackle of musketry broke out. Bullets were wailing and whistling through the air with the sound as of a swarm of monstrous flies. A bugler coughed and slid over into a limp heap.

"Where are you men going?" asked Shannon sternly. "Get back at once, do you hear? Get back! Right back now!" They moved sullenly to where they had been waiting.

Shannon wondering if anything had happened to Tony Mallagh let his eyes wander quickly from side to side. The men lay in a natural gully or ditch that zigzagged along the slope of the hill. Some talked in low voices, others puffed at their pipes in silence^ few unmindful of the bullets, dozed. The sky showed blue in the gaps of the green overhead. Through the trees were glimpses of meadows and cornfields and woods, held by the enemy, all faint and flickering in the heat haze.

Shannon turned impatiently. Two men were carrying the wounded bugler away on a stretcher. He watched them with a little frown. And then he saw the man for whom he had been looking.

Seated on a fallen tree-trunk some little distance behind the line of waiting soldiers, his shoulders bowed, his chin resting on the palm of his right hand, his elbow resting on his knees, was Tony Mallagh.

Shannon, stirred at last to take action, strode toward him.

Tony raised his head as he came up. His face was gray under the brown, worn and wretched; lines showed about his eyes and mouth. His whole appearance gave the impression of fear, fear that had left him without energy or strength of mind. Or so it seemed to Shannon.

"Tony," he said, and he spoke in a whisper so that no one might overhear. "What the devil are you doing here? Why aren't you looking after your men? Don't you know that they're under fire, and getting restless? What's wrong with you?" Shannon's anger flared up, white-hot. Only by an effort could he control his voice, "If y you're a coward, for Heaven's sake don't let the men see it. Pull yourself together, man. Don't you understand what I'm saying?"

The words were strong, but no stronger than the case warranted. The time for sympathy had gone by. Only shame, the sense that others had guessed his secret, would drive Tony to do his duty. Better by far to lose a friend than that that friend should lose the respect not only of others but of himself. And if what he said had no effect, then nothing would. The case was hopeless.

Tony stood up slowly and gazed about him in a dazed way, as if he had not grasped the meaning of what was said to him.

"I've done nothing, have I?" he muttered.

"Nothing!" Shannon dug his heel into the soft moss covered with pine-needles. "That's just it. You've done nothing. We're going forward presently to take that village, and you've —— well got to set an example. See! If you're too scared to do what's right, how the blazes do you expect your men to?"

Tony understood. Shannon, poor, dense fool, thought that he shirked the fight. He, Tony Mallagh, afraid! He laughed. After seeing the house with the dead woman who had looked like Sybil! He was a soldier, fighting for his home, for the girl who was dearer to him than anything in the wade world.

"You don't think I'm afraid, do you, Shannon?" he said.

"Yes," said Shannon bluntly. "I do. And, man, think of Sybil. It's for her sake, Tony, as much as ours. How would she like to hear that when you were wanted you failed?"

Tony was smiling, his head slightly tilted on one side.

"So you think I'm afraid, do you? Good God! After what I saw yesterday. Why, man, all that I'm afraid of is that the Germans mayn't wait. That's all. And you think I'm a coward, do you? Why?" His eyes glinted with a curious anger. "Because of what I was fool enough to tell you?"

"Because of a good many things. Your looks to start with. I saw you looking like you are now, once before. I never told you, I never intended to tell you, but I must. You remember that morning when some of our fellows bolted and I picked you up with your head all cut? Tony, you were running then. If you'd only been trying to rally the men you'd have been back long before you got as far as all that. Understand! That's why I'm frightened now. Because you look the same as you did then."

"All right!" said Tony. "Sorry if I've made you think I'm worse than I am. I did run that time I know. Don't judge me. though, by what I was then. Maybe you think that I'm still a coward! I think—" here he laughed lightly—"I think that I'll prove you're wrong. And I'm going to prove it for Sybil's sake as much as my own."

"Well and good," said Shannon. "I'm glad to hear it."

"You remember the greengrocer's horse?" said Tony.

"Well! What's that got to do with it?"

"Oh, nothing!" said Tony. "Nothing."

