Episode by James Owen Hannay
An Extract from
Our Casualty And Other Stories
Sam McAlister walked into my office yesterday and laid down a
handful of silver on my desk.
There you are, he said, and I am very much obliged to you for the
For the moment I could not recollect having lent Sam any money;
though I should be glad to do so at any time if I thought he wanted it.
Sam is a boy I like. He is an undergraduate of Trinity College, Dublin,
and has the makings of a man in him, though he is not good at passing
examinations and has never figured in an honours list. Some day, when
he takes his degree, he is to come into my office and be made into a
lawyer. His father, the Dean, is an old friend of mine.
I looked at the money lying before me, and then doubtfully at Sam.
If you've forgotten all about it, he said, it's rather a pity I
paid. But I always was honest. That's one of my misfortunes. If I
wasn't That's the fine you paid for me.
Then I remembered. Sam got into trouble with the police a few weeks
ago. He and a dozen or so of his fellow-students broke loose and ran
riot through the streets of Dublin. All high-spirited boys do this sort
of thing occasionally, whether they are junior army officers, lawyers'
clerks, or university undergraduates. Trinity College boys, being Irish
and having a large city at their gates, riot more picturesquely than
anyone else. Sam had captured the flag which the Lord Mayor flies
outside his house, had pushed a horse upstairs into the office of a
respectable stockbroker, and had driven a motor-car, borrowed from an
unwilling owner, down a narrow and congested street at twenty-five or
thirty miles an hour. He was captured in the end by eight policemen,
and was very nearly sent to gaol with hard labour. I got him off by
paying a fine of one pound, together with £2 4s. 6d. for the damage
done by the horse to the stockbroker's staircase and office furniture.
The motorcar, fortunately, had neither injured itself nor anyone else.
I hope, I said, pocketing the money, that this will be a lesson
to you, Sam.
It won't, he said. At least, not in the way you mean. It'll
encourage me to go into another rag the very first time I get the
chance. As a matter of fact, being arrested was the luckiest thing ever
happened to me, though I didn't think so at the time.
Well, I said, if you like paying up these large sums it's your
own affair. I should have thought you could have got better value for
your money by spending it on something you wanted.
Money isn't everything in the world, said Sam. There is such a
thing as having a good time, a rattling good time, even if you don't
make money out of it and run a chance of being arrested. I daresay
you'd like to hear what I've been at.
If you've committed any kind of crime, I said, I'd rather you
didn't tell me. It might be awkward for me afterwards when you are
I don't think it's exactly a crime, said Sam, anyhow, it isn't
anything wrong, though, of course, it may be slightly illegal. I'd
rather like to have your opinion about that.
Is it a long story? I'm rather busy to-day.
Not very long, said Sam, but I daresay it would sound better
after dinner. What would you say now to asking me to dine to-night at
your club? We could go up to that library place afterwards. There's
never anybody there, and I could tell you the whole thing.
Sam knows the ways of my club nearly as well as I do myself. There
is never anyone in the library in the evening. I gave the required
We dined comfortably, and I got a good cigar for Sam afterwards.
When the waiter had left the room he plunged into his story.
You remember the day I was hauled up before that old ass of a
magistrate. He jawed a lot and then fined me £3 4s. 6d., which you
paid. Jolly decent of you. I hadn't a shilling in the world, being
absolutely stony broke at the time; so if you hadn't paidand lots of
fellows wouldn'tI should have had to go to gaol.
Never mind about that, I said. You've paid me back.
Still, I'm grateful, especially as I should have missed the spree
of my life if I'd been locked up. As it was, thanks to you, I walked
out of the court without a stain on my character.
Well, hardly that. You were found guilty of riotous behaviour, you
Anyhow, I walked out, said Sam, and that's the main point.
It was, of course, the point which mattered most; and, after all,
the stain on Sam's character was not indelible. Lots of young fellows
behave riotously and turn out excellent men afterwards. I was an
undergraduate myself once, and there is a story about Sam's father, now
a dean, which is still told occasionally. When he was an undergraduate
a cow was found tied up in the big examination hall.
Sam's father, who was very far from being a dean then, had borrowed
the cow from a milkman.
There were a lot of men waiting outside, said Sam. They wanted to
stand me a lunch in honour of my escape.
Your fellow-rioters, I suppose?
Well, most of them had been in the rag, and, of course, they were
sorry for me, being the only one actually caught. However, the lunch
never came off. There was a queer old fellow standing on the steps of
the court who got me by the arm as I came out. Said he wanted to speak
to me on important business, and would I lunch with him. I didn't know
what he could possibly have to say to me, for I had never seen him
before; but he lookedit's rather hard to describe how he looked. He
wasn't exactly what you'd call a gentleman, in the way of clothes, I
mean; but he struck me as being a sportsman.
