AT THE SEAT OF WAR Ismailia, near Cairo, Sept. 27, 1882. IT’S no easy describing a battle, BAILIE, but as ye’ve paid my passage oot, an’ are gie’ing me a handsome sum besides, I suppose I must dae something. As I sat on a dyke, takin’ my smoke, I watched a’ the troops march past. First, the Heelan’men, of course; that wis their natural place. Then the Royal Irish, wha came next tae the Heelan’men in bravery; then a’ the rest mixy maxy. As each brigade passed, the officers saluted me by putting their swords up opposite their noses, an’ I gied a graceful wave o’ my umbrella tae them in return. After the last regiment had passed three omnibuses appeared, an’ I says tae the driver o’ the first ane, “What hae ye got here?” “Oh,” he says, “this is full o’ bandages for the wounded.” I, haeing been deeved wi’ the heavy firing, didna hear jist as weel as or’nar, an’ I thocht he said, “Sandwiches for the wounded;” so I cries, “A body micht dae waur than go alang wi’ you, particularly as ye’re awa’ at the back, an’ no likely tae be whaur the fechting is going on,” so up I got an’ sat beside him. “Noo,” I says tae him, “you an’ me’ll jist be as comfortable here, watching a’ that’s takin’ place, as if we were sitting on the tap o’ an omnibus doon at Paisley races.” Tae read some o’ the or’nary newspaper correspondent’s letters, ye wid think that they carried a pen in one haun an’ a sword in the ither, an’ that they stood at the very front, an’ wrote a sentence an’ killed an enemy time aboot. I don’t know what ithers dae, but as I had been sent oot, BAILIE, tae gie ye a description, I thocht that if I ran ony unnecessary risks an’ got shot, the object for which I wis here wid be lost. So the driver an’ me sat still an’ smoked. Says I, “There’ll be some kittle wark goin’ on the day, I doot. The Heelan’ men ‘ll knock ower thae black fellows like windle-straes.” “They will,” says the driver. “They’re awfu’ chiels when their bluid’s up; they’ll think nae mair a’ the Egyptians than they wid o’ a wheen ao puddocks jumping amang their feet. I wonder where this canawl is that they’re aye talking aboot? It maun be a gey long ane, for they say it goes frae here a’ the way tae India.” “I hear a heep aboot it,” I says; “if ye thocht it wis anyway near ye micht tether your horses, an’ maybe we could get a bit dook in’t, or we micht hire a rowing boat for fowerpence an’ oor, an’ hae a sail on’t—they wid be a’ sae busy fechting they wid never miss us; but I doot it’s ower thae hills—awa’ aboot the pyramids someway.” “I heard,” says the driver, “aboot some Queen oot here that had an extr’ornar big needle; they brocht it ower tae London; there must hae been something by-ornar aboot it.” “Oh,” I replies, “that wis Cleopatra’s needle; but it wisna a rale needle; it wis a big thing like a monument, wi’ the alphabet doon the one side o’t, an’ the multiplication table up the ither—at least so oor minister wis telling us; but-” “Guid save us! did ye feel that-that must hae been a cannon ba’. We’d better get doon oot o’ this!” “No, no!” I cries, “look here;“ an’ I got oot my red nepkin an’ tied it on tae his whup, and stuck it up. “That’s the flag o’ truce, like what the riflemen put up when they’re firing oot at Nitshill; they daurna fire at us noo.” Neither they did, so I got writing my despatches tae ye in peace. First, there wis an unco heap o’ roarin’ and drill sergeants rinning back and forrit; then three or four hunner bugles sounded; then a shot or twa, an’ then we heard the pipes akirling. Says I, “Dae ye hear that? Arabi’s in for’t noo! Naething like the pipes for raising yer bluid. They talk o’ their pianos, an’ say the bagpipes are common. A piano widna go faur oot here, driver, eh? Even thae trumpets are nae great things for a battle; they gie too roon’ a sound, but bagpipes are sharp, like a twa-edged sword, an’ mak’ your bluid course through your veins. I wish we had Professor Blackie up beside us noo.” The next thing wis a great yell, an’ firing o’ guns, an’ clashing o’ swords, an’ then there wis such a smoke got up that I could see naething; so if I put onything in here it would be jist pure invention. An’ as I want tae be truthfu’ I jist tell ye honestly that, as I could see naething, I put my pencil in my pocket, an’ says tao the driver, “I think we wid be nane the waur o’ ane o’ your sandwiches, an’ we’ll jist let them fecht awa’ a wee; they’ll sune tire o’ that.” Jist then an aid-de-colong comes riding doon tae say that Sir Archibald Alison had won the battle, partly owing tae my guid advice, for which he wid afterwards thank me in person as soon as he could get Arabi locked up, but principally owing tae the great bravery o’ the Heelan’ Brigade, an’ that they had grippit Arabi, an’ a wheen mair o’ the Egyptians, an’ that the war wie, ye micht say, ower noo, an’ the Duke a’ Connaught safe. After a while Sir Garnet and Sir Archibald cam doon tae me, an’ they were in the best o’ spirits at winning the battle, an’ they said they must hae anither gemm at the dominoes the nicht. “Of course,” says Sir Garnet, “we canna mention your name in the despatches, Mr. Kaye, as ye’re only a civilian, an’ no attached tae the army officially; still, I’ll see that justice is done tae ye for your valuable advice. We micht get ye on tae be a ‘purveyor tae the Queen,’ or something like that.” “Thank ye, Sir Garnet,” says I, “an’ I hope ye’ll dae the Heelan’ Brigade, an’ their commander, Sir Archibald, full justice this time, for ye didna dae as ye ocht the last time—they bare the brunt o’ the battle, and yet ye praised up the Irish and the Guards, wha did naething in comparison. Noo, that wisna richt. ‘Fair horney,’ ye ken; although ye’re Irish yersel’ ye maun mind we’re no a’ Irish, and it’s no fair tae gie the hard work tae the Scotch, an’ the praise tae the Irish an’ the English, but it’s aye the way! Puir auld Scotland, because ye hivna got the cool assumption o’ the English, or the ‘cheek’ o’ the Irish, ye get pushed intae a corner. I don’t think I’ll play at dominoes wi’ ye the nicht, Sir Garnet. I’ll awa’ an’ try an’ mak’ up a list o’ the causalties o’ the Heelan’ Brigade, which last time wis badly neglected, and no made up for five or six days after a’ the rest, thereby keeping in suspense a lot o’ decent folk at hame. I’ll hae tae see this Arabi the morn, an’ hear what he’s got tae say.” P.S.— Sir Garnet an’ me’s no so great as we were. I had tae check him for saying tae the Khedive, or whatever ye ca’ him, that he had tae thank the “English” nation for helping him; an’ that the “English” army wis — Ach, BAILIE, it mak’s me wild to hear them — so there’s a dryness between us.