The King’s Rules
W. REDVERS DENT
HOW the mighty one has fallen,” remarked Spike Molton reminiscently as his eyes followed the dapper little figure of a certain Medicine Hat business man across the floor of the Canadian Legion Club.
Jack Dayley, lone reporter of that Western Canadian city’s only newspaper, perked up, scenting a story, and his eyes too followed the man.
"What do you mean ‘mighty,’ Spike? Why, he’s not great. As far as I’ve ever seen, he’s nothing except our most prominent undertaker. Or should I say mortician?” “Mortician? 7m? Why, he ain’t even a gentleman.” “Well, I won’t try to find out what you think a mortician is, Spike. But tell me, why do you say that he was once mighty?”
“W'ho, him? He is a shining example of ’ow silly man is.”
"W'hy, he used to have charge of men’s lives—him who can’t even put his tie on straight. He had more authority and power than any millionaire. He could say to ’em. ‘You die,’ and they died.”
"Now, Spike, don’t try to tell me ”
“1 am tellin’ you that he could say to me, ‘Private Molton, you go on patrol tonight,’ knowin’ all the time that patrol was foolish and that we all would be killed, and I ’ad to go. That’s why I calls him mighty. He held the lives of fifty men in the palm of ’is hand just like that;” and Spike Molton extended his thin hand meaningly.
Jack Dayley’s youthful and usually smiling face became suddenly serious.
“I suppose there was a bit of that.”
‘ There was, and he has me to thank me, Tubby Clayton, and a jerrythat he’s alive today.”
“What? Do you mean to tell me that you and Tubby, that long,
Ran, angular, lead-swinging friend of vours, and a German saved his life?”
Spike grunted "Yes, we did.
At least if we hadn’t cured him of bein’ foolish he might have got somethin’ from his own men he wouldn’t have liked.”
"Oh, you helped him in that way, did you?”
Y es.” Spike sipped hls beer.
"It s funny, you know. Y'ou ’ate a man, and you try to get your own
back, and you really help him, sort of bring him to his senses. He was a real nice officer after that.”
Dayley sat back with a sigh.
‘‘Well, Spike, you’ve done it again. Roused my curiosity to such a pitch I suppose I must keep buying you beer until the tale is told.”
“It’s empty now,” said Spike tentatively, looking at his glass.
The reporter grinned and called for a waiter, then watched Spike’s sparrowlike features as the latter sipped aesthetically at his beer.
“Go on, Spike,” he said at length. “Tell us all about it.”
“ ‘The King’s Rules and Orders,’ he used to say. ‘It’s the King’s Rules, me man, and if the King says a thing is, it is.'
“ ‘Ho,’ says I. ‘And if the King’s rule says I die, I die, eh?’
“ ‘Yes,’ he answers. ‘If the King’s Rules says you are to die, you die, and don’t forget it.’
“ ‘No,’ I says, and I looks at him—”
“For heaven’s sake, Spike,” interrupted Dayley, “start at the beginning.”
“Why, I was.”
“Yes, yes, I know; but you see I haven’t got your intelligence. Sort of lead me into it slowly. Start nght back where you first met him.”
Spike nodded slowly, and began again. •
charge of us from now on, even if he is an undertaker.” I stood up for Moone, believe it or not, and I says: “Look here, Tubby, undertaking is an honorable perfession and you shouldn’t be sarcastic. From what I hears about France, we’ll be the only platoon with a proper undertaker convenient-like.”
Tubby sighs and says: “I guess that’s so.”
We’re taken by this corp’ral, who is laughin’ all the time, I don’t know what at, over to meet our new officer.
We weren’t in our uniforms yet so we just plods along, and finally the corp’ral comes to a hut and bangs on the door respectful-like.
A voice like thunder yells out: “Who’s there?” “Corp’ral Brown, sir, with two recruits for your platoon.”
“Bring them in and be smart about it,” says the voice, and me and the corp’ral and Tubby walks in. Sure enough, there is Moone, the undertaker. I was so glad to see him after all those strange officers that I yells, “Hello, Moone!” and holds out my ’and.
The corp’ral tugs at me sleeve and glares at me. The officer glares at me too, and says sort of slow and dreadful like: “What did you call me?”
“Why, Moone,” I says, and then I laughs, thinkin’ he must be tryin’ to pull my leg that he ain’t Moone.
T\7HEN Tubby and I was dragged W jnto the blinkin’ army by a recruitin’ sergeant one day (he said), you can tell the world we felt all funny and queer at first on account of bein' all alone and knowin’ nobody.
