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The Flower & The Serpent

Chapter Text

Arthur was powering through a cigarette when Dutch approached him that morning.

“I want you to come into De Soto with Maebh and I,” the latter explained. “While this lot are packin’ up everythin’.”

Arthur ran his eyes over camp, within which Miss Grimshaw and Mr Pearson were rallying the troops. Now that everyone was finally waking up with the rising sun, they had to get everything packed away so they could move onwards to their next destination. Most people were on edge, snapping with less-than-usually-needed prompting or flat out keeping to themselves. Swanson’s tent that housed the O’Driscoll was being avoided by most of them. It wasn’t an easy morning in camp, but after a night like that, who could blame them? The day ahead was sure to be a busy one.

“Whatchu wanna do in De Soto?” Arthur asked as he inhaled roughly.

“I want to have a chat with the saloon owner in town. Maebh said that he seemed to know our new friend after she broke his nose. He might be able to give us some information on these O’Driscolls. That and I wanna pay Annabelle a visit before we go. Don’t want her thinkin’ I’d run off without a word.”

“What about the O’Driscoll we got here? He ain’t talkin’?”

“Right now, he’s restin’ and I don’t think he’ll be doin’ much else for a while considerin’ his injuries. Plus, if we already know more than he realises, we can compare what he tells us with what the saloon owner says. You in?”

Though Arthur partly wished he could avoid the O’Driscolls altogether, he agreed to accompany them into town to gather whatever information they could. “Sure. You wanna leave now?”

“The sooner the better,” Dutch said, going off to fetch his horse. “I asked the others to pack up the rest of our things while we’re gone, so don’t worry about ’em.”

“You got it, Dutch.”

As Arthur went to mount up, he spotted Maebh doing the same thing. Noticing the slight furrow in her brow, he lead Boadicea along and slowly approached his friend. “How’re you doin’ this mornin’?”

She offered him a half smile and shrugged as she secured the saddle to her mare’s back. “Just as you would expect after a night like that. How ’bout yourself?”

“A lil shaken, I guess. It’s not everyday some nutcase comes into camp like… that.”

Maebh frowned at his words. “I was goin’ t’ask if that sorta thing was a regular occurrence, but I guess not. It takes a lot to shake you.”

It was easy enough to see — or perhaps it was easy for him — that she was just as perturbed by said recent events, and Arthur had no interest in making her feel worse. If anything, he felt the need to make it better. A little bit of reassurance would hopefully improve her mood. “Unfortunately it ain’t. Sorry to break it to ya. But that don’t matter — once we move, we should be fine.”

“The sooner the better. Where are we headed anyway?”

“South Dakota,” a reply sounded from behind them. Right on time, Dutch appeared with the Count not far behind. “A small town called Fulton, to be exact. Far enough, but not too far. Headin’ west is usually a safe bet.”

“How long’ll that take?” Maebh queried as she pulled herself up on to her saddle.

“A few days with rests here and there. Myself and Hosea are familiar enough with that country. The others will meet us in town once they’re packed up and ready to go. Now, let’s get this over with, shall we?”

The ride into De Soto was shorter than usual. With little time to spare, the trio galloped as quickly as they could into town and arrived at the saloon. Considering it was so early in the day, it was mostly quiet, bar a couple of patrons who were grabbing food or a questionably early drink.

As Dutch greeted the owner, he clearly recognised them given the slight scepticism in his face. “It’s good to see you again, friends. What’ll it be?”

“Three beers, Mister,” Dutch said and placed some coins on the counter. “But we ain’t here just for drinks.”

Once the drinks were set down, Arthur took a swig and the barman looked at them with hesitation. “Well, I hope you’re not here to cause more trouble.”

“Of course not, friend,” Dutch insisted, laying on all the charm he had. “Now to be fair, I think that guy deserved a knock or two after what he said to young Maebh here.”

