CHAPTER I THE MAYO FUSILIERS
"What am I to do with you, Terence? It bothers me entirely; there is not a soul who will take you, and if anyone would do so, you would wear out his patience before a week's end; there is not a dog in the regiment that does not put his tail between his legs and run for his bare life if he sees you; and as for the colonel, he told me only the other day that he had so many complaints against you, that he was fairly worn out with them."
"That was only his way, father; the colonel likes a joke as well as any of them."
"Yes, when it is not played on himself; but you haven't even the sense to respect persons, and it is well for you that he could not prove that it was you who fastened the sparrow to the plume of feathers on his shako the other day, and no one noticed it till the little baste began to flutter just as he came on to parade, and nigh choked us all with trying to hold in our laughter, while the colonel was nearly suffocated with passion. It was lucky you were able to prove that you had gone off at daylight fishing, and that no one had seen you anywhere near his quarters. By my faith, if he could have proved it was you he would have had you turned out of the barrack gate, and word given to the sentries that you were not to be allowed to pass in again."
"I could have got over the wall, father," the boy said, calmly; "but mind,I never said that it was I who fastened the sparrow in his shako."
"Because I never asked you, Terence; but it does not need the asking. What I am to do with you I don't know. Your Uncle Tim would not take you if I were to go down upon my knees to him. You were always in his bad books, and you finished it when you fired off that blunderbuss in his garden as he was passing along in the twilight, and yelled out 'Death to the Protestants!'"
The boy burst into a fit of laughter. "How could I tell that he was going to fall flat upon the ground and shout a million murders, when I fired straight into the air?"
"Well, you did for yourself there, Terence. Not that the old man would ever have taken to you, for he never forgave my marriage with his niece; still, he might have left you some money some day, seeing that there is no one nearer to him, and it would have come in mighty useful, for you are not likely to get much from me. But we are no nearer the point yet. What am I to do with you at all? Here is the regiment ordered on foreign service and likely to have sharp work, and not a place where I can stow you. It beats me altogether!"
"Why not take me with you, father?"
"I have thought of that, but you are too young entirely."
"I am nearly sixteen, father. I am sure I am as tall as many boys of seventeen, and as strong too. Why should I not go? I am certain I could stand roughing it as well as Dick Ryan, who is a good bit over sixteen. Could I not go as a volunteer? Or I might enlist; the doctor would pass me quick enough."
"O'Flaherty would pass you if you were a baby in arms; he is as full of mischief as you are, and has not much more discretion; but you could not carry a musket, full cartridge-box, and kit for a long day's march."
"I can carry a gun through a long day's shooting, dad; but you might make me your soldier servant."
"Bedad, I should fare mighty badly, Terence; still as I don't see anything else for you, I must try and take you somehow, even if you have to go as a drummer....