After bein’ passed by a blasted doctor as fit, we was marched to the place where we was billeted.
Then the corp’ral who 'ad us in tow told us that our leftenant was Mr. Moone. Well, when we heard that it perked us up considerable and Tubby says to me:
“By gash, Spike, at least it will be a man from our own town who’ll be in
An amusing tale of an army feud and the valor of two tacticians from Medicine Hat
“Don’t try to kid me,” I says. “You’re Moone, our undertaker.”
Tubby pulls at my other sleeve franticlike, and then I notice there is a funny silence, so I says kind of awkward :
“You are Moone, the undertaker, ain’t you?”
He glares at me and says:
I blinks at him and so does my partner, and very soft Tubby says: “Yes, sir.”
Moone looks at me and says: “Can’t you speak?” “Oh, yes,” says I, thinking to myself that an Englishman’s ’ome is his carstle, and that Britons never will be slaves. “ ‘Sir’ you?” I says; “ ‘sir’ an undertaker?” and I looks at ’im coldlike.
“Take him out!” he screams. “Take them both out and get them into uniforms. I’ll soon knock that out of them.”
He is red in the face and he stares at the door. When wc gets outside the corp’ral grabs our hands and drags us toward a buildin’, where he stops and sits down on the ground and laughs and laughs.
I looks at him, and Tubby looks at him, and he is fair holdin’ his sides. At last I says, sarcastic:
“And what is the joke? Maybe we will laugh too.” “Ha, ha, ha! An undertaker! Is that what the potbellied old blacksmith is?” he yells, and he goes off into another scream of laughin’.
Tubby looks at me and grins funnylike and says: “Holy Mackinaw, they didn’t know his business!”
I sees the joke then, an’ I laughs too.
After a while the corp’ral sits up and says: “I feel awful sorry for you, me lad. ’E sure will have it in for you now.”
“And why?” I asks him.
“Because you give the position away, and him puttin’ on airs as if he was a millionaire.”
“He can’t do anythin’ to me,” I says.
“Ho, can’t he? You forgit, me lad, that you're in the army now and that he is your officer.”
“Ho, yes, and what can he do?” I asks.
“You wait, just wait and see,” he answers dark-like, and takes us off to the stores to get our uniforms.
TT WAS the next day on parade that we found out -*• what the corp’ral meant.
Tubby and I was put with the awkward squad to learn how they do things in the army.
The sergeant was a-showin’ us how foolish the army ways is, makin’ us lift our hand to our hat by numbers, when our officer appears. He comes over and glares at Tubby and me fit to kill.
“Private Molton,” he yells.
“That’s me,” I says.
“Say ‘sir’,” says he.
“Sir,” I answers.
"Don’t shout like that, or I’ll have you up for insolence,” he yells again, getting red in the face.
“You tells me to say ‘sir’ and when I says it you say you’ll crime me,” I says. “What are you a-gettin’ at?” “Come here, sergeant,” he shouts. “Crime ’im!”
“Oh, lord,” says Tubby.
“And crime ’im too for talkin’,” says he, and walks away like a blinkin’ bantam rooster.
The sergeant takes out a little book and puts our names down, and after that he says: “Old K.R. and 0. has got it in for you.”
“Who is K.R. and O.?” I asks.
“He’s the officer,” he answers.
“The. officer? You mean that blinkin’ undertaker?”
“Listen you, you’re
in the army now, and
I am your superior officer. I am in charge of you and you must
not call me Moone; you must call me `sir.' Understand, I am `sir' to you and to Private Clayton."
“I do,” says ’e.
“But,” I says, “what did the king decorate ’im for? Why, he hasn’t been to France yet.”
book is the Bible of the army. He knows that book by heart and is goin’ to use his knowledge to get you.”
“To get me?” I says, surprised.
“Yes, to get you. And believe me, boy, he can get you. There ain’t a single thing you can do that he can’t crime you for.”
“My hat!” groans Tubby.
“Ho,” I snorts, and Tubby looks over at me funnylike.
HTHE next morning we are taken by a sergeant and two men with rifles—though what they wanted with rifles puzzled me—up to another hut, and the sergeant tells as that this is the commandin’ officer of the battalion to which we belong.
They take off our hats, and the men with rifles fix their bayonets wicked-like, and I almost thinks we are goin’ to be executed there and then. Tubby goes green when he sees them put their bayonets on, and I’m not feelin’ any too pleasant myself.
