Ga’n git ‘em, marras! Remember Arroyo!”“Booger Arroyo!” roared Grandarse, and the corporal pulled himself up into a sitting position, and as we swung past he was trying to sing, in a harsh unmusical croak.Aye, Ah ken John Peel an’ Ruby too,Ranter an’ Ringwood, Bellman an’ TrueFrom a find to a check, from a check to a viewFrom a view to a death in the morning!He was a romantic, that one, but whoever he was I’m grateful to him, for I can say I have heard the regimental march sung, and the regimental war cry shouted, as we went in under Japanese fire. I don’t know how many casualties we took at that point – seven dead and thirty-three wounded was the count at the end of the day – but I do know that the companies never stopped or even broke stride; they “kept ga’n”, and I must be a bit of a romantic, too, I suppose, for whenever I think back on those few minutes when the whizz-bangs caught us, and see again those unfaltering green lines swinging steadily on, one word comes into my Scottish head: Englishmen.
Other March law offences included truce-breaking, attacking castles, impeding a Warden, importing wool, and a delightful local custom known as “bauchling and reproaching”. This meant publicly vilifying and upbraiding someone, usually at a day of truce; such abuse might be directed at a man who had broken his word, or had neglected to honour a bond or pay a ransom. The “bauchler” (also known as brangler, bargler, etc.) sometimes made his reproof by carrying a glove on his lance-point, or displaying a picture of his enemy, and by crying out or sounding a horn-blast, indicating that his opponent was a false man and detestable.
I mention the fact here because it shows how great events are decided by trifles. Scholars, of course, won’t have it so. Policies, they say, and the subtly laid schemes of statesmen, are what influence the destinies of nations; the opinions of intellectuals, the writings of philosophers, settle the fate of mankind. Well, they may do their share, but in my experience the course of history is as often settled by someone’s having a belly-ache, or not sleeping well, or a sailor getting drunk, or some aristocratic harlot waggling her backside.
Elgin himself looked ten years younger, now that he’d cast the die, but I thought exuberance had got the better of him when he strode into the saloon later, threw The Origin of Species on the table and announced:"It’s very original, no doubt, but not for a hot evening. What I need is some trollop."I couldn’t believe my ears, and him a church-goer, too. "Well, my lord, I dunno,” says I. "Tientsin ain’t much of a place, but I’ll see what I can drum up —""Michel’s been reading Doctor Thorne since Taku," cried he. "He must have finished it by now, surely! Ask him, Flashman, will you?" So I did, and had my ignorance, enlightened.