Rough Scan
 

 

 

 



 
        
       
        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.