By and by the officer calls, “Bring in the prisoners,” and the sergeant says, “Prisoners, ’shun!” and we ’shuns, and then he marches before a grey-headed old man, old enough to be our father. He has a nice kind face and he smiles at us when we walks in. I smiles back, and he stops smilin’ and twirls his mustache.
Our officer is there, all prim and smart with his sword at his side, lookin’ straight ahead into the wall. And another officer is there with a bunch o’ papers, and what with us an’ the guards with their rifles and bayonets, it fair makes me feel cold all over. I can feel Tubby tremblin’ beside me, too.
“Read the charge,” says the officer who smiled.
The sergeant reads out a bit of dope, somefin’ about bein’ insolent to a superior officer, disobeyin' an order, an’ speaking on parade grounds.
The officer looks over at our leftenant and says: “What have you to say, Mr. Moone?”
The undertaker clears his throat and speaks snappy like.
“Sir, while in charge of the company on the parade ground yestiday morning, in course of my duty, I goes over to the awkward squad to see how Sergeant Blakely is gettin’ along, and I sees that Private Molton is not standin’ in a soldierlike manner. I calls ‘Private Molton !’ sharply, so that he will stand properly, and he says ‘That’s me,’ very insolently.
“I told him to say ‘sir,’ and he yells it so loud it could be heard all over the parade ground. So I tells the sergeant to take his name. Just then, sir, Private Clayton yells an expletive, and I tells the sergeant to take ’is name too.”
“My hat!” whispers Tubby. “We will surely be killed.”
“Silence!” yells the C. 0., and pulls at his mustache again.
He orders the sergeant to say his say, and the sergeant tells the same story, an’ the C. 0. pulls at ’is mustache something terrible.
“What have you to say, Private Molton?” he asks.
I looks at that officer for I was all indignant.
“It all happened because he knows we know he is our undertaker,” I says.
“What?” he cries.
“But, sir —” says Mr. Moone.
“Silence,” the C. O. says, “and go on with your story. Every prisoner must be given a chance to defend hisself.”
“Well, sir,” I says, “I knew Mr. Moone when he was a undertaker in Medicine Hat, an’ when I meets him here I’m so glad to see anybody from my town, sir, I says, ‘How are you?’ and holds out my hand. But he won’t shake hands, sir, and he glares at me somethin’ terrible and says a lot of stuff about the army
“The next day Tubby and me are out doin’ drill when he comes over and calls my name. I says, ‘That’s me,’ polite-like, and what would you do, sir, when a man calls your name? Wouldn’t you say, ‘Here I am,’ or ‘That’s me’? Well, that Is what I did.” And he says “Say ‘sir’!” so I says “sir” and he turns to the sergeant and says “Crime'im, crime ’im !” just like in that hymn sir, you know the one, where they say "Crime ’im, crime ’im, crime ’im—”
The C. 0. starts pullin’ at his mustache and then he bencls so close to the table I can’t see his face, and there is a silence except from the guards, who are chokin’ or somethin’. After a while he raises his face and I sees he is all red.
“This is a very serious offense,” he says in a solemn voice. “You mustn’t do these things in the army, and had you been here longer there would be no excuse. But seein' you have only been here a short time, I will merely give you seven days in the cookhouse. Dismiss.”
“The cookhouse?” says I.
“Dismiss!” he roars, and the sergeant bundles us out.
Well, for seven days we worked from afore dawn until late at night. We had to do drills too, besides cleanin' pots and pans and peelin’ potatoes.
My kidneys is weak —I always did ’ave weak kidneys, and no doctor should ever have passed me for the army—but I didn't know then that I should 'ave reported sick as soon as I got sentenced.
That’s the only way you can beat them King’s Rules. As soon as you get crimed, go sick and the doctor '11
Continued on page 35
The King’s Rules
Continued from page 7
maybe give you light duty, and then you can laugh at ’em. But I didn’t know that, so Tubby and I worked real hard, and every day Moone would come over and laugh at us and say, “That’ll teach you not to be familiar.”
One day he laughed so much at what Tubby and I were a-doin’ that I got mad and almost up and pops ’im one for good luck. But Tubby sees me and grabs my arm.
“Do you know what happens if you hit an officer?” says he.
“No, I don’t, and I don’t care,” says I. “I would give anything just to dot ’im one.”
“You’d get shot,” he says.
“Ho,” says I, and ponders on it. “All I says, Tubby, is that I’d like to be a German then.”
“An’ why?” says he.
“Because if he met up with our officer he could beat him cold, and maybe just get a medal for it.”