Not the least. More like one's idea of some kind of modern pirate,
though not exactly. He talked like an American. I went with him, of
Of course, I said, anyone with an adventurous spirit would prefer
lunching with an unknown American buccaneer to sharing a commonplace
feast with a mob of boys. Did you happen to hear his name?
He said it was Hazlewood, but
But it may not have been?
One of the other fellows called him Cassidy later on.
Oh, I said, there were other fellows?
There were afterwards, said Sam, not at first. He and I lunched
alone. He did me well. A bottle of champagne for the two of us and
offered me a second bottle. I refused that.
He came to business after the champagne, I suppose?
He more or less talked business the whole time, though at first I
didn't know quite what he was at. He gassed a lot about my having
knocked down those two policemen. You remember that I knocked down two,
don't you? I would have got a third only that they collared me from
behind. Well, Hazlewood, or Cassidy, or whatever his name was, had seen
the scrap, and seemed to think no end of a lot of me for the fight I
The magistrate took a serious view of it, too, I said.
There wasn't much in it, said Sam modestly. As I told Hazlewood,
any fool can knock down a policeman. They're so darned fat. He asked me
if I liked fighting policemen. I said I did.
Sam caught some note of sarcasm in my voice. He felt it necessary to
modify his statement.
Well, not policemen in particular. I haven't a special down on
policemen. I like a scrap with anyone. Then he saidHarlewood, that
isthat he admired the way I drove that car down Grafton Street. He
said he liked a man who wasn't afraid to take risks; which was rot.
There wasn't any real risk.
The police swore that you went at thirty miles an hour, I said.
And that street is simply crowded in the middle of the day.
I don't believe I was doing anything like thirty miles an hour,
said Sam. I should say twenty-seven at the outside. And there was no
risk because everybody cleared out of my way. I had the street
practically to myself. It was rather fun seeing all the other cars and
carts and things piled up upon the footpaths at either side and the
people bolting into the shops like rabbits. But there wasn't any risk.
However, old Hazlewood evidently thought there was, and seemed
frightfully pleased about it He said he had a car of his own, a sixty
h.p. Daimler, and that he'd like to see me drive it. I said I'd take
him for a spin any time he liked. I gave him a hint that we might start
immediately after lunch and run up to Belfast in time for dinner. With
a car like that I could have done it easy. However, he wasn't on.
Do you think he really had the car?
Oh, he had her all right I drove her afterwards. Great Scott, such
a drive! The next thing he said was that he believed I was a pretty
good man in a boat. I said I knew something about boats, though not
Modesty is one of Sam's virtues. He is, I believe, an excellent hand
in a small yacht, and does a good deal of racing.
I asked him what put it into his head that I could sail a boat, and
he said O'Meara told him. O'Meara is a man I sail with occasionally,
and I thought it nice of him to mention my name to this old boy. I can
hoist a spinnaker all right and shift a jib, but I'm no good at
navigation. Always did hate sums and always will. I told him that, and
he said he could do the navigation himself. All he wanted was a good
amateur crew for a thirty-ton yawl with a motor auxiliary. He had four
men, and he asked me to make a fifth. I said I'd go like a shot.
Strictly speaking, I ought to have been attending lectures; but what
good are lectures? Very little, I said. In fact, hardly any. I
wasn't going to lose a cruise for the sake of any amount of lectures,
said Sam, particularly with the chance of a tour on that sixty h.p.
car thrown in.
Sam paused at this point. It seemed to me that he wanted
You'd have been a fool if you had, I said.
Up to that time, said Sam thoughtfully, I hadn't tumbled to what
he was at. I give you my word of honour I hadn't the dimmest idea that
he was after anything in particular. I thought he was simply a good old
sport with lots of money, which he knew how to spend in sensible ways.
The criminal part of the business was mentioned later on, I
I don't know that there's anything criminal about it, said Sam.
I'm jolly well sure it wasn't wrong, under the circumstances. But it
may have been criminal. That's just what I want you to tell me.
I'll give you my opinion, I said, when I hear what it was.
Gun-running, said Sam.
Gun-running has for some time been a popular sport in Ireland, and I
find it very difficult to say whether it is against the law or not. The
Government goes in for trying to stop it, which looks as if a
gun-runner might be prosecuted when caught. On the other hand, the
Government never prosecutes gun-runners, even those who openly boast of
their exploits, and that looks as if it were quite a legal amusement. I
promised Sam that I would consider the point, and I asked him to tell
me exactly what he did.