“Probably, but I still don’t like when it happens in my establishment.” His eyes wandered to the young woman before adding. “I hope you were alright afterwards, miss, but you looked like you could handle yourself alright.”

Maebh nodded. “I like to think I can.”

“We just wanted to ask you some questions about the men from that night,” Dutch continued. “If that’s alright with you. I promise we won’t be startin’ nothin’ in your saloon, just wanna look out for ourselves, if’n you understand me.”

The barman idly cleaned a glass as he gave them a nod to go on. “Ask away.”

“What can you tell us ’bout the O’Driscolls?”

“I thought you might have known ’em already, considerin’ you were so quick to fight back.”

“That’s just a habit of ours,” Dutch explained with a slight smirk. “We only heard of ’em last night, so we’re lookin’ to get whatever information we can.”

“Well they’re not good news, I can certainly tell you that much.” The saloon owner glanced around the room before continuing on in a lower voice. “They’re a gang that says they run Madison County and a lot of these parts of Iowa. I haven’t got a good word to say about ’em — always robbin’ and killin’ when they get a chance. Get away with a lot of it ’cause they’ve got corrupt men workin’ in different towns; doctors, inn-keepers, store owners, gunsmiths, you name it. They’ve got a couple here and there. They’re made up of mostly Irish, but they’ve got plenty of Americans and Scots in their ranks too — seem to have a helluva lot of numbers. They claim to be workin’ against ‘order’ and all that, but I think they just wanna cause trouble wherever they can. I usually don’t like ’em comin’ in here ’cause they either scare away my other customers or cause fights to break out.”

“Any idea who leads the gang?” Arthur asked after another swig.

The man shrugged. “I couldn’t tell you. I don’t know many of ’em bar the ones who come in here. I wouldn’t even know their boss if I saw him in my saloon. Sorry, misters, ma’am.”

“No problem, partner. Any information is better than nothin’.”

As Dutch finished most of his beer, the owner replied. “Glad I could help. I do hope that whatever problems you got with those boys don’t last long.”

They let the man get back to business while they contemplated what he had to share. Arthur was the first to clear his throat. “Well, that was better than nothin’, I guess.”

“At least we know more ’bout what we’re dealin’ with,” Dutch reassured them. “I think we’re makin’ the right decision in movin’ elsewhere. If their numbers and reach are as that man describes ’em, then we ain’t got much chance and I ain’t willin’ to risk lives for the sake of pride.”

“We’ll follow you wherever needs be, Dutch,” Maebh added. “We trust you.”

“And it feels good to have such reliable friends by my side,” he admitted. “Now, I need to go and attend to the rest of my business, so I suppose you two might as well wait here. Grab another drink if y’all want, and I’ll meet you back here.”

The older man quickly exited the saloon, leaving Arthur in Maebh’s company. He turned to offer her a smile while she shrugged and asked. “Want’a grab a table?”

“Sure. I could do with some food actually.”

“Me too, now that you mention it. How ’bout I get us a seat while you order the food?”

He nodded before reluctantly accepting the coins she pulled from her pocket. “What you want?”

“Whatever you’re havin’ is fine by me.”

He chuckled at her carefree attitude and approached the owner, asking what meals they had available. After some brief contemplation, he ordered two servings of roast beef and potatoes and, once they were ready, brought them to the nearby table Maebh had commandeered. An empty chair lay by the window, dappled in the early morning sunlight that poured in through the glass panels. His friend sat opposite him, eyes focused on the world outside as people opened their businesses and readied themselves for the day ahead. He studied her carefully as he set her food down in front of her. She was absentmindedly fiddling with a simple silver necklace that hung around her neck. The gesture made him curious, having seen her do this on numerous occasions, either when she was thinking or anxious.

“I thought I’d play it safe with the roast beef,” he announced, pulling her from her thoughts. “I know you like it, after all.”

“Thanks, Arthur,” she said as she took the cutlery he offered. “Smells good.”

“I’ve definitely had worse,” he admitted and sat down with a slight groan. “And at least it smells better than Pearson’s stew.”

