The MONEY MEDAL
W. REDVERS DENT
An amusing tale of two heroes at arms and their mutual discovery of the sinister significanee of the phrase, “What price glory?”
I'ATES to say anything against any man,” said Spike Molton darkly, his sparrowlike face glowering. “Especially me bein’ an Englishman and 'im a blinkin’ Canadian. But these here men wouldn’t be so ready to cheer him if they only knowed how he got that medal.”
Jack Dayley, reporter for a Medicine Hat newspaper, looked at the joyful, boisterous throng of men who surrounded one of the town’s best known characters, one Herbert Clayton, known to his familiars as "Tubby” because he was five feet eleven and thin as a bean pole. The latter’s lazy, humorous, brown eyes, set in a lean, cadaverous face, were wandering over the crowd of veterans who clustered around him.
“Some say, ‘Old Tubby,’ others say, ‘Good Old Tubby!’ ” they yelled, and hoisted their glasses high.
Tubby smiled, as who would not on the anniversary of the biggest day of his life? Fourteen years before, to the day, the King had bestowed upon him the Military Medal for conspicuous gallantry.
He waved his hand for silence. The grinning crowd of veterans who now, ten years after the great conflict, were growing silvered about the temples and developing paunches, grew quiet as they waited for him to speak.
“I can’t tell you how much I appreciate you guys giving me a time like this,” Tubby began, his eyes travelling affectionately over their smiling faces. “I appreciate this, I sure do, and, just to show you I’m a good sport, I say free beer for everybody. Yes, sir, free beer!” His eyes stopped momentarily as they encountered the cockney features of his erstwhile chum in France, and his face hardened. “Yes,” he went on, a little more self-consciously, "free beer for everybody - except Spike Molton.”
For a second Tubby’s and Spike’s eyes met over the crowd, and both men showed definite enmity. But the others broke the short silence with a burst of cheering.
"You see? What did I tell you,” Spike said, turning back to the grinning reporter. “He knows I know, and he ’ates me because of it.”
"Now, Spike,” said Dayley, "you can’t tell me Tubby didn't earn his medal honestly. Why, he captured a whole machine-gun crew and was wounded when he did it.”
The other smiled sourly, his usually good-natured face now dark and sombre.
“I tell you, I know why he won it.”
“Come on now; be a sport. You’re sore just because he showed he was a better man than you.”
"He what? B’gosh, I I ”
“Now, Spike, forget it. After all, he did earn the medal, didn’t he? The King doesn’t give medals for nothing.”
“It ain’t that at all,” Molton said bitterly. “It ain’t got nothin’ to do with the King. Why, we was good pals in France ”
“I heard that, too. Well, then, why are you sore at each other now?”
“Well, Tubby thinks I got the money.”
“The money that made 'im go and get wounded so he could get it, and instead he got the medal.”
Dayley threw his hands heavenward.
“For Pete’s sake, Spike, start at the beginning.’
,rT'WAS way back in nineteen fifteen (said Spike)
L when I fust met Tubby. The war had been goin’ on a year then, and, if I do say it, I was doin’ pretty well. I had a nice job at the munition works, a sort of watchman you know I can’t work hard ’cause I’ve bad kidneys, always had ever since I was a child. Any time there’s hard work around, why it fair makes me dizzy just to look at it. But this watchman job was different. I didn’t have to do nothin' except just sort of moon around, and they give me six dollars a day for doin’ it. Nice job that was.
Well, as I say, I had pots of money, so one night I decide to do meself proud and get me a suit of hand-medowns. That’s how I met Tubby.
He was clerkin’ in a clothing store on Second Avenue - he had had to go to work just like I did when the war started, ’cause the Government said, “Work or go to jail.”
I walks into the store where he is supposed to be workin’ and orders a suit.
Tubby sells me one, with underwear and socks and a new derby hat—brown derby it was, a real nice hat. The
sergeant-major pinched it, the--Anyway, as
Tubby and I were passing the time of day, in walks a recruitin’ sergeant.
“Young man,” he says, “you shouldn’t be buyin’ that kind of clothes. You should be gettin’ a free suit from the Government.”