Shannon turned and walked off, feeling dissatisfied and worried and for the moment not quite certain that he had taken the right course. He had angered Tony, he knew, and hurt him, yet he had no great hope that what he had said would awaken a sense of duty.

When he had gone some little distance he looked back. Tony was standing in the same attitude, head on one side, hands behind his back, staring after him.

AFTER the day's fight was over, the General in command of the division rode up and congratulated the South Irish Fusiliers, or what remained of them. They had achieved what in other wars would have been deemed the impossible. The sacrifice they had made had not been in vain. He was proud to remember, so he said, that he himself had served in their ranks.

And the remnants of the regiment, a bare two hundred and fifty men, ragged and war-worn and tired, stood to attention in the streets of a battered village and felt very proud of themselves and very hungry and very thirsty. As for what they had done, that was nothing. They had fought and driven the enemy before them, as they had promised always if the chance were given them.

If the General was surprised, they at least were not. Were they not the Royal South Irish Fusiliers—the Tipperary Tigers? In their hearts they pitied the Germans who had had to face their onslaught. Poor fools! Did they think they could withstand an Irish regiment with the bayonet?

In the last wild rush when they had been launched across open ground at the enemy's trenches, with their bayonets glinting in the yellow evening sunshine, the deep roar of their cheering swelling loud above the crackle of musketry carried a message both to friend and fot*. The South Irish Fusiliers were charging. A savage exultant yell told that they had met the Germans and that the trench was theirs, and the regiments on either side, line after line, took up the shout and dashed forward to do their share.

"But," as the South Irish put it, "we was the fellas that showed thim the way. An' it was Misther Mallagh what made us do what we did!"

"Ah! An' what kind of madness was it that dhrove him on?"

"Himself knows! Did ye see him whin he came back and sthud with the bullets whistlin' all round him, as cool as ye plaze, an' axed if we was wishin' to live foriver an' was it a tay-parthy or a battle we wanted? A gran' young orf'cer an' no mistake!"

"Indade, an' ye sphake no more than the thruth. But it was not a tay-parthy a man wants more than wance in a lifetime. The cosht was a dale too high."

They had lost heavily from the very moment that the word had sent them forward out of the shelter of the wood toward the Germans. Their advance through the harvest fields and meadows and orchards had been stubbornly contested. They lost their colonel, shot through the lungs, a major, two captains and three subalterns. No more than six officers, unwounded, survived.

And always in the very forefront of the battle went Tony Mallagh, no longer carrying a sword, but a rifle and bayonet, fierce in attack, savagely intolerant of delay, stern, implacable, and disdainful of life.

Once, when the regiment had carried a village after fierce hand-to-hand fighting in the streets and houses, and the men of his company had swarmed around him, cheering wildly, he had glared at them with cold eyes and growled angrily, like some dog robbed of a bone. The stupor of battle which is worse than drunkeness held him in its grip. Did they know' that they were wasting time or not? he had said. Were they tired of being soldiers, or what? Would they like their tea and cakes now, or would they wait till later when the table was laid and their bibs were ironed?

All these things and others were remembered of him after he had led the last charge. Late in the afternoon the brigade crossed a stream in the face of heavy fire and went forward, driving the Germans before them through the trees.

The sun was setting by the time they had cleared the wood of its defenders.

A strange hush had fallen on the field of battle, a hush that was broken only by the incessant roar of the guns. Yet the men of the South Irish streaming onward, grimly silent, knew that the real struggle was still before them.

At the edge of the wood they found in front of them a stretch of open ground, sloping slightly upward, bare of all cover, and a fierce storm of bullets from the hedgerows and orchards and houses swept their ranks.

They fell back in disorder to the shelter of the trees. Urged to fresh effort by their officers, they poured in volley after volley, and started forward once more, only to waver and break and go back, leaving behind their dead. German marksmanship they despised, but this hell of fire from rifles and machine-guns was more than man born of woman could face and live. Or so they had thought. All that soldiers could do they had done. They must wait for reinforcements.