“At first I didn’t understand why you’s all gave him such a hard time about his stew, and then I tried somethin’ of his that I didn’t help cook.” She pulled a face at the memory. “I’m now convinced most of the gang fund goes on salt.”

Having taken a bite of the beef, he reaffirmed her thoughts. “It ain’t competin’ with much, but it definitely ain’t got too much salt.”

“It’s good,” she agreed after her first mouthful. “And thankfully the seasonin’ isn’t giving me traumatic flashbacks.”

They eat together in silence for a few moments, Arthur feeling quite comfortable in her company. Outside, the residents of De Soto got to work. Slowly but surely, wagons and riders began to make their way up and down the muddy streets. A paper boy stood on the corner and read allowed the latest headlines for interested customers. Inside the saloon, a man sat nearby, strumming away on a guitar to entertain customers. It created a surprisingly calm atmosphere in such uncertain times for them. He hadn’t considered the idea that perhaps a normal activity such as grabbing a meal with a friend could help ease his mind. The only response he had prepared for was to get moving and ask questions later. He wondered how Maebh felt about all this, considering she had never been in a situation that involved moving camp so abruptly since she joined.

He bit the bullet and, once he finished the side of potatoes that came with his beef, spoke up. “So, I didn’t get a chance to pick your brain much earlier.”

She blinked at him curiously. “About what?”

“Last night, really. And everything that comes with it. I’m very much used to this life, but you haven’t been in it all that long.”

She took a small sup of beer before answering. “I don’t think anyone would be used to an encounter like that.”

“Well, ya ain’t wrong ’bout that.”

“That Matthew fella gives me the heebie-jeebies. He knew way too much about us. He managed to uncover so much information in such a short amount of time… I mean, I didn’t even know that Bill’s name is feckin’ Marion!” She sighed heavily and ran a hand over her brow in contemplation. “He snuck into camp and stole William’s watch, before sneakin’ back that night me and Marston saw him and put it in front of Dutch’s tent. Then he drags his own man into camp and shoots him after tellin’ us to leave. Even if you’ve been in this way longer than me, I doubt you’ve encountered someone like that.”

He couldn’t lie to her, not even if he wanted to. “I’ve seen my fair share a’characters, but I ain’t met none like him…”

“Exactly. What else does he know ’bout us? What if he knows more than he’s lettin’ on?”

“It might sound harsh, Maebh, but we don’t have no way’a knowin’ that unless he approaches us again. Ain’t no point worryin’ ’bout somethin’ that might not happen. You sound like you got somethin’ to hide.”

Though he had been teasing her with his words, the young woman frowned. “Me and William don’t exactly have the cleanest past.”

Arthur huffed. “And you think any of us do? We’ve all done things to survive or made mistakes that we might not be proud of. What makes you and your brother any different?”

As she mulled over his words, he thought back to when he had first encountered them in Wisconsin — sleeping rough and stealing to feed themselves. He still knew little of her past, bar some details about her parents and her relationship with them. Meeting their old family friend Mícheál had only increased his curiosity in their upbringing and whatever things they may have been hiding. While he still held small suspicions, they had given him no reason to suspect any sort of treachery.

“I dunno,” she admitted, slicing through the beef with her knife. “I guess I’m worried what you might think of some’a the stuff we’ve done.”

“It don’t matter,” he reassured her, the urge to pacify any worrisome thoughts she may have consuming him. “What matters is your loyalty to us now. Y’know, we ain’t exactly good in the eyes of most people, but we’re just tryin’ to survive. Sometimes we do dumb shit we regret later on, but you can learn from it. We all got our own secrets. As Dutch always says, it’s the here and now you gotta focus on, and right now, we’re all in this together. Stick with us and you’ll be alright. This life ain’t easy sometimes, but it’s the best we’re gonna get and better than what we had. Whatever secrets you got, it’s your own choice to share ’em if and when you’re ready.”