I looks at him dignified and says, “Who, me?” sort of indignantlike. And he says, “Yeah, you.”
Then I looks at Tubby haughtylike, and I says:
“Hear that, Mr. Clayton? He wants you to join the army.”
“What, me?” asks Tubby, all upset.
The recruitin’ sergeant turns to ’im and says:
“Why not? This country supports ye, why shouldn’t ye fight for it?”
“Hear, hear,” I says.
Tubby looks sort of dumbfounded at the idea of fightin’, and he says:
“But, officer, I ain’t no Englishman. I’m a Canadian. Why should I fight when there’s all those Englishmen to be killed off first?” Lookin’ over at me.
The recruitin’ sergeant grunts.
"Who,” he says, “looks after you with its navy, who protects you from the Germans? It’s the English.”
“Yes,” said Tubby, “and if they wants to do it, I says
go ahead and do it, but let me alone to carry on business.”
“You should help out your motherland,” says the sergeant.
Tubby scratches his head at that one, and is tryin’ desperate to think of an answer when I gets an idear. I thinks no blinkin’ army doctor will ever pass me with the kidneys I got, so I stands straight up and looks that recruitin’ officer right between the eyes.
“Look, ’ere, officer,” I says. “Blimey, I’ll fight for the bloomin’ country if Mr. Clayton here will.”
Tubby looks sort of funny at that. Then all of a sudden he begins to grin and rub his hands together. He looks at me, and then he looks at the recruitin’ sergeant, and he says:
“You heard him, sergeant. I agree. You’re a witness.”
I begin to feel sort of funny at that, but I can’t back out now, so off we both goes to be examined by the doctor. I near burst out laughin’ at the thought of how Tubby would feel when I was turned down and he was accepted. But he was sort of grinnin’, too, and after a while I begun to wonder why.
They called themselves doctors! They should have been called blacksmiths, that’s what. Me havin’ kidney trouble since I was a kid . . .
Vl/'ELL, we got to the recruitin’ station, and I was *V the first to go before the doctor. He looks me ove>and says, “A fine specimen of manhood.” And me as naked as the day I was born ! I looks at him sort of weak like and I says:
He stops smilin’ all of a sudden and his eyes went black as thunder.
“Surely you ain’t goin’ to say you ain’t fit?” he shouts at me.
But he didn’t scare me. No, sir. The thought of those poor boys in France fair made me bold as brass, and I says:
“Doctor, I want to fight—never did a man want to fight more than I do—but, doctor, it is not to be, it can’t be.”
He looks at me queerlike and says softly:
“And why not?”
“My kidneys, doctor. Ever since I was born my kidneys have been weak. I’m liable to pop off any time.”
“Oh, you are, are you?” he says. “Let me look at those kidneys.”
So he takes a box and sticks it over my kidneys and
listens, and then he smiles kinda funny.
“Ain’t I got bad kidneys, doctor?” I asked.
“He slaps me on the—well, he slaps me, and he says:
“I never examined a more fit man.
Out you go now; you’re in the army.”
I felt sort of paralyzed.
“In the army, doctor?” I asks.
“In the army,” he says back. “And call me ‘sir.’ ”
“Yes, sir,” I says, sort of meek. He pushes me outside where Tubby is waitin’ to come in, all naked too.
Tubby grins sort of fiendish when he sees me, and says:
“Did they take you in?”
I was weak, awful weak, because I had heard one had to carry some awful loads in the army; but I wouldn’t have noticed ’im if he hadn’t laughed queerlike.
I looks at him, and he's laughin’ fair to split his sides.
“Ha, ha!” he says. “That’s a joke on you.”
“Cause why?” I asks.
“Cause”—and he laughs again—“no doctor’ll ever accept me.”
“Why not?” I asks, knowin’ right there that he had slipped it over me somehow.
“Cause--ha, ha, ha!—cause I got weak kidneys and no doctor’ll ever pass me.”
“Weak kidneys?” I says.
“Weak kidneys,” says he.
“Have you had ’em ever since birth?” I asks.