“By gosh!” yells Tubby, and grins all over.
“What’s the matter?” I asks.
Tubby laughs out loud.
“If we only met a German,” says he, “that would be a good idea. We could tell the undertaker to take his King’s Rules to Germany.”
“What’s the idea?” I asks.
“You wait,” he answers. “You just wait till we get to France. I have an idea.” And he grins some more.
"DOR one solid year Moone hounded us. L There was nuffin’ that Tubby and I could do to please ’im.
If it wasn’t our buttons it was our boots that was dirty. If he could find no fault with them he would have us up for insolence.
The doctor was our only friend. To him we reported whenever we was crimed, and he would listen to our story and give us medicine and light duty.
Lustin’ for revenge, we sailed for France. But he was just as bad there.
The front line was a terrible place, what with dead all around and the Jerries a-tryin’ to kill us all the time. Life was terrible, but he made it even worse. He put us on every workin’ party an’ patrol and seemed to be doin’ his darndest to kill us. Maybe it was because one day when we was a-lookin’ over the top at all the dead lyin’ around, he happened to come along the trench, and when he was near I said right out loud, jokin’like, “This should be an undertaker’s idea o’ heaven.”
Everybody in the trench laughed except him. And he sent us out on a patrol party that night. Tubby kept a-mutterin’ somethin’ about meetin’ up with a Jerry, but I never could get him to tell me his idea until—well—it happened at Sanctuary Wood.
We was out on rest. What they called “rest” was takin’ us behind the lines and drillin’ the daylights out of us. Old Guts and Gaiters, our general, was a blinkin’ Canadian, one of them religious blokes who says “Satan makes mischief for idle ’ands to do,” and he sure tried to keep the devil away.
He had us do salutin’ exercises after we had been in the army over a year, and every night he made us work at puttin' up barb wire.
Old K. R. and O. was worse. It was “Private Molton this” and “Privates Molton and Clayton that.” You woulda thought no workin’ party was complete unless it had Privates Molton and Clayton in it. And Tubby kept a-moanin’ and sayin’, “Oh Lord, deliver the enemy into my hands.” And then it come.
On the third night of our rest the whole 'eavens was lit by flares. Jerry had concentrated every available gun to break through the line. He put up boards sayin’
he was goin’ to Paris. He concentrated seven divisions of troops against Tubby and me and the rest of the army.
He blew up mines that knocked our lines to blazes. He did everything that he could think of to show that he was mad at us, then after four days fightin’ he advanced one hundred yards, and the third division caught it from old Guts and Gaiters for a-lettin’ them get that far.
Then, the day before we was due to go back in the line, the general calls over to see us, and we all lines up on the parade ground to see him.
He looks us over like a man would who was buyin’ a good beef steer, and then, evidently satisfied that we was fit enough to kill, he sticks out his front and holds his ’and up for silence—as if we dare speak—and says:
“Men of the first Canadian Division, you of coifrse have heard that the Germans attacked my front.”
I grins over at Tubby. “Why, the blighter thinks we’re deef,” I whispers, and Leftenant Moone turns around and scowls and says, “Silence, you,” and I silences.
“After four days’ fightin’ the Germans have captured several hundred yards of trenches from the third division,” he goes on, “and it is a cryin’ shame that the Canadians should lose their record of never losin’ a trench. I tells you it makes me ashamed.”
“It may make you ashamed,” says I softlike to Tubby, “but it fair laid the third division out to stop ’em.”
“Silence,” yells the K. R. and O. “Crime that man, sergeant.”
“Yes, sir,” says the sergeant, and starts to take my name.
“What’s that disturbance back there?” yells the general.
Moone salutes respectful-like and says: “I’m only takin’ a man’s name for talking, sir.”
The general turns to the colonel and says: “Take that officer’s name for answering me back.”
“Yes, sir,” says the colonel.
I giggles, Tubby giggles, then the whole platoon giggles, and pore old Moone looks straight ahead.
“Silence,” roars the adjutant. “Silence,” roars the colonel.
“Silence,” yells the general. And by and by we grows silent again and the general goes on.
“I have decided,” says he, “that we cannot let this blot on our ’scutcheon pass, and I have just told your colonel that the first division will proceed to the front line, where they will take back those lost trenches and several hundred yards besides.”
“Ho,” says I, “you have a wonderful time a-gettin’ mad at those Germans”— speakin’ to myself and thinkin’ no one can hear me.