The small smile she gave him was a reassuring one. At this point, he had begun to recognise when she would be forcing a smile rather than actually expressing genuine happiness. Those gestures seemed to seldom appear and usually they were only ever shown to William when the two would spend time together. The one reason why seeing that expression made him happy was because he knew now that his words had managed to calm her racing mind, even just a little bit.

“You’re right,” she said as she tossed one of her last cuts of beef into her mouth. “Life isn’t easy, but it’s sure as hell easier with you lot around.”

“That’s the attitude I was lookin’ for, girl. At least good food and beer can make it easier too. Speakin’ of, you want another bottle?”

“What about Dutch?”

Arthur was already standing and waving away her concern. “He’ll probably be a little while, trust me. I’ll get us another round.”

He hurriedly bought two more beers, brushing off the money she had attempted to give him. He set them down on the table and took his seat again, deciding to try his luck with another round of questioning. “How ’bout this. What exactly can you tell me ’bout where you came from? Only the stuff you’re comfortable with.”

She raised a brow. “You’re gonna have’ta meet me halfway if you want that kinda information.”

Though he knew she was messing around, he went along with it. “Well Jesus, I bought you a drink, didn’t I? Ain’t that enough?”

“Are you jokin’? And waste an opportunity to learn more ’bout the elusive Arthur Morgan? I’d be daft to miss that chance!”

Knowing that she definitely wouldn’t tell him anything without receiving something in return, he conceded. “Alright. If you’re gonna twist my arm about it, I guess I’ll agree.”

“Grand so.” She grinned, happy with the arrangement. Leaning back in her seat, she continued. “What’s the play here? Anythin’ we shouldn’t ask?”

“How ’bout,” Arthur began. “If either of us ain’t comfortable with somethin’, we just  say so and don’t answer. Sound fair?”

“I think so, but I get to go first.”

“Should’a seen that one comin’. Ask away.”

She didn’t even seem to think before asking her question. “What did you want’a be when you were a kid?”

“Uh, I ain’t too sure. I always liked horses as a very young kid. Used to think I’d like to work as a stableboy on a ranch somewhere if it meant I could groom and feed horses.”

“Why is that not at all surprising?” She smiled at his honestly before asking. “Did your da work on a ranch?”

He let out a bitter chuckle. “Naw, my daddy was… an outlaw. A known one too. I didn’t know much about him when I was younger, but I figured it out when I was around ten. He was arrested for robbin’ and thievin’. Not really a good man by any means.”

Maebh seemed the slightest bit surprised though she didn’t show it much. “Oh, right. So… why is it different with you, then?”

“Whatchu mean?”

“You said your da was no good as an outlaw, but aren’t we all outlaws too? Does that mean we’re not good either?”

“I never said we was good,” he replied with shrug. “I mean, we ain’t like my daddy though. He wasn’t a very nice man — I suppose that’s a better way to say it. He didn’t hit me or nothin’, but we never really got on. He was killed when I was a teenager over somethin’ illegal. I ain’t really sure how he treated my mama neither, but I don’t remember too much about her. She died when I was very young so he tried to take care of me, but it wasn’t easy and he didn’t always do his best.”

He paused, allowing himself to think of what few details he could remember about his mother. Maebh sat across from him in silence for a brief moment, allowing him to reminisce in peace. “Your mam… Is she in one of the pictures you keep in your tent? The one of the woman with her hair tied back in the white blouse?”

“You got a good eye, Miss Maebh.”

“I mean, William would just say I’m nosy, but I copped it ’cause you two have similar features. What happened to her?”

“I ain’t rightly sure,” he admitted. “She might’a been sick. I was only a kid at the time, and my daddy didn’t talk much of her after she passed. It seemed to eat him alive though. I ain’t rightly sure if he cared about me, but he seemed to care about my mama.”

“I’m sorry. It’s… really tough losin’ a parent.”

“I suppose you’re speakin’ from experience?”