But this time Tony Mallagh, bareheaded, grimed with sweat and dirt, but as cool and calm as on parade, smiling a little so men said later when they talked it over, did not retire with his company. He stood by himself, a mark for a half-score of machine-guns, perhaps more, and rifles without number, upright in the midst of the fallen.

The men had watched him, wondering when would come the bullet that would lay him low. Some had shouted for him to get back, that he would be killed, that they themselves could not shoot for fear of hitting him.

"Are you afraid, then, South Irish?" he had laughed. "Do you want German conscripts to boast that they licked you in fair fight? Are you so fond of your miserable carcases?" Here he had raised his hand to his face and they had seen the red smear of blood. Again he had laughed. "Good-by, then. I'd be ashamed to be seen dead in the company of a pack of —— cowards like you are! And you call yourself Irish! I'm proud to know that you'll not go where I'm going."

He turned with a little gesture of contempt and walked deliberately toward the enemy, rifle in hand.

A young subaltern shouted, "Don't let him go alone, South Irish!" Jumping to his feet he started after him but fell with a bullet through his heart. A dozen men followed.

ONE after another they dropped. And after that not even discipline, not even direct orders from their officers, would have held back the South Irish. Cowards, were they! They would prove that whatever they might be they were far from being cowards.

As they went forward with the wild, savage yell that gave warning far and wide of the coming of the bayonets, Tony Mallagh glanced back over his shoulder and laughed. Then he began to run.

Men fell by scores in the rush across the open; he was not touched. Neither machine-guns nor rifles brought him down. Bleeding from his wound he reached the German position well in advance of the nearest man. Using both the butt of his rifle and his bayonet, he fought his way into the trench. A swarm of grav-clad figures seemed to rise up and engulf him. And that was the last seen of Tony Mallagh for some time.

Like a wave breaking on a rock-bound shore, the South Irish burst through the enemy. Those that awaited their coming died. Those that fled they chased through the streets of the little village. A few escaped, but not many. It was a fight after their own hearts, a great and glorious fight. That the South Irish Fusiliers existed no longer save as a mere fragment of a battalion mattered not. No other troops could have done what they had done. They were proud of themselves, and justly.

Telford and a couple of wounded privates found Tony Mallagh under a pile of corpses in the orchard at the back of the trench.

"He's dead, poor fella!"

"Indade, an' he's not. Not yit, at laste. Mother of God! Luk at the wounds that he has."

Tony opened his eyes as Shannon came up through the trees. He dropped on to his knees by Tony's side.

"Tony, old man, are you badly hurt?"

"Hurt!" whispered Tony. "No."

He lay on the grass under the trees, his head in Telford's lap. And seeing him. there was no one present who did not know what the end must be.

"Take it aisy, sorr. There'll be a docthor along in a minute."

"Oh, Tony, Tony!" said Shannon bitterly.

"S'sh! What's that?" From their left came a deep roar of cheers.

"They're afther takin' another trinch," said Telford. "That 'ull be the Cumberlands."

"Shannon," said Tony, "T can't live, II know. I want to, and yet—yet somehow I don't. It was the house and the woman who was killed—remember! And the greengrocer's horse at Portsmouth." His mind seemed to be wandering.

"Not long now," muttered Telford. "Not very' long, poor bhoy!"

For a while no one spoke. The cheering had died down. Only the sullen boom of the field-guns thudded on. The sun had set and the sky was a brilliant crimson over the hills. .Another regiment was passing, rank after rank of dark figures against the bluish-gray of the trees. The dying man stirred uneasily, and Shannon bent nearer, so that he might catch the least whisper.

"I wasn't afraid, Shannon, was I? I wasn't this time, at least. I was before, though."

"Afraid!" said Shannon. "I never saw anything so splendid in all my life. We wouldn't have won the trench but for you, Tony. We couldn't have."

"Something's fretting him," said Telford.

"Tony," said Shannon suddenly, "is there any message for—for Sybil?"

"Sybil!" said Tony. "Sybil!" He stared at Shannon with a look of doubt, almost as if the words he had heard held no meaning.

"Yes. Is there nothing I can do?" Surely he would be thinking of Sybil, thinking and wondering and worrying! Surely it would help him if he knew that any message he might give would reach herl "She'll be very proud of you, Tony," he said.