“Silence,” roars the sergeant-major. “Silence,” roars the adjutant. “Silence,” roars the colonel.” “Silence,” yells the general. And after everybody is silent again he goes on: “So you will proceed into the line tonight and at dawn tomorrow you will attack. I only wish I could lead you—”
“Like hell he does,” somebody down the line whispers.
“Silence,” roars the whole bunch of ’em again, and the general goes on: “As I said before, I only wish I could lead you, but remember if I can’t be with you in the flesh I will be in spirit.” He finishes up and salutes us. We present arms and then we dismiss.
“Ho yes, he’s sorry he can’t be with us in the flesh,” says I. “Ho yes, he’ll be with us in spirit. If he would only send us a little extra spirit we might do better.” Tubby laughs and says: “I have a feelin’, Spike, that this is going to be our opportunity.”
"Opportunity for what?” I asks.
"Opportunity to get our own back,” and just then the sergeant comes up to us and says:
“If you guys don’t get killed this trip I in the line, you’re for orderly room when ; you get back.”
"What a devil of an army this is,” I I says. “If you don’t get killed they’re going to crime you for talkin’.”
The sergeant laughs. “Oh, well,” he says, “who knows, you might be the only ones left. Even the K. R. and 0. might get it, and then you’ll be your own officers. Tubby can sentence you and you can sentence him.”
“That’s an idea,” says Tubby, and laughs fit to split his sides.
/"PHEY had to pick the thirteenth of the month for a counterattack.
It was the guy next to me who told me it was the thirteenth.
He was shiverin’ somethin’ terrible as we waited to go over the top.
Just at that minute th£ guns opened up and started to shell Fritzie. Jerry, who still ’ad some guns left, started to shoot back.
The shells they whistled and whined and groaned, and then the officer blew his whistle and away we went, thirteen or no thirteen.
We ’ad hardly got over the top afore I noticed we had made a mistake. Fritzie was firin’ back, and, as you know, war ain’t war unless you pound the other fellow to jelly first and then lick him.
We got hung up on the wire too and Fritzie’s machine guns were blazing at us. Finally we had to fall into holes and wait there until somebody cleaned up those guns.
That’s an officer’s job really. At least that’s why I expect we ’ave officers. When you get hung up like that, well, it is the officer’s fault, even if it ain’t his ; fault, if you get what I mean. And it’s up to him to go ahead and get himself killed a-tryin’ to capture the gun.
So Tubby and I sinks into a shell-hole comfortablelike and waits for the officer to do his stuff.
The bullets from one gun in particular whizz and whine over our heads, and we i simply can’t move until it is cleared away.
We waits and waits, and still that i machine gun keeps a-dingin’ bullets at us.
Then somebody jumps into the hole ! and wre looks up and it is our leftenant.
! And he is grinning fiendishlike.
“Privates Molton and Clayton?” he ! yells.
"Yes,” I says.
“I detail you two men to go and capture that machine gun,” he says.
“What?” says I.
“My hat!” says Tubby. Old K. R. and 0. grins, and I knew he wanted to get rid of us for telling everybody what his profession was.
"Ho,” says I, feelin’ funny at the stomach.
“I knew somethin’ like this would happen on Friday the thirteenth,” groans Tubby.
I sits up straight and looks at old Moone and I says: “A lotta guts you got when you have to send two sojers out to do your job.”
“It ain’t my job,” he yells.
“It is,” I says. “The duty of every officer is to safeguard the lives of his men. That’s in the King’s Rules.”
He looks at me hard. “Ho,” he says, “you have been readin’ the rules, have you?”
“Yes,” says I.
He kicks with his feet a minnit.
“You’re right,” he says. “It is an j officer’s duty, so, just to show you I’m a good officer, I’ll go with you.”
“Ain’t that nice,” remarks Tubby softlike.
“All right then,” I answers, “let’s get it over with.”
Just then the machine gun stops firing. I guess they got to the end of the belt, so
I up and runs across, and Tubby follows me with the officer.
We gets over the wire and jump down into the trench and throw bombs along it. The machine gun is firin’ again, and when we look through the smoke and haze of battle there ain’t a German to be seen.
We looks everywhere but we can’t see no gun.
The officer looks at me and I looks at him.
“Where is it?” he asks.
“I don’t know,” I says, “unless it is in a shaft run up from these dugouts.” “That may be,” says he, and he looks worried.
For once in me life I am pityin’ him because he has all that platoon outside the wire, so I says:
“Look here, Tubby and me will explore these dugouts and if we find the gun we’ll fix it, and you keep an eye on this here trench to see the Fritzies don’t come back.”
