Tags: Biographical fiction
, Historical fiction
, Humorous fiction
, Sea stories
, War & Military
, Short Stories (Single Author)
, Adventure stories
‘Bring in!’ Samuels could make that up himself, and serve him right. Also, he could have fun explaining to the M.P.s just how one of his sailors came to be rolling about town with all that cash on his person.
‘McAuslan,’ I said, ‘in your own way you’re a great man. Tell me,’ I asked the redcap, ‘are you going to charge him?’
‘Well,’ said the redcap, ‘he wasn’t what you’d call incapably stinking, just happy. It was the sailor who was paralytic. He still is. So . . .’
‘Thank you,’ I said. ‘Look, McAuslan, you’re a lucky man. You shouldn’t go about getting little sailors stotius . . .’
‘I was jist fraternisin’, honest . . .’
‘Right. You can fraternise some more. What I want you to do is go over to the ship, look out Lieutenant Samuels, and tell him, in your own well-chosen words, what happened today. Tell him the money’s in the M.P. safe. And then you might offer to buy him a drink; he’ll probably need one. And McAuslan, if he tries to hit you, you’re not to clock him one, understand? Remember, be fraternal and polite; he’s your superior officer and you wouldn’t want to hurt his feelings.’
We took our leave of the civil redcaps, and I watched McAuslan striding purposefully towards the harbour, bonnet down over his eyes, to break the glad news to Samuels. It was growing dusk, and all in all, it had been quite a day.
I saw McGlinchy many years after, from the top of a Glasgow bus. Although his fair hair was fading and receding, and his face looked middle-aged and tired, there was no mistaking the loose-jointed, untidy walk. He was carrying a string bag, and he looked of no account at all in his stained raincoat and old shoes. And then the bus took me past. I wondered if he remembered those few minutes out in the sunlight. Perhaps not; he wasn’t the kind who would think twice about it. But I remember McGlinchy when . . .
The duties of a regimental orderly officer cover pretty well everything from inspecting the little iced cakes in the canteen to examining the prisoners in the guardroom cells to ensure that they are still breathing. In our battalion, the cells were seldom occupied; the discipline imposed on our volatile mixture of Aberdonians and Glaswegians was intelligent rather than tough, and more often than not trouble was dealt with before it got the length of a charge sheet.
So when I walked into the guardroom for a late night look round and saw one of the cell doors closed and padlocked, and a noise issuing from behind it like the honking of a drowsy seal, I asked McGarry, the provost sergeant, who his guest for the night might be.
‘It’s yon animal, Wee Wullie,’ he said. ‘Sharrap, ye Glasgow heathen! He’s gey fu’ sir, an’ half-killed a redcap in the toon. They had to bring him here in a truck wi’ his hands tied and a man sittin’ on his heid. And afore I could get him in there I had to restrain him, mysel’.’
I realised that McGarry had a swelling bruise on one cheek and that his usually immaculate khaki shirt was crumpled; he was a big man, with forearms like a blacksmith, and the skin on his knuckles was broken. I was glad it wasn’t me he had had to restrain.
‘He’s sleepin’ like a bairn noo, though,’ he added, and he said it almost affectionately.
I looked through the grill of the cell. Wee Wullie was lying on the plank, snoring like an organ. Between his massively booted feet at one end, and the bonnet on his grizzled head at the other, there was about six and a half feet of muscular development that would have done credit to a mountain gorilla. One of his puttees was gone, his shirt was in rags, and there was a tear in his kilt; his face, which at the best of times was rugged, looked as though it had been freshly trampled on. On the palm of one outstretched hand still lay a trophy of his evening’s entertainment – a Military Police cap badge. In that enormous brown paw it looked about as big as a
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