Barry Lyndon HTML version

Chapter 4
In Which Barry Takes A Near View Of Military Glory
I never had a taste for anything but genteel company, and hate all descriptions of low life.
Hence my account of the society in which I at present found myself must of necessity be
short; and, indeed, the recollection of it is profoundly disagreeable to me. Pah! the
reminiscences of the horrid black-hole of a place in which we soldiers were confined; of
the wretched creatures with whom I was now forced to keep company; of the ploughmen,
poachers, pickpockets, who had taken refuge from poverty, or the law (as, in truth, I had
done myself), is enough to make me ashamed even now, and it calls the blush into my old
cheeks to think I was ever forced to keep such company. I should have fallen into despair,
but that, luckily, events occurred to rouse my spirits, and in some measure to console me
for my misfortunes.
The first of these consolations I had was a good quarrel, which took place on the day after
my entrance into the transport-ship, with a huge red-haired monster of a fellow--a
chairman, who had enlisted to fly from a vixen of a wife, who, boxer as he was, had been
more than a match for him. As soon as this fellow--Toole, I remember, was his name--got
away from the arms of the washerwoman his lady, his natural courage and ferocity
returned, and he became the tyrant of all round about him. All recruits, especially, were
the object of the brute's insult and ill-treatment.
I had no money, as I said, and was sitting very disconsolately over a platter of rancid
bacon and mouldy biscuit, which was served to us at mess, when it came to my turn to be
helped to drink, and I was served, like the rest, with a dirty tin noggin, containing
somewhat more than half a pint of rum-and-water. The beaker was so greasy and filthy
that I could not help turning round to the messman and saying, 'Fellow, get me a glass!'
At which all the wretches round about me burst into a roar of laughter, the very loudest
among them being, of course, Mr. Toole. 'Get the gentleman a towel for his hands, and
serve him a basin of turtle-soup,' roared the monster, who was sitting, or rather squatting,
on the deck opposite me; and as he spoke he suddenly seized my beaker of grog and
emptied it, in the midst of another burst of applause.
'If you want to vex him, ax him about his wife the washerwoman, who BATES him,' here
whispered in my ear another worthy, a retired link- boy, who, disgusted with his
profession, had adopted the military life.
'Is it a towel of your wife's washing, Mr. Toole?' said I. 'I'm told she wiped your face
often with one.'
'Ax him why he wouldn't see her yesterday, when she came to the ship,' continued the
link-boy. And so I put to him some other foolish jokes about soapsuds, henpecking, and
flat-irons, which set the man into a fury, and succeeded in raising a quarrel between us.
We should have fallen to at once, but a couple of grinning marines, who kept watch at the