He looks at me, relieved, and says: “Yes, we will do that. You start now.”
So Tubby and me starts down the entrance of a dugout, very cautiouslike with bombs in our ’ands.
TT’S a deep dugout, and as we creeps down shivers run up my spine and Tubby’s teeth is chatterin’ so bad I can’t hear my own.
We gets to the bottom, and, so help me, we find it has electric lights which is all lit and show the dugout up plain. It is empty, with only bunks and a table in it, and a dead German lookin’ up at us from one of the bunks.
We goes over and looks at him, and Tubby, who knows German on account of there being a settlement of these people livin’ outside Medicine Hat, shakes him, and, lookin’ in his pockets for souvenirs, he pulls out some papers and reads ’em and then says:
“By gosh, Spike, he’s a machine gunner, so his gun must be close.”
I pulls the pin out of a bomb and gets it ready. "Let’s go ahead and see if we can find the gun,” says I. So, creepin’ slow and soft, we goes through a doorway into still another dugout, and then the machine gun sounds real close.
Tubby grabs me so hard I nearly drops the bomb. “See, Spike, there it is,” he whispers, and points up at a hole in the roof of the dugout, and I see a shaft like one of these dumbwaiters they have in hotels, with a rope to hoist and lower a platform. Sure enough, I can hear the clatter of the gun up there as plain as plain.
"Ho,” I says, and gets ready to throw a bomb.
Tubby grabs my hand. “You crazy nut,” he shouts. "You would kill us too.” I scratches my head and sees he is right. I looks at him. “We got ’em treed,” says I, “but the puzzle is to get ’em down.”
Tubby grins and pulls at the rope until he has ’em halfway down. And there they are, safe as a house, stuck on their platform half way up the bloomin’ shaft like a prawn on a fork, and we hears them swearin’ somefin’ awful.
Tubby yells up to them in German and they curse him terrible, with him grinnin’ like a Cheshire cat.
“Do they surrender?” I asks.
Tubby grins. “What else can they do?” he answers. “If they don’t I’ll cut the blinkin’ rope and leave ’em there.”
Even I have to laugh at that, so when they start to pull at the rope to come down we let’s ’em come.
They are fair downhearted and keep yellin’, "Merci, komerad, merci.”
“I’ll ‘merci’ ’em,” says I. “Makin’ me stick in this blinkin’ hole so long.”
“No, you won’t,” says Tubby. "Not until I questions ’em.”
We gets out of the way, so if they decide to play tricks we can play too. We watches like cats as the little platform comes to rest at the bottom of the
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Continued from page 36
dugout. It’s a machine gun sure enough, and only two men left with it. “Surrender,” I yells, “or I'll blow you to blazes!”
Tubby yells somefin’ in German, and they both drop their revolvers and step out meeklike. One has an Iron Cross, and I has my eye on it when Tubby grabs me arm.
“One is a officer,” he yells.
“No,” says I.
“Yes,” says he. And, sure enough, one was an officer, the one with the Iron Cross. Tubby starts to speak to the sojer, and the officer turns and scowls at them. The sojer was a nice lookin’ blonde-haired chap who seemed quite satisfied to be taken prisoner.
Tubby talks with him at a great rate, and then he leans over and takes the Iron Cross and slaps the officer across the face for a-tryin’ to hold it.
When the sojer sees Tubby do that he grins all over and seems to enjoy it. I goes over and rifles ’is pockets, but he hasn’t got even a cigarette, so I pinches his badges and gives him a smoke, which he enjoys. Then he and Tubby talk away like a blue streak, while the officer scowls worse than ever. Tubby goes over and slaps the officer again, and that sojer breaks right out laughin'.
Tubby turns to me, his eyes shinin’ with excitement.
“Do you think you could lick this officer?” he says to me.
“How?” I asks.
“You fool,” says Tubby. “I mean, beat him up.”
I looks over the officer. He is about my build and I decides I can handle him. “Yes,” I answers. “Why?”
“I’d give anything to get a chance at him myself, but I gotta stay in reserve,” says Tubby.
“What’s it all about?” I wants to know. “Listen.” And with his eyes fair poppin’ out with excitement Tubby tells me what he had found out.
“See that sojer?” he asks me.
“Yes,” I says.
“Well, he is like us.”
“His officer has always been down on ’im.”
“No?” I says.
“Yes,” says he. “And not only that, but he says he would give anything to beat him up. But I told ’im if he did his own officer could report to the British and the British’d punish him for doin’ it.” “Is that so?” I asks.
