The Green Flag and Other Tales HTML version

The Green Flag
When Jack Conolly, of the Irish Shotgun Brigade, the Rory of the Hills Inner Circle, and
the extreme left wing of the Land League, was incontinently shot by Sergeant Murdoch
of the constabulary, in a little moonlight frolic near Kanturk, his twin-brother Dennis
joined the British Army. The countryside had become too hot for him; and, as the
seventy-five shillings were wanting which might have carried him to America, he took
the only way handy of getting himself out of the way. Seldom has Her Majesty had a less
promising recruit, for his hot Celtic blood seethed with hatred against Britain and all
things British. The sergeant, however, smiling complacently over his 6 ft. of brawn and
his 44 in. chest, whisked him off with a dozen other of the boys to the depot at Fermoy,
whence in a few weeks they were sent on, with the spade-work kinks taken out of their
backs, to the first battalion of the Royal Mallows, at the top of the roster for foreign
The Royal Mallows, at about that date, were as strange a lot of men as ever were paid by
a great empire to fight its battles. It was the darkest hour of the land struggle, when the
one side came out with crow-bar and battering-ram by day, and the other with mask and
with shot-gun by night. Men driven from their homes and potato-patches found their way
even into the service of the Government, to which it seemed to them that they owed their
troubles, and now and then they did wild things before they came. There were recruits in
the Irish regiments who would forget to answer to their own names, so short had been
their acquaintance with them. Of these the Royal Mallows had their full share; and, while
they still retained their fame as being one of the smartest corps in the army, no one knew
better than their officers that they were dry-rotted with treason and with bitter hatred of
the flag under which they served.
And the centre of all the disaffection was C Company, in which Dennis Conolly found
himself enrolled. They were Celts, Catholics, and men of the tenant class to a man; and
their whole experience of the British Government had been an inexorable landlord, and a
constabulary who seemed to them to be always on the side of the rent-collector. Dennis
was not the only moonlighter in the ranks, nor was he alone in having an intolerable
family blood-feud to harden his heart. Savagery had begotten savagery in that veiled civil
war. A landlord with an iron mortgage weighing down upon him had small bowels for his
tenantry. He did but take what the law allowed, and yet, with men like Jim Holan, or
Patrick McQuire, or Peter Flynn, who had seen the roofs torn from their cottages and
their folk huddled among their pitiable furniture upon the roadside, it was ill to argue
about abstract law. What matter that in that long and bitter struggle there was many
another outrage on the part of the tenant, and many another grievance on the side of the
landowner! A stricken man can only feel his own wound, and the rank and file of the C
Company of the Royal Mallows were sore and savage to the soul. There were low
whisperings in barrack-rooms and canteens, stealthy meetings in public-house parlours,
bandying of passwords from mouth to mouth, and many other signs which made their
officers right glad when the order came which sent them to foreign, and better still, to
active service.