Well, he said, when I heard it was gunrunning I simply jumped at
the chance. Any fellow would. I said I'd start right away, if he liked
As a matter of fact, we didn't start for nearly a fortnight The boat
turned out to be the Pegeen. You know the Pegeen, don't
I did not I am not a sailor, and except that I cannot help seeing
paragraphs about Shamrock IV. in the daily papers I do not think
I know the name of a single yacht.
Well, said Sam, she's O'Meara's boat I've sailed in her sometimes
in cruiser races. She's slow and never does any good, but she's a fine
sea boat. My idea was that Hazlewood had hired her, and I didn't find
out till after we had started that O'Meara was on board. That surprised
me a bit, for O'Meara goes in for being rather an extreme kind of
Nationalistnot the sort of fellow you'd expect to be running guns for
Carson and the Ulster Volunteers. However, I was jolly glad to see him.
He crawled out of the cabin when we were a couple of miles out of the
harbour, and by that time I'd have been glad to see anyone who knew one
end of the boat from the other. Old Hazlewood was all right; but the
other three men were simply rotters, the sort of fellows who'd be just
as likely as not to take a pull on a topsail halyard when told to slack
away the lee runner. I was just making up my mind to work the boat
single-handed when O'Meara turned up. There was a middling fresh breeze
from the west, and we were going south on a reach. I didn't get much
chance of a talk with O'Meara because he was in one watch and I in the
otherhad to be, of course, on account of being the only two who knew
anything about working the boat. I did notice, though, that when he
spoke to Hazlewood he called him Cassidy. However, that was no business
of mine. We sailed pretty nearly due south that day and the next, and
the next after that. Then we hove to.
Where? I asked.
Ask me another, said Sam. I told you I couldn't navigate. I
hadn't an idea within a hundred miles where we were. What's more, I
didn't care. I was having a splendid time, and had succeeded in
knocking some sort of sense into the other fellow in my watch.
Hazlewood steered, and barring that he was sea-sick for eight hours, my
man turned out to be a decent sort, and fairly intelligent. He said his
name was Temple, but Hazlewood called him O'Reilly as often as not.
You seem to have gone in for a nice variety of names, I said.
What did you call yourself?
I stuck to my own name, of course. I wasn't doing anything to be
ashamed of. If we'd been caught and the thing had turned out to be a
crimeI don't know whether it was or not, but if it was, I
I suppose I should have paid your fine, I said.
Thanks, said Sam. Thanks, awfully. I rather expected you would
whenever I thought about that part of it, but I very seldom did.
What happened when you lay to?
Nothing at first. We bumped about a bit for five or six hours, and
Temple got frightfully sick again. I never saw a man sicker. Harlewood
kept on muddling about with charts, and doing sums on sheets of paper,
and consulting with O'Meara. I suppose they wanted to make sure that
they'd got to the right place. At last, just about sunset, a small
steamer turned up. She hung about all night, and next day we started
early, about four o'clock, and got the guns out of her, or some of
them. We couldn't take the whole cargo, of course, in a 30-ton yacht I
don't know how many more guns she had. Perhaps she hadn't any more.
Only our little lot Anyhow, I was jolly glad when the job was over.
There was a bit of a rollnothing much, you know, but quite enough to
make it pretty awkward. Temple got over his sea-sickness, which was a
comfort. I suppose the excitement cured him. The way we worked was
thisbut I daresay you wouldn't understand, even if I told you.
Is it very technical? I mean, must you use many sea words?
Must, said Sam. We were at sea, you know.
Well, I said, perhaps you'd better leave that part out. Tell me
what you did with the guns when you'd got them.
Right It was there the fun really came in. Not that I'm complaining
about the other part. It was sport all right, but the funny part, the
part you'll like, came later. What about another cigar?
I rang the bell, and got two more cigars for Sam.
We had rather a tiresome passage home, he said. It kept on
falling calm, and O'Meara's motor isn't very powerful. It took us a
clear week to work our way up to the County Down coast It was there we
landed, in a poky little harbour. We went in at night, and had to wait
for a full tide to get in at all. We got the sails of the boat outside,
and just strolled in, so to speak, with the wretched little engine
doing about half it could. Hazlewood told me that he expected four
motor-cars to meet us, and that I was to take one of them, and drive
like hell into County Armagh. There I was to call at a house belonging
to O'Meara, and hand over my share of the guns. He said he hoped I knew
my way about those parts, because it would be awkward for me trying to
work with road maps when I ought to drive fast. I said I knew that
country like the palm of my hand. The governor's parish is up there,
Sam certainly ought to know County Down. He was brought up there,
and must have walked, cycled, and driven over most of the roads.