“Ever since birth,” he says solemnlike. “If it hadn’t been for that I’d ’a’ been in the army long ago, not like some slackers hidin’ behind a woman’s skirts.”
“Oh, ho!” I says.
“Come on, you,” calls the recruitin’ sergeant, and he pushes Tubby into the doctor.
I hears a buzz of talk but pays no attention, because I’m puttin’ on my clothes and wonderin’ how I can get out of this ruddy mess, when the door opens with a bang and out comes Tubby.
He is sort of pale and weak.
“Oh, gosh!” ’e moans. “Oh, gosh!”
I looks at ’im, and it sort of dawns on me that if the doctor passed my kidneys he must have passed Tubby’s, too; and when I sees ’im carryin’ on I laughs at first. But as he moans and moans I begin to think that maybe I’ll die in France, so I stops laughin’ and goes over and takes ’im by the shoulder and I says:
“Tough luck, Tubby. I had weak kidneys, too.”
“Y ou had?” he says.
“I ’ad,” I answers.
“And — and you figgered the army would take me and leave you?”
“I did,” says I.
He takes me by the hand and shakes it.
“So did I,” he says.
“We ’ave both been fair done in the eye,” I says.
“Yes,” says he.
That’s ’ow Tubby and me got in the army and come to be friends.
r"PHERE ain’t no use tellin’
A you about the war. Them blokes that are a fightin’ it all over again in books ’as done that. And a poor job they’ve
made of it, because the war is like a woman, sometimes good and sometimes bad, sometimes funny and sometimes sad.
We got to France in February, nineteen sixteen, at a place called Wipers, and the blighters cut our pay down to thirty francs a month. Field pay they calls it, just enough to buy fags and ’ave a glass of beer. Every time we went in the line we spent all our money aforehand so’s nobody could pinch it if we got wounded.
That used to worry Tubby somethin’ horrible. Not gettin’ wounded, mind you, because even I ’as to admit that Tubby 'ad guts, him bein’ no more scared than anybody else.
“But the idear of bein’ wounded and havin’ some dirty thief pinch his poke while he was under the ether worried ’im terrible.
Then he’d see men come out from England fair reekin' with money, and him not able to get hold of it when they got wounded, and he used to say to me:
“Spike, it fair makes me sick to think of those new men gettin’ wounded with all that money and some bomb-proofer behind the lines a-gettin’ it. They should leave it with us.”
Of course I agreed, because after all it didn’t look as if Tubby or I’d ever get a blighty 'ome.
We ’ad some big battles, and I got a fine pair of field glasses that I sold for two bottles of brandy. From time to time we could sell a blanket to the Frenchies, so we always ’ad a little money. Then Tubby, he run a crown and anchor board. He made money that way, but most of the time we was broke and sore in need of ’elp.
In August of 'sixteen our machine-gun crew was near wiped out, only me and him left, and, of course, Tubby was made corporal in charge of the gun. And that’s what caused the trouble.
We was due to go to a place called the Somme, a terrible place so they said. Just before we was to go we got four replacements from England, four men fair reekin’ wiv gold.
Tubby and I was broke, stoney broke, and he and I hal to watch these blinkin’ blighters throwin’ their money around without ever gettin’ a nibble of it. It fair turned our stummicks.
“To think,” says Tubby, “that these guys’ll carry all that money into the line, and maybe the Jerries’ll capture them with it. Or mebbe they’ll get wounded and the stretcher-bearers’ll pinch it. It makes me sick, it does, to think of it.”
Of course I agreed, but there was no hope of gettin' it. They wouldn’t play poker with our deck, nor crown and anchor, nor even housie-housie, so we couldn't get hold of it any way.
The night before we went down the line Tubby and I sat, sort of fed up, in our billets, a-watchin’ ’em count their money, and then suddenly he turns to me and whispers:
“Spike, I has it!”
“Has what?” I asks.
“A way to get that money.”
He sort of grins all over and rubs his hands together. “We ain’t got hit yet, have we?”
“Not so far as I know.”
“Well,” he says, sort of slylike, “it ain’t likely we will get hit either, is it?”
