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A WWII Classic Read

Subdeacon Joe

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"See Here, Private Hargrove"





MAKING my way around Fort Bragg last spring on a private tour of duty I came upon what looked like a holdup in the broad daylight of a company street. A tall, good-looking soldier was being rushed by a little gang of buddies who took money from him with wild cries and fierce expressions.

"What's going on here?" I asked.

The ruffians made way respectfully for me, but gave no reply. They were too busy counting their ill-gotten gains.

"What is this?" I asked.

"Answer him, helot," said a swarthy sergeant, thumbing an evidently unsatisfactory split of the returns. "This, suh," said the tall soldier gravely, revealing an oratorical Southern accent, "is my holding company, making a division of my monthly pay. Gentlemen," he continued, addressing the pirates around him, "you appear to have forgotten the cigarette allowance."

"You can mooch cigarettes this month, Hargrove," said a soldier who carried a camera. Then he smiled sweetly at me. "We got a heavy investment in this guy," he continued. "Where are you from?"

"New York," I answered, telling the approximate truth.

"Who do you know?" said a large dark Irishman, later known to me as Mulvehill. He looked round at his fellow conspirators. "Maybe we could swindle a deal. Who do you know?"

"Just the neighbors," I said.

"Know any publishers?" asked Mulvehill. "Why?" I asked.

"This guy's always writing stuff which he hands over to us for security. Want to see it?"

"Why not?" I said.

"I'll get it," said Sergeant Sher, and ran inside.

"He's the custodian," said Bushemi, who carried the camera.

"How did this amiable Southerner fall into the clutches of a gang of carpetbaggers like you?" I asked.

"It's love," said Bushemi. "Three times a year he mortgages his folding and his everlasting soul to raise capital for a trip to see his girl. And she won't even marry him. He's a victim. But if we don't send him to see his girl he can't write. And if he don't write we haven't got a prayer of getting our money back. You see, we're pretty deep in."

"I would not have you think, suh," said Hargrove, that this swindling of deals is entirely one-sided. I am in the hands of my friends, suh, and they supply me with whatever boons I consider necessary for the sustenance of my soul. Grasping as they are where my money is concerned, they would not withhold cigarettes entirely, nor even Cuba libres or reading matter. In fact, there is probably no soldier in this army whose wants are more assiduously looked after than mine. As it says in the Good Book, 'Where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.' And this concern for my welfare increases in mathematical proportion to my indebtedness."

"Hey, did you figure all that out?" yelled Mulvehill. "I am a sheep in the hands of the shearers," said Hargrove.

Just then Sergeant Slier returned with certain manuscripts. Henry Holt has printed them, and here they are.



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