The only thing I didn't know, said Sam, was O'Meara's house. I'd
never heard of his having a house in that part of the country. However,
he said he'd only taken it lately, and that when I got over the border
into Armagh there'd be a man waiting to show me where to go. He told me
the road I was to take and I knew every turn of the way, so I felt
pretty sure of getting there. It was about two in the morning when we
got alongside the pier. The four motors were there all right, but there
wasn't a soul about except the men in charge of them. We got out the
guns. They were done up in small bundles and the cartridges in handy
little cases; but it took us till half-past four o'clock to get them
ashore. By that time there were a few people knocking about; but they
didn't seem to want to interfere with us. In fact, some of them came
and helped us to pack the stuff into the cars. They were perfectly
That doesn't surprise me in the least, I said The people up there
are nearly all Protestants. Most of them were probably Volunteers
themselves. I daresay it wasn't the first cargo they'd helped to land.
It was the first cargo they ever helped to land for the National
Volunteers, said Sam with a grin.
The National Volunteers!
I admit that Sam startled me. I do not suppose that he has any
political convictions. At the age of twenty a man has a few prejudices
but no convictions. If he is a young fellow who goes in for being
intellectual they are prejudices against the party his father belonged
to. Ifand this is Sam's casehe is a healthy-minded young man, who
enjoys sport, he takes over his father's opinions as they stand, and
regards everybody who does not accept them as an irredeemable
blackguard. The Dean is a very strong loyalist. He is the chaplain of
an Orange Lodge, and has told me more than once that he hopes to march
to battle at the head of his regiment of Volunteers.
Smuggling arms for the Nationalists! I said.
That's what I did, said Sam, grinning broadly. But I thought all
the time that I was working for the other side. I didn't know the
Nationalists went in for guns; thought they only talked. In fact, to
tell you the truth, I forgot all about them. Otherwise I wouldn't have
done it At least I mightn't. But I had a great time.
Of course, I said, I don't mind. So far as I am concerned
personally I'd rather neither side had any guns. But if your father
finds out, Sam, there'll be a frightful row. He'll disown you.
The governor knows all about it, said Sam, and he doesn't mind
one bit. Just wait till you hear the end of the story. You'll be as
surprised as I was.
I certainly shall, I said, if the story ends in your father's
approving of your smuggling guns for rebels. He'd call them rebels, you
Oh, said Sam, as far as rebellion goes I don't see that there's
much to choose between them. However, that doesn't matter. What
happened was this. I got off with my load about five o'clock, and I had
a gorgeous spin. There wasn't a cart or a thing on the roads, and I
just let the car rip. I touched sixty miles an hour, and hardly ever
dropped below forty. Best run I ever had. Almost the only thing I
passed was a motor lorry, going the same way I was. I didn't think
anything of it at the time, but it turned out to be important
afterwards. It was about seven o'clock when I got out of County Down
into Armagh. I began looking out for the fellow who was to meet me. It
wasn't long before I spotted him, standing at a corner, trying to look
as if he were a military sentry. You know the sort of thing I mean.
Bandolier, belt, and frightfully stiff about the back. He held up his
hand and I stopped. 'A loyal man,' he said. Well, I was, so far as I
knew at that time, so I said 'You bet.' 'That's not right,' said he.
'Give the countersign.' I hadn't heard anything about a countersign, so
I told him not to be a damned fool, and that I'd break his head if he
said I wasn't a loyal man. That seemed to puzzle him a bit He got out a
notebook and read a page or two, looking at me and the car every now
and then as if he wasn't quite satisfied. I felt pretty sure, of
course, that he was the man I wanted. He couldn't very well be anyone
else. So by way of cutting the business short I told him I was loaded
up with guns and cartridges, and that I wished he'd hop in and show me
where to go. 'That's all very fine,' he said, 'but you oughtn't to be
in a car like that' I told him there was no use arguing about the car.
I wasn't going back to change it to please him. He asked me who I was,
and I told him, mentioning that I was the governor's son. I thought
that might help him to make up his mind, and it did. The governor is
middling well known up in those parts, and the mention of his name was
enough. The fellow climbed in beside me. We hadn't very far to go, as
it turned out, and in the inside of twenty minutes I was driving up the
avenue of a big house. The size of it rather surprised me, for I didn't
think O'Meara was well enough off to keep up a place of the kind.