A wistful little smile crept into Tony's face.

"Don't you understand, Shannon, I'll be seeing her myself? I'll tell her—yes, I'll tell her everything. Good and bad, eh? She'll be glad, won't she?"

Shannon caught his breath sharply. Poor old Tony! He was going out at last then. Did he think, though, that he could live to see Sybil?

"He's wandherin' a thrifle," whispered Telford.

No one spoke. The end was very near. Then with an effort Tony tried to raise himself. A gleam of amusement showed in his tired eyes.

"Dirty work, fighting," he murmured. "Glad I didn't order a new kit, eh?" He closed his eyes.

The little group waited for a while in silence. Then Telford lowered the boy's bead on to the grass.

"He's gone," he said. "An' but for him we wouldn't be where we are now."

"God help the girl!" said Shannon hoarsely. "It's hard on her. Awful hard! Poor old Tony!"

A subaltern with a bandaged face hurried toward them.

"Is Captain Shannon there?" he called.

"Well," said Shannon.

"The General's coming this way, sir, so I thought I'd tell you. You see, sir, Major Came's wounded, and you're the senior surviving officer, and——"

"All right," said Shannon wearily. He stood up. "I won't be a minute."

One of the privates stooped down and gazed into Tony's face.

"Poor young fella! He was happy whin he wint wesht. Luk at the smile on him. Wud he belaive he was afther doin' all what he has done?"

"We've losht heavily this day, Pathrick, said another, "but there's none we cud have spared the liss than this wan."

"I wondher did they hear the banshee lasht night in Kerry. Himself comes from Kerry, I know."

Tony Mallagh was buried where he had fallen in the orchard. It was a starlit night. The guns had ceased. A cool wind blew from the north.

Sick at heart, Shannon turned from the grave. It would be very lonely without Tony Mallagh. Never before had he realized what Tony had been to him. Something had gone out of his life, something that could never be replaced. And then he remembered Sybil.

The thought of what the news of Tom's death would mean to her was like a knife-thrust in the heart. Had he done all In his power to keep the promise he had made? Had he tried to do his best to save her husband from running into danger? Had he not rather sent him to his death? Shannon pondered.

It had been no feeling of cowardice that had gripped Tony that morning, he knew, rather a dumb loathing of inaction. But supposing that it had been fear! Supposing that Tony had deserted his men in battle! Supposing that Sybil had heard! Would life have been worth living, for her, or for him?

WAR was glorious. War was great. And war was hell. But Tony Mallagh was dead, and Sybil must be told, and from him, Shannon, who would have given all he possessed to win her gratitude and thanks, must come the news.

He entered the little house in the village where he was to spend the night. The room still bore the marks of fighting. On the boards were dark stains. Bullet holes scarred the plaster of the walls. German rifles and helmets lay in one corner, A soldier servant was lighting a lamp.

Shannon seated himself at the table and searched in his pockets for pen and writing-tablet.

If he must write, it would be as well to write while he had the chance. Tomorrow it might be his turn to die. Waiting would only postpone the agony. Then he wrote:

Dear Mrs. Mallagh:

I am sitting in a little French cottage in a village which the South Irish have just carried at the point of the bayonet, writing a letter that will bring you the saddest news you have ever had.

Tony is dead. He died a glorious death. But for him we would never have taken the position.

And what else could he say? Shannon stared blindly at the white paper before him.

A subaltern came slowly toward the table.

"Lord! I'm done in."

Shannon looked at him.

"Tired, eh! You did well today, very well."

The boy's face flushed under the mask of dirt.

"Thank you, sir. But of course—we none of us did very much compared with poor old Tony. My hat! That was great. I never saw anything like it. He told me this morning early while we were in that wood that he didn't think he'd ever see another sunset. Said something seemed to tell him that he wasn't meant to live. And there was something about a house that he'd seen and a woman who was killed. I dunno', I think it had got on his nerves, and all he wanted to do was to kill Germans. Queer, wasn't it?"

"Don't understand. Don't understand at all," said Shannon. "And he died knowing his wife was at home waiting. He was all she had in the world—and now he's taken away from her. Rough luck on her though. It always is on the women—always."