“Surprisingly, yeah.”

“What happened to your folks, then? I know you told Dutch when we first met that they died a while back. Is that true?”

“Unfortunately,” she admitted, keeping her tone even. “Our ma died before we left Ireland, and then our da passed nearly a year before we met you’s.”

He noted that she had originally told him that both of her parents had taken them to America, but maybe she said that because she would rather avoid getting into details. It wasn’t a very big thing to lie about given the circumstances, he supposed. “I’m sorry for your loss too. I can tell by the way you tell stories that you were close.”

“Very.” Her lips formed a half smile as she presumably pondered her own fond memories. “Me and William were home-schooled on our farm and taught how to keep the place runnin’. Huntin’, farmin’, fishin’, cookin’, cleanin’, shootin’, lookin’ after the cows and horses. They taught us how to read and write, and how to speak Irish and English. They taught me everythin’ I know so I could get by if anythin’ happened to them.”

“You had smart folks. I know you told me before that you came to America ’cause they wanted to avoid all that business with the English. Is that true?”

She sighed and began to run a finger around the edge of her nearly empty plate of food. The rhythmic movement continued as she replied with her answer. “Yeah, mostly. They didn’t like the way they had rejected the Home Rule bill, but my parents also had their own personal qualms with the Brits.”

“Oh?”

“Big ‘oh’. They were Fenians.”

Arthur repeated the unfamiliar word. He recalled them both saying it sometimes, but he didn’t have a clue what it really meant. He had even heard it sometime before he met the siblings if his memories were right. He was fairly sure that Hosea knew more about it than him, though. “Fenians?”

“Members of Bráithreachas Phoblacht na hÉireann, or Irish Republican Brotherhood in English. It was an organisation dedicated to formin’ an independent democratic republic in Ireland and gettin’ the Brits out. Our ma and da were members, so we grew up hearin’ our fair share of patriotic stories. They kinda had a similar thought process to Dutch because they never trusted those who ruled over Ireland As far as I know, they met each other at different meetin’s when they were young and fell in love.”

He couldn’t help but let out a long drawn ‘ah’. “Now I understand where you two get it from! I should’ve guessed your damn passion and resilience came from rebel parents.”

“So it’s not at all surprisin’ then?”

“Once I got it all laid out for me, no. I’m sure they had some fine stories too tell.”

“That they did,” she replied fondly. “Which probably has a lot to do with why I loved writin’ stories so much.”

“You’ll have to tell me some of those one day,” he began and then quickly reiterated another point. “If you’re comfortable, that is.”

“Maybe we can do it again over a few drinks. If you’re comfortable hearin’ their patriotic ramblin’s. But that round will be on me this time.”

“O’course. I ain’t gonna say no to a free drink.”

“Grand.” She glanced out the window briefly, then added. “I’m not goin’ t’ask you much more, but could you answer one more question for me, Arthur?”

“To the best of my ability,” he said. “Yes.”

“What were your parents’ names?”

He didn’t know why the question made him smile a little, but it did. It was a simple thing to ask, not something that required a lot of thought or depth in response — they were just names, after all. But, for some reason, it was a query he was happy she had asked. It wasn’t something that would give her much information, but it was still a personal detail about his life that she wished to know. It would offer her nothing to gain, no knowledge to hang over his head — only a small personal detail about his past.

“I’ll tell you mine,” he began. “If you tell me yours.”

His response seemed to rouse some amusement from her. “Alright, cowboy. That seems fair.”

There was a few beats of silence between them in which neither broke eye contact. Eventually, he cleared his throat. “Beatrice and Lyle.”

She nodded slowly, tapping on her plate again. “Aoife and Séamus.”

Again, a silence before the two of them started to laugh at the ridiculous arrangement. Feeling quite relaxed for the first time since the invasion at camp, he raised his bottle to her. Without a word, she raised hers and tipped the glass rims together with a clink.