I’m not so sure about that, but Tubby goes on:
“We won’t get hit, therefore I suggests we form a pool.”
“A pool of what?”
“A pool of money.”
“A pool,” I says, “and how do you make a pool?” "Listen,” Tubby says. “We get all the crew to put in all the money they got, into one pool, and then we hand it over to somebody who doesn’t go in the line.”
“Then,” he goes on, “there’s six of us to the pool, and when the trip’s over and we come out, all the men that’s left divide it up among ’em. You and I,” says he, “are bound to come out and some of these guys are bound to
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get hit, so, if we are lucky, only three or ; four of us’ll be left to divide the pool.”
“But,” I says, “how will you make ’em agree to such an idear?”
“Listen to me,” he says, standin’ and holdin’ up his hand.
“Here, you bohunks,” be calls, “come i here.” And all those poor rookies gather around to listen to their corp’ral—bein’ rookies, they still thinks a corp’ral is somethin’.
“Listen, you guys,” he says. “Every time this crew goes in the line we puts all our money together and leaves it with the quartermaster officer.”
"Why?” asks one.
Tubby looks at ’im sort of commandin’i like.
"Because, you poor nuts, some of you is liable to get hit. when you go in the line.”
“What has that to do with it?” asks another.
“If you get captured by the Jerries they’ll take your money anyway. If you get napooed you won’t need it. If you get a blighty some one will pinch it when ¡you’re under chloroform. So it ’as been ' the custom of this crew to leave all their ! money behind for those what come out. If we all come out, everybody gets their own money back. If only five come out, the five divide it up equally. If only three, then the three.”
“But if only one comes out?” says another chap.
“He gets the whole works,” Tubby answers, “and he deserves it, because he is the only one left.”
VW^ELL, them rookies argued that over *V for near half an hour, but at last one of them says, “You never know who’s going to come out, so everybody takes the same chance,” and they agrees. Tubby and I near hugged each other, and began to figger up right away what would be cornin’ to as.
One guy had near ten pounds to put in, another had two Canadian ten-dollar bills; and in full it was quite a tidy sum. Tubby put in four francs and I put in a ten centime piece I couldn’t spend. Altogether it come to about a hundred dollars, and Tubby, accompanied by us all, went to the quartermaster officer and ’anded over the money, explainin' to him exactly what he was to do. He laughed when he heard of the agreement and says:
“What if I myself get hit?”
We all laughed at that, because who ever heard of a quartermaster gettin’ hit?
Tubby and I had figgered out just how much money we would get. You see, we figgered we was sure to come out, absolutely sure.
“I s’pose you heard about the battle of the Somme, but whatever you’ve heard you ain’t heard all of it. Them blasted brass 'ats—plague of the war, they was, them and the doctors—the brass ’ats arranged to kill you and the doctors tried to patch you up. A wicious circle that was. If it hadn’t been for ’em that there war would ’ave been a decent one.
Anyway the next night we started up j toward the line, pullin’ a machine-gun cart, and, what with shells landin’ near and all, I tell you I felt fair discouraged. It was only the thought of all that money waitin’ for me that made me carry on.
Up the Boparre road we went to a narrow gauge railroad, where we left the j bloomin’ wagon behind and carried the gun on our shoulders—at least the rookies > did; me, with my weak kidneys, not being ¡ able to carry any heavy loads. We got to a I place called Devil’s Wood or some such name, and we mounted the gun in the trench—at least it was called a trench, but it was only a hole in the ground.
Tubby looked about very careful-like, j and when he found out the Jerries ’ad a machine gun what planted their nasty presents right in our trench he put two of the rookies in charge of our gun and hoped for the best.
Him and the rest of us sat in a dugout, eatin’ our rations. He was tired but sort of
cheerful, and he says to me, “Spike, if ! those men get a nice blighty, we’ll have a j grand time when we get out of this.”
Me? I was sort of lookin’ forward to it, too. I figgers and thinks longingly of a wet canteen with lots of glasses of beer.
About half an hour afterward we heard a shout, “Stretcher bearers, stretcher bearers,” and we both rushes madly to the gun.