“Yes,” he says. “That is the King’s Rules, but”—and his eyes is nearly poppin’ out with joy—“there was one thing the king forgot.”
“What was that?” I asks.
“He forgot he would ’ave me in the army, and, if I do say it, I am clever enough to get around any law.”
“How can you get around it?” I asks. “Listen,” he says, “if I beat up the Jerry officer the King’s Rules say I am doin’ a good thing.”
I had to admit that.
“And if he beat up our officer they would look on that as one of the perils of war, wouldn’t they?”
“Yes,” I says.
“Well that’s exactly what is goin’ to happen,” he chuckles.
“What?” I exclaims.
“Listen to me,” says Tubby. And he tells me how away back at camp he had thought of this idea. At first I can’t see no sense to it, but after a while I see the joke and I laughs and laughs.
TUBBY goes over to the German private and shows him a bomb he has, and then talks to him like a Dutch uncle.
The Jerry listens with a funny look at first, and then as he sees me grinnin’ he
laughs too, and I goes over and shakes his hand while the officer is scowling somethin’ terrible.
Tubby goes over behind a door, where he stands with his bomb ready and a revolver, and I goes to the front of the dugout and yells: “Here, Mr. Moone.”
Moone comes to the doorway at the top and says: “Did you capture the gun?”
“Yes,” says I, “but I can’t find pore old Tubby. He has got lost.”
“Well, hunt for him,” he says.
“I got two prisoners,” I yells up.
“Ho,” he says, and starts to come down the stairs.
I almost gives the show away by laughin’, but I chokes it down and looks real solemn when he gets to the bottom.
He looks at the prisoners and right away the German officer tries to tell him, but of course Moone can’t speak German and the German can’t speak English.
I looks at him very respectful-like and says: “Here are some papers, sir, we took from the officer.”
He puts his gun on the table and starts to look at the papers.
I winks at the German sojer and away we go. He leaps at pore old Moone and starts to hammer him, and I leaps at the German officer and starts hammerin’ him.
“Look out, they’re tryin’ to escape,” yells Moone.
“You look after that one, sir, and I’ll handle this one,” I yells cheerful-like, and I clouts the German on the chin.
He of course fights back, and soon we have a real scrap on our hands.
The German officer is a good fighter and is doin’ his best, but I dot both his eyes and make his nose bleed and loosen a few teeth afore he decides to lie down.
I looks around at the other fight and it fair breaks my heart to have to stop it, but I goes over and grabs the Jerry and pulls him back. As soon as I touch ’im he stops like a gentleman, while Moone puts his hand out for his gun.
But I grabs his arm and says: “They have surrendered, sir. King’s Rules say3 you can’t shoot a prisoner.”
“But they tried to escape,” he says.
“They have surrendered again,” says I, and points over to the Jerry, who ’as hi3 hands up and is grinnin’ like a monkey and lookin’ down at his own officer.
Moone keeps his hand on his gun though, while he rubs his face. He sure looks a sight. The Jerry ’as hit him with everything he’s got.
Tubby comes on the scene then, and says he got lost in the other dugout, so old Moone tells us to bundle the prisoners up the stairs while he tries to wipe the blood off his face.
I had forgot all about there bein’ a war on upstairs in all the excitement, and what with Tubby lookin’ at the officer and grinnin’, and the German grinnin’ at ’is officer, and he tryin’ to explain it’s a frameup to Moone, I has a hard time keepin’ a straight face. But we gets ’em back to the support lines, and I gives the Jerry a package of fags and Tubby gives ’im a mug of rum, and we sends ’im along. And the Jerry officer, almo.st in tears, is still tryin’ to explain. Of course nobody understands him, and when he gets back to somebody who does they’ll think he is crazy, so Tubby and I goes back to our officer quite contented.
That fight seemed to cure him of bein’ nasty to us, too.
We take back those trenches what the third division had lost, and we come out of the line again to rest.
Tubby and me have laughed so much through the rest of the battle that everybody thinks we are blotto, but we daresn’t tell ’em what a joke it is.
Tubby is positive that we won’t never hear of it again, for as he says:
“By the time the German officer gets back to an interpreter and tells him that interpreter will think he is crazy, and besides there ain’t a thing in the King’s Rules to cover it.”
Continued on page 40
Continued from page 38
HTHE biggest jolce of it all was that our officer recommended me for a medal for savin’ his blinkin’ life and give me fifty francs to celebrate with. And didn’t we get joyful !