"Poor old Tony!" said the boy. "I'll never forget, never, the way he walked off by himself, as cool as you please, and then laughed when he found we were coming after him."

The regimental Quartermaster, a stout, square-shouldered, round-faced little man, bustled in.

"Hullo, O'Brien," said Shannon; "where on earth have you come from?"

The little man was angry.

"Isn't it my luck at all? Another fight, the besht of the lot, an' me out of it, fooling about afther supplies. They're saying, though, that half the battalion's wiped out? Is that so?"

"Yes," Shannon nodded drearily. "We don't know for certain yet. The Colonel's gone. I'm the senior officer left."

The Quartermaster dropped into a chair.

"An' me out of it all. I'd have given a month's pay to be in it. An' ye charrged across open ground, did you, an' took their trench? Well, well!"

"We wouldn't have done it but for Tony Mallagh, though," said the subaltern.

"You don't say!" said the Quartermaster. And he listened with wide open eyes while the story was told. At its finish he brought his hand down with a crash on to the table. "God! That's the bravest thing that I ever heard tell of. Will they give him the Cross, do ye think? To his wife, I mean! He deserves it. An' me out of it all! It's a shame."

The little man's grief was very real. Shannon turned once more to his writing.

"Oh! By the same token, I've some letters here which I brought with me." He took out a small packet. "There's one for Captain Shannon, two for—yes, yes, one for——"

"Any for me?" asked the subaltern quickly. "Two! Good biz!"

"An'," said the Quartermaster. "Here's wan that I have for Tony Mallagh himself." What had I better do with it? He passed it over to Shannon.

The handwriting seemed strangely familiar. Shannon frowned as he tried to remember where he had seen it before. Another letter, lying on the table caught his eye.

"It's the same as this, isn't it?" he said. "Why, good Lord! It's from Mrs. Carne. Did I tell you her husband was wounded? O'Brien, was there no letter for Tony from his wife—no other letter, at all?"

"Not so far as I'm aware," said the Quartermaster. "Nothin' more for tha mess at all, save some parcels that are cornin' on later."

Shannon felt as if a cold hand had touched his heart.

"I don't know," he said, "I don't know, but I don't like it." He paused. "Look here, I'm going to open this letter and see what it says. I'm writing to Mrs. Mallagh now, you see, and——"

He opened the envelope with clumsy fingers.

For a brief moment he could not see to read. The words were all blurred and uncertain. Then the mist cleared. And a sick horror came over him.

It was not a long letter; just a few lines that were to have brought grief and sadness and suffering, the greatest he would ever know, to Tony Mallagh. Sybil was dead. The illness had been short. Indeed, there had been no illness at all. She had said she was tired and had lain down on her bed to rest. Later, when they came to look for her, she was dead. So the Major's wife had written. She grieved more than she could say. She knew what it would mean to one so far away, yet she had thought it her duty to write.

The letter fell from Shannon's fingers on to the floor. He stared blindly across the room, seeing nothing, only the face of the girl whom he had loved, smiling tenderly, with her blue eyes full of sadness and pity.

He rested his head in his hands and tried to think.

Some one touched him on the shoulder. A voice spoke to him.

Why wouldn't they leave him alone? Couldn't they see that his heart was broken? Didn't they know that the girl—the sweetest and dearest girl in the world was dead?

And then something seemed to rise up and choke him. Sybil was dead, yes. But would that make any difference—to hiih? Why? She was Tony's wife, and nothing to him at all. Her husband was dead, and she was dead, and no one could wish things different from what they were. And Tony —Tony had said that he would see her soon, that there was no message. Why? Had he known just at the last, or what?

Shannon lowered his hands.

"Yes," he said huskily. "Yes, did you say anything?"

"Is it bad news you have in the letter?" asked the little Quartermaster. "You're lookin' ill."

"Bad!" said Shannon fiercely. "Bad! Good God, no! Why, it's the best news I've ever had in my life. Sybil—Tony Mallagh's wife is dead. You understand? She's dead. And I'm glad."

He rose to his feet and walked slowly out into the darkness.