Sure enough, one of the crew ’ad got a blighty, one in the shoulder; and we sent ’im down the line with our blessing.
That only left five of us, and already my share was four quid. Why, with four quid I could ’ave one glorious night at Bethune, and I almost felt like shakin’ Tubby by the ’and.
We put another rookie in the place of the wounded one and went back to the dugout.
We ’ad hardly got back, and I was sort of figgerin’ out how much I’d get if they all got hit, Tubby included, when hell breaks loose up.
I had ’eard shellin’ in my time, but never shellin’ like that. Every gun on the front was goin’ and the heavens was lit with ’em. The dugout fair shook under it, and we had to get out for fear of bein’ buried alive.
Me bein’ second in command, I follows Tubby as he heads back to the gun, and we finally gets to it, though heavens only knows how.
Fritzie was still shellin’, and when we looked for the gun it was gone an’ two men with it.
“Oh, gosh,” Tubby groans. “We’ll get the devil for losin’ that gun.”
And I says the same, for our machinegun officer was fair ’ell when he let loose. Besides, when a gun’s gone, you got to fill up hundreds of reports about it and everybody gives you blazes.
I looks at Tubby and Tubby looks at me, and he sort of smiles and say*’, “Well, anyway, we can celebrate all the more.” And I nods and starts to figgei out what my share’ll be now.
T WAS still figgerin’ when the machinegun officer heaves into view. He looks at Tubby quarrelsomelike and says to ’im:
‘‘Corp’ral Clayton, where’s your gun?” "It’s gone,” says Tubby.
“Gone to blazes.”
“It can’t be.”
“And why not?”
“Because you’ve got to go over the top with it,” the officer answers, snappish.
“But I haven’t got it,” Tubby repeats ' stubbornlike. “The shell blew it to pieces.” “Listen here,” says the officer. “You got to go over the top to a place called Mookey Farm. Here it is on the map. You got to go there with the machine gun.”
“I ’aven’t got a machine gun,” insists Tubby.
“I don’t care about that,” says the officer. “Get one and get on quick, or I’ll court-martial you when we get out.” And with that he walks away, leavin’ me and Tubby and the one poor rookie left starin’ at each other.
“He can’t court-martial you for that,” says the rookie.
“Can’t he,” says Tubby. “They can court-martial you for anything. What a life,” he groans, and sits down to think it over.
I thinks of all that money the quartermaster is holdin’ for us when we get out, and that maybe I’ll get wounded after all, and at last I goes over to Tubby and pats ’im on the back and says:
“Look here, Tubby; we’ve got to have a machine gun.” He nods desperatelike and I goes on: “I 'ates to see you get in trouble with the machine-gun officer, and you just a new corp’ial, too, so I’ll go back to headquarters and get a new one.”
“Will you?” says Tubby, grateful. “By gosh, Spike, you are a friend.”
So I pats ’im on the back again and says:
“You bet I am, Tubby. I would do anything for a friend.” I gathers up my equipment and says to ’em: “Now don’t worry, Tubby; I’ll bring back a gun or bust.”
He is fair overcome, and shakes me by the hand and says:
“By gosh, Spike, I will never forget this.”
So I starts off. Them shells is sure ’ell, and I had to run all the way for fear of —well, anyway, I gets a gun and staggers back through all the ban ages, and, if I do say it, I earned a medal for that, and Tubby almost cries as I brings up the new gun through all that shell fire. He shakes me by the ’and and says:
“I’ll never forget this, never.”
An hour later we starts over the top to this place called Mookey Farm; and we sure gets it from the Jerries on the way over.
I ain’t worried about the money any more now, so when I sees the last rookie get wounded, I pats ’im on the back and wishes him cheerio.
We gets to the farm all right, or what’s left of it; and we nestles down in a hole, while Fritzi shells us for a-doin’ it.
We gets nearly wiped out though, and things ain’t so comfortable either on account of a Jerry machine gun that’s only a few yards in front of us.