A few days afterward, when everythin’ in the garden was lovely and we was spendin’ the larst of the officer's francs in the wet canteen, a orderly comes up to us and says:
“Privates Molton and Clayton is wanted by the commandin’ officer.”
I looks at Tubby startled and says: “I wonder if—?”
Tubby laughs loud and pats me on the shoulder. “No chance, me boy. They simply can’t touch us, there isn’t a thing in the King’s Rules to cover it, and I’ll bet the C. O. is goin’ to give you your medal.”
Still I feels funny as we marches in to the C. 0., and as soon as I seen his grim face I feels queer at the stomach.
He glares over at us and his face is red with anger as he shakes a long letter at us.
“Ho,” he cries, “here you are, eh?” And my poor stomach sinks right down into my boots.
He motions to the orderlies to leave the room so that we’re all alone with ’im.
“Privates Molton and Clayton!” he shouts.
“Yes, sir,” I says meeklike, though Tubby is still grinnin’ very impudent.
“I have a very queer letter from the officer in charge of German prisoners.” “Yes, sir,” I answers.
Tubby grins at ’im. “How interestin’, sir.”
“Yes,” he goes on, “it is interestin’. It says that two privates of my battalion arranged with a German sojer to beat up their respectiv’ officers.”
“My,” says Tubby. “How terrible.” “And,” he says grimlike, “the description this officer gives fits you two, and not only that but I believe Private Molton was recommended for a medal for this very thing.”
Tubby tugs at my arm and whispers, “Let me talk,” so I says nothin’ and Tubby says nothin’.
“What have you to say?” the C. 0. barks at last.
“Why, sir,” says Tubby, innocentlike, “what could I say?”
“Do you deny it?” he asks.
And Tubby smiles and says: “Of course we deny such an aspersion, sir.”
“But,” the C. O. goes on in a stern voice, “Leftenant Moone was beat up in just such a fashion.”
“Maybe so, sir,” answers Tubby, “but neither me nor Private Molton touched him, sir.”
“No?” he says very softly.
“No, sir,” says Tubby boldly. “I don’t see how you can charge us, sir, because it was a German that assaulted the leftenant.”
“Ho,” he says, still more softly. “Did you talk with the German sojer?”
“Yes, sir,” says Tubby. “We asked him how he liked fightin’ against us, and other questions, sir, but you can’t touch us for assaultin’ pore Mr. Moone, because we didn’t touch him, sir.”
“No,” says the C. O., “I can’t touch you for that. As you say, the King’s Rules are very clear on such points, but” —and he points his finger at us sharplike —“I can touch you for ‘consortin’ with the enemy’.”
“What!” yells Tubby.
I groans. “I knew it,” I says. "You can’t beat the King’s Rules.”
“Yes,” says the C. O. and he wiggles his finger at us, “consortin’ with the enemy is a very serious offense. In fact, you can be shot for it.”
“Now,” he says, “tell me the whole story.” And he looks over at me.
So I tells him it all, right from the beginnin’, how me and Tubby had got this idea way back in Canada; and he listens and keeps a-tuggin’ at his mustache, and he seems to have a bad cold because he keeps coughin’ into his handkerchief.
When it’s all over we waits while he diddles a pencil on the table. At last he looks up at us and says:
“This is a very serious offense, and I feels inclined to have you shot.”
Tubby groans again and I feels sickish. “But,” he says, “seein’ it’s all over now and Leftenant Moone seems happier than before, I will merely give you twenty-eight days’ field punishment number two. But,” he says, “if you ever breathe a word of this to a soul I’ll have you shot out of hand.”
“I’ll never say a word, sir, so ’elp me,” I says.
“Nor me,” says Tubby.
“All right then,” says the C. O. “Now get out.”
And we got out.
BUT wasn’t he suspicious at all?” Jack Dayley asked when Spike concluded his story.
“Who, him?” Spike searched a group of men till he found the figure of the undertaker.
“Ho, Moone,” he called.
The man came over smilingly.
“Do you know Mr. Dayley?”
Moone nodded, seemingly immune to Spike’s patronage.
“Why certainly I do, Molton.” And then, as his eye caught the empty glass: “Why man, your glass is empty. That is one thing I can’t bear to see, especially one who, by his presence of mind and sheer fighting ability, saved my life.” “Spike did that?” said Dayley.
“He did. We were trapped in a dugout with a German who attacked us. Spike here got his man and then came over and helped me. If he hadn’t I would surely be dead.” And he slapped the little cockney enthusiastically on the shoulder. Spike winked at his friend.