However, I was evidently expected, for I was shown into the dining-room
by a footman. There were three men at breakfast, my old dad,
Doppingyou know Dopping, don't you?
Dopping is a retired cavalry colonel. I do business for him and know
him pretty well He is just the sort of man who would be in the thick of
any gun-running that was going on.
There was another man, said Sam, whom I didn't know and wasn't
introduced to. The fact is there wasn't much time for politeness. My
dad looked as if he'd been shot when he saw me, and old Dopping
bristled all over like an Irish terrier at the beginning of a fight,
and asked me who the devil I was and what I was doing there. Of course,
he jolly well knew who I was, and I thought he must know what brought
me there, so I just winked by way of letting him understand that I was
in the game. He got so red in the face that I thought he'd burst Then
the other man chipped in and asked me what I'd got in the car. The
three of them whispered together for a bit, and I suggested that if
they didn't believe me they'd better go and see. The car was outside
the door, and their own man was sitting on the guns. Dopping went, and
I suppose he told the other two that the guns were there all right Dad
asked me where I got them, and I told them, mentioning Hazlewood's name
and the name of the yacht I was a bit puzzled, but I still thought
everything was all right, and that there'd be no harm in mentioning
names. I very soon saw that there was some sort of mistake somewhere.
The governor and old Dopping and the other man, who seemed to be the
coolest of the three, went over to the window and looked at the car.
Then they started whispering again, and I couldn't hear a word they
said. Didn't want to. I was as hungry as a wolf, and there was a jolly
good breakfast on the table. I sat down and gorged. I had just started
my third egg when the door opened, and a rather nice-looking young
fellow walked in. The footman came behind him, looking as white as a
sheet, and began some sort of apology for letting the stranger in. Old
Dopping, who was still in a pretty bad temper, told the footman to go
and be damned. Then the new man introduced himself. He said he was
Colonel O'Connell, of the first Armagh Regiment of National Volunteers.
I expected to see old Dopping kill him at sight Dopping is a tremendous
loyalist, and the other fellowwellphew!
Sam whistled. Words failed him, I suppose, when it came to
expressing the disloyalty of a colonel of National Volunteers.
Instead of that, said Sam, Dopping stood up straight, and saluted
O'Connell. O'Connell stiffened his back, and saluted Dopping. The third
man, the one I didn't know, stood up, too, and saluted. O'Connell
saluted him. Then the governor bowed quite civilly, and O'Connell
saluted him. I can tell you it was a pretty scene. 'I beg to inform
you, gentlemen,' said O'Connell, 'that a consignment of rifles and
ammunition, apparently intended for your force, has arrived at our
headquarters in a motor lorry.' Nothing could have been civiller than
the way he spoke. But Dopping was not to be beat He's a bristly old
bear at times, but he always was a gentleman. 'Owing to a mistake,' he
said, 'some arms, evidently belonging to you, are now in a car at our
door.' The governor and the other man sat down and laughed till they
were purple, but neither O'Connell nor old Dopping so much as smiled.
It was thenand I give you my word not till thenthat I tumbled to
the idea that I'd been running guns for the other side. I expected that
there'd be a furious row the minute the governor stopped laughing. But
there wasn't In fact, no one took any notice of me. There was a long
consultation, and in the end they settled that it might be risky to
start moving the guns about again, and that each party had better stick
to what it had got. Our fellowsI call them our fellows, though, of
course, I was really acting for the othersour fellows got rather the
better of the exchange in the way of ammunition. But O'Connell scooped
in a lot of extra rifles. When they had that settled they all saluted
again, and the governor said something about hoping to meet O'Connell
at Philippi. I don't know what he meant by that, but O'Connell seemed
tremendously pleased. Where do you suppose Philippi is?
Philippi, I said, is where somebodyJulius Caesar, I think, but
it doesn't matterWhat your father meant was that he hoped to have a
chance of fighting it out with O'Connell some day. Not a duel, you
know, but a proper battle. The Ulster Volunteers against the other
We shall have to wipe out the police first, said Sam, to prevent
their interfering. I hope I shall be there then. I want to get my own
back out of those fellows who collared me from behind the day of the
last rag. But, I say, what about the soldiersthe regular soldiers, I
mean? Which side will they be on?
That, I said, is the one uncertain factor in the problem. Nobody
The best plan, said Sam, would be to take them away altogether,
and leave us to settle the matter ourselves. We'd do it all right,
judging by the way old Dopping and O'Connell behaved to each other.
Out of the mouths of babes and sucklings. I should never have
suspected Sam of profound political wisdom. But it is quite possible
that his suggestion would meet the case better than any other.