Arthur had been wise in his estimation, because Dutch ended up taking longer than even he had anticipated. He and Maebh had moved on to other subject matter and were sharing a laugh when he reappeared, but they were moreso surprised to see him with a woman on his arm.

He greeted them by name before introducing his companion. “This is Annabelle.”

Oh.

He immediately recognised her from the night at this very saloon. Her long, blonde hair and red lips were defining features that he hadn’t forgotten. She was stunning, something that didn’t surprise him considering Dutch always seemed to be able to snag good-looking women with his charm and experience. By her fair but aged features, he assumed that she was perhaps only a few years older than Arthur was himself. Over her shoulder was a small travel bag that looked to be full — of what, he had no idea.

Dutch decided to make the introductions. “Dear, this is Arthur Morgan and Maebh Hennigan.”

“I could have guessed,” Annabelle replied and politely shook their hands. There was something oddly confident yet welcoming about her. “A pleasure. I’ve heard a lot about you two.”

“Well in that case I apologise for what you’ve heard,” Arthur joked. “Nice to meet ya.”

Maebh offered her another friendly greeting before Dutch finally explained what she was doing there. “Before that Matthew feller came to camp, Annabelle and I had been talkin’ ’bout her joinin’ the gang. With the sudden change of plan, I wanted to talk to her ’bout whether she still wanted to. Turns out, she ain’t got no problem comin’ along to South Dakota.”

“Really?” Arthur asked with a little surprise.

“Sure,” Annabelle answered casually. “I’d be a fool to let a catch like him run off now wouldn’t I? That and I could do with a little adventure in my life. I haven’t a problem  with cookin’ and cleanin’ either, considerin’ it’s all I do right now.”

“What do you do?” Maebh questioned her. “You mustn’t be too fond of it if you’re up for runnin’ off with a bunch of outlaws.”

“I used to have a business before my husband decided to up and leave me one day. He sold it without my knowledge and took all the money with him. I woke up to find him gone and our general store sold to the highest bidder. I haven’t seen him in months, and hopefully I never see him again. I’ve been doin’ some house keepin’ jobs a few towns over.”

The young woman frowned at her story, visibly appalled. “What a prick.”

Annabelle seemed to find her reaction entertaining, but sighed in agreement. “You’re tellin’ me. Our home was above the store and got sold as well, so I had to start livin’ in the local hotel. Luckily I knew the owner so he didn’t charge me as much as I should have been payin’. After all that, I could do with somethin’ new and a little joy.”

“Well, you’ll certainly find both’a those things with us,” Dutch added. “And a better life than the one that was stolen from you. Now—” He addressed Arthur and Maebh. “—if you too are all finished up here, we ran into the rest of the gang on our way back over. It’s time for us to move on.”

His urgency was enough to get them up and out of their seats. Arthur watched as Maebh tossed a small tip the owner’s way before following them outside. Beside the very hotel Annabelle had mentioned earlier, he could see the wagons and various horses that belonged to him and his family. He grinned at the sight of Copper sitting between Bessie and Hosea atop one of the gang’s wagons. A sleeping Pádraig was kept in the back of one, wrapped up in varies blankets and bandages. Having been handed their mounts’ reins — Annabelle using her own that had been hitched outside the hotel itself — the group of outlaws set off on their journey, heading north-east to their destination of Fulton, South Dakota, now with yet another member to strengthen their ranks.

A few hours into their journey and spirits were high but still somewhat reserved. The weather had remained thankfully clear, but guaranteed to be colder once the sun had set. Pearson took to tossing the odd piece of fruit to any gang member riding a horse who complained about being hungry. He was unwilling, however, to toss beer when Uncle requested it from his seat on the back of one of the wagons.

“Y’all don’t treat me right,” the old man declared in disgust. “I ain’t never met folk who acted so unkindly to the elderly. Never mind that I’m sick too.”

“You ain’t sick,” John snapped from his saddle. “But you’re sure as hell annoyin’, that’s what you are.”

Arthur laughed at the exchange, but Uncle didn’t let up. “Of course I’m sick! Y’know, I used to do more work than anyone before I threw my back out and—”

“Not this shit again…”

“Lumbago ain’t no joke, John! It can affect anyone’a us. You’re lucky it ain’t got you yet!”

“It ain’t gonna get me ’cause it ain’t real!”

“Oh, you lot really are goin’ sour lately. I’m just lookin’ for a damn pick me up. If ya ain’t gonna entertain me with some alcohol, you might as well give me a song, or somethin’. Where’s William when you need him?”

At the sound of his name, Maebh’s brother appeared atop Banquo and asked. “Did I hear my name comin’ from your lips, Old Man, or is my luck improvin’?”

“Sing us a song, would’ja, kid? We could do with some entertainment on this never-endin’ trip.”

“Humour him, William,” Dutch called from the other wagon ahead of them. “God knows I don’t wanna listenin’ to his complainin’ the whole way to Fulton!”

William shrugged, but couldn’t exactly pass up an opportunity for some fun. “You have one in mind?”

“Can I make a request?” Bessie called from her seat beside her husband and the dog.

“Always.”

“How about the where the young man is goin’ off to war? I do like that one.”

“For you, Mrs Matthews, of course I can. But you’ll have to sing along.”

“I ain’t gonna deny you that, Mr Hennigan.”

“What about you, Arthur? You have’ta join in as well.”

Unwilling to tell him otherwise, Arthur replied. “Sure, kid. You get us started.”

It was something Arthur always found amusing about the young man. He was so very standoffish to those he didn’t know, and mostly distant to a degree with anyone who wasn’t his sister. And yet, despite the obvious fact that he was quite a difficult man to read, he loved to perform. Any time he was called upon to deliver a tune, he would do so if he felt like it. Arthur often saw him singing to himself while cleaning his saddle at camp. He was so incredibly analytical and would watch people like a hawk if they peaked his curiosity, and yet he would happily express himself in an oddly personal way. He hoped that someday he would get the chance to talk to to William like he did with Maebh today. Perhaps he too grew up with dreams of something bigger. In the grand scheme of how ruthless life could be, he was happy to see someone so young embracing something that brought them joy.

With a deep breath, William began the tune on his own.

 

A recruiting sergeant came our way

From an inn near town at the close of day

He said my Johnny you're a fine young man

Would you like to march along behind a military band?

With a scarlet coat and a fine cocked hat

And a musket at your shoulder

The shilling he took and he kissed the book

Oh poor Johnny what'll happen to ya?

 

The recruiting sergeant marched away

From the inn near town at the break of day

Johnny came too with half a ring

He was off to be a soldier to go fighting for the King

In a far off war in a far off land

To face the foreign soldier

But how will you fare when there's lead in the air?

Oh poor Johnny what'll happen to ya?

 

Well the sun rose high on a barren land

Where the thin red line made a military stand

There was sling shot, chain shot, grape shot too

Swords and bayonets thrusting through

Poor Johnny fell but the day was won

And the King is grateful to ya

But your soldiering's done and they're sending you home

Oh poor Johnny what'll happen to ya?

 

They said he was a hero and not to grieve

For the two ruined legs and the empty sleeve

They took him home and they set him down

With a military pension and a medal from the crown

But you haven't an arm, you haven't a leg

The enemy nearly slew ya

You'll have to go out on the streets to beg

Oh poor Johnny what'll happen to ya?”

 

The song continued on, as did their journey northwards. Uncle, Pearson, and a few others joined in as it progressed, as was usually the way when a singalong began. It would take a few days of course, but Arthur didn’t mind all that much when he had such good company around him. It seemed, despite the intensity with which their day began, that the gang had high hopes with what was ahead. Saying goodbye to the nice spot they had called home was disappointing sure, but nothing Arthur wasn’t used to. They made their home wherever they went, so onwards they would push, shanties and all.