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|Blank Cartridges||Ian Hay|
|Page 3 of 5||
Captain Blaikie addresses the shivering culprit--
"Private McNulty; charged with destroying Government property. Corporal Mather!"
Corporal Mather clears his throat, and assuming the wooden expression and fish-like gaze common to all public speakers who have learned their oration by heart, begins--
"Sirr, on the night of the sixth inst. I was Orderly Sergeant. Going round the prisoner's room about the hour of nine-thirty I noticed that his three biscuits had been cut and slashed, appariently with a knife or other instrument."
"What did you do?"
"Sirr, I inquired of the men in the room who was it had gone for to do this. Sirr, they said it was the prisoner."
Two witnesses are called. Both, certify, casting grieved and virtuous glances at the prisoner, that this outrage upon the property of His Majesty was the work of Private McNulty.
To the unsophisticated Bobby Little this charge appears rather a frivolous one. If you may not cut or slash a biscuit, what are you to do with it? Swallow it whole?
"Private McNulty?" queries the Captain.
Private McNulty, in a voice which is shrill with righteous indignation, gives the somewhat unexpected answer--
"Sirr, I plead guilty!"
"Guilty--eh? You did it, then?"
This is what Private McNulty is waiting for.
"The men in that room, sirr," he announces indignantly, "appear tae look on me as a sort of body that can be treated onyways. They go for tae aggravate me. I was sittin' on my bed, with my knife in my hand, cutting a piece bacca and interfering with naebody, when they all commenced tae fling biscuits at me. I was keepin' them off as weel as I could; but havin' a knife in my hand, I'll no deny but what I gave twa three of them a bit cut."
"Is this true?" asks the Captain of the first witness, curtly.
"You saw the men throwing biscuits at the prisoner?"
"He was daen' it himsel'!" proclaims Private McNulty.
The