VV/CE SHOOTS off a lot of ammunition ** at nothin’ in particular; and the only thing what worries me now is w'hether Jerry'll leave me be and let me enjoy all the money that’s left.
Tubby stops firing at last and rolls down in the ’ole beside me and yells:
“Say, do you know, Spike, we’ll have nearly fifty dollars apiece to celebrate.”
I nods my ’ead, and Tubby’s eyes are shinin’ with enthusiasm.
“When I gets out of here,” he shouts, T’m goin’ back to Bethune and celebrate for a week.”
“Oh, yes?” I says.
Just then there’s a clatter and a thump and a man stumbles down the ’ole; and when we look at him, it’s the machinegun officer.
He sees the gun and says to Tubby:
“I see you got a gun all right.”
Tubby grins and pats me on the back. “He did it.” says he. “He went right back to the support line and got it foi me.”
“Oh, he did?” says the officer, and looks at me funnylike. “It’s the first time I’ve ever known ’im to do somethin’ for nothin,” he says.
I glowers at ’im.
“Oh,” says I, "but you forget Tubby is my friend.”
“Yes?” he says and raises ’is eyebrows queerlike. Then he changes the subject, while I looks indignant.
He tells Tubby about this Jerry machine gun that must be captured, and he and Tubby look toward it and talk it over. He tells about the advance we made, and ’ow many casualties we suffered.
“Do you know,” he says, “we even had to call on the transpoit for extra men.” “What?” says Tubby.
“Why, what’s the matter?” the officer says, surprised. “ ’Ave you got friends in the transport?”
“We ’ave,” says Tubby. “A very dear friend, the quartermaster.”
“Did he ’ave to go in the line, too?” I asks.
The officer looks solemn.
“Oh,” he says, “it’s the quartermaster, eh?”
“Why, has anything happened to him?” asks Tubby anxiously.
The officer nods his ’ead.
“Yes, he got wounded just a few minutes ago. I was with him when it happened. He’s on his way back to the field dressing station at this minute.”
“Wow!” yells Tubby. “With all that money—our money.”
“What money?” asks the officer.
“It doesn’t matter what money,” says Tubby. “I got to go back light now and see ’im.”
“Oh, you have, have you?” says the officer, shortlike. “Well, my man, you can’t leave here.”
“But I got to,” says Tubby, “I simply got to.” And he starts to scramble out of the ’ole.
The officer pulls ’im back.
“You can’t leave here unless you’re wounded,” says he.
“Wounded,” says Tubby, “wounded.” The poor fellow looks around desperate like. But the officer is watehin’ ’im, so Tubby sits down and holds his head in his 'ands and curses somethin’ terrible.
“Look here, Corp’ral,” says the officer to him. “Come on out of this pit. You got to help silence that machine gun. A lot of men’ll get hurt if you don’t.”
“Hurt?” says Tubby. “I got to get hurt; I simply got to get wounded.” And afore we knows what he is doin’, he grabs a bunch of bombs and jumps out of the ’ole.
We peers over the top and watches ’im. He seems to have fair gone crazy, for he runs right at that Jerry gun, throwin’ bombs and yellin’ somethin' awful. Soon he disappears in a cloud of smoke, with us watehin’, pop-eyed. A few minutes later out comes a lot of Jerries with their ’ands up and Tubby behind. And he’s holdin’ up his hand for us to see he is wounded.
He comes back to us and calls, “Here you, take these Germans, I’m wounded now and can go back.” And he wraps his 'and in a field dressin’ and yells to me: “Good-by, Spike; I’ll catch that quartermaster in the field dressin’ station and get the money.”
“ ’Ow about me?” I shouts.
He grins and says:
“You try and get wounded, too, and catch up to me—if you can !” And he laughs queerlike and runs back toward the support line.
CO THAT is how Tubby got his medal F) is it?” remarked Dayley. “Did he get the money, too?”
“Didn’t he find the quartermaster?”
“Oh, yes, he found ’im. But the quartermaster told him a chap carryin’ a brand new machine gun ’ad come in and said he was the only survivor, so he’d given him the money. Imagine Tubby thinking I’d do a thing like that.”