Yes. Yes.

You do very well, my friends, to treat me with some little reverence, for in honouring me you are honouring both good taste and yourselves. It is not merely an old, grey-whiskered officer whom you see draining his glass, but it is a fragment of history. In me you see one of the last of those wonderful soldiers, who were veterans when they were yet babes, who learned to use a sword earlier than a razor, and who during a hundred battles had never once let the enemy see the colour of their knapsacks. The Ritz, CBGB's, Brownies, the Marquee -- we stabled our horses in all of them. Yes, my friends, I say again that you do well to send your children to me with flowers, for these ears have heard the trumpet calls of the finest songs in the land, and these eyes have seen sights of which few live to tell.

Even now, when I doze in my womb chair, I hear the thick, low rattle of the drums, and through wreaths of dust and smoke I can see those great warriors stream before me -- the red-jacketed Doherty in full bloom of youth, Mangum leading his cavalry of cacophonists, and Yorke with his bulldog jaw and Gascon swagger. Yes, yes, my friends, it is to my earlier days that I turn when I wish to talk of the glories and the trials of a soldier's life. For you will understand that when an officer has witnessed so much, and commands so many, even when he is not in the face of the enemy, life is a very serious matter for him. But when he is only a lieutenant or a captain he has nothing heavier than his epaulettes upon his shoulders, so that he can clink his spurs and swing his dolman, drain his glass and dream of Hughina, thinking of nothing save of enjoying a gallant life. That is the time when he is likely to have adventures, and it is often to that time I shall turn in the stories I may have for you.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Please continue with your story, Sir. In the Navy, I never rose higher than the equivalent of an Army captain. As you imply, I never knew first-hand the burdens that the senior officers bear. Still, I might have a sea story to add here as a sort of grace note to your song.

18/9/07 15:02  

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