Mr. Dooley on Underestimating the Enemy

“What d’ye think iv th’ war?” Mr. Hennessy asked.

“I think I want to go out an’ apologize to Shafter,” said Mr. Dooley.

“I’m like ivrybody else, be hivins, I thought war was like shootin’ glass balls. I niver thought iv th’ glass balls thrainin’ a dinnymite gun on me. ‘Tis a thrait iv us Anglo-Saxons that we look on an inimy as a target. If ye hit him ye get three good see-gars. We’re like people that dhreams iv fights. In me dhreams I niver lost wan fight. A man I niver saw befure comes up an’ says something mane to me, that I can’t raymimber, an’ I climb into him an’ ’tis all over in a minyit. He niver hits me, or if he does I don’t feel it. I put him on his back an’ bate him to death. An’ thin I help mesilf to his watch an’ chain an’ me frinds come down an’ say, ‘Martin, ye haven’t a scratch,’ an’ con-grathlate me, an’ I wandher ar-roun’ th’ sthreets with a chip on me shoulder till I look down an’ see that I haven’t a stitch on me but a short shirt. An’ thin I wake up. Th’ list iv knock-outs to me credit in dhreams wud make Fitzsimmons feel poor. But ne’er a wan iv thim was printed in th’ pa-apers.”

“‘Tis so with me frinds, th’ hands acrost th’ sea. They wint to sleep an’ had a dhream. An’ says they: ‘We will sind down to South Africa thim gallant throops that have won so manny hard-fought reviews,’ they says, ‘captained,’ they says, ‘be th’ flower iv our aristocracy,’ they says. ‘An’ whin th’ Boers come out ar-rmed with rollin’ pins an’ bibles,’ they says, ‘We’ll just go at thim,’ they says, ‘an’ walk through thim an’ that night we’ll have a cotillyon at Pretoria to which all frinds is invited,’ they says. An’ so they deposit their intellects in th’ bank at home, an’ th’ absent-minded beggars goes out in thransports iv pathreetism an’ pothry. An’ they’se a meetin’ iv th’ cabinet an’ ’tis decided that as th’ war will on’y las’ wan week ’twill be well f’r to begin renamin’ th’ cities iv th’ Thransvaal afther pop’lar English statesmen — Joechamberlainville an’ Rhodesdorp an’ Beitfontein. F’r they have put their hands to th’ plough an’ th’ sponge is squeezed dhry, an’ th’ sands iv th’ glass have r-run out an’ th’ account is wiped clean.”

“An’ what’s th’ Boer doin’ all this time? What’s me frind th’ Boer doin’. Not sleepin’, Hinnissy, mind ye. He hasn’t anny dhreams iv conquest. But whin a man with long whiskers comes r-ridin’ up th’ r-road an’ says: ‘Jan Schmidt or Pat O’Toole or whativer his name is, ye’re wanted at th’ front,’ he goes home an’ takes a rifle fr’m th’ wall an’ kisses his wife an’ childher good-bye an’ puts a bible in th’ tails iv his coat an’ a stovepipe hat on his head an’ thramps away. An’ his wife says: ‘Good-bye, Jan. Don’t be long gone an’ don’t get shooted.’ An’ he says: ‘Not while I’ve got a leg undher me an’ a rock in front iv me,’ he says. I tell ye, Hinnissy, ye can’t beat a man that fights f’r his home an’ counthry in a stovepipe hat. He might be timpted f’r to come out fr’m cover f’r his native land, but he knows if he goes home to his wife with his hat mussed she won’t like it, an’ so he sets behind a rock an’ plugs away. If th’ lid is knocked off he’s fatally wounded.”

“What’s th’ raysult, Hinnissy? Th’ British marches up with their bands playin’ an’ their flags flyin’. An’ th’ Boers squat behind a bouldher or a three or set comfortable in th’ bed iv a river an’ bang away. Their on’y thradition is that it’s betther to be a live Boer thin a dead hero, which comes, perhaps, to th’ same thing. They haven’t been taught f’r hundherds iv years that ’tis a miracle f’r to be an officer an’ a disgrace to be a private sojer. They know that if they’re kilt they’ll have their names printed in th’ pa-apers as well as th’ Markess iv Doozleberry that’s had his eyeglass shot out. But they ain’t lookin’ f’r notoriety. All they want is to get home safe, with their counthry free, their honor protected an’ their hats in good ordher. An’ so they hammer away an’ th’ inimy keeps comin’, an’ th’ varyous editions iv th’ London pa-apers printed in this counthry have standin’ a line iv type beginnin’, ‘I regret to state.’”

“All this, Hinnissy, comes fr’m dhreamin’ dhreams. If th’ British had said, ‘This unclean an’ raypeecious people that we’re against is also very tough. Dirty though they be, they’ll fight. Foul though their nature is, they have ca’tridges in their belts. This not bein’ England an’ th’ inimy we have again us not bein’ our frinds, we will f’rget th’ gloryous thraditions iv th’ English an’ Soudan ar-rmies an’ instead iv r-rushin’ on thim sneak along yon kindly fence an’ hit thim on th’ back iv th’ neck,’ — they’d be less, ‘I r-regret-to-states’ and more ‘I’m plazed-to-reports.’ They wud so, an’ I’m a man that’s been through columns an’ columns iv war. Ye’ll find, Hinnissy, that ’tis on’y ar-rmies fights in th’ open. Nations fights behind threes an’ rocks. Ye can put that in ye’re little book. ‘Tis a sayin’ I made as I wint along.”

“We done th’ same way oursilves,” said Mr. Hennessy.

“We did that,” said Mr. Dooley. “We were in a dhream, too. Th’ on’y thing is th’ other fellow was in a thrance. We woke up first. An’ anny-how I’m goin’ to apologize to Shafter. He may not have anny medals f’r standin’ up in range iv th’ guns but, be hivins, he niver dhrove his buckboard into a river occypied be th’ formerly loathed Castile.”

(Mr. Dooley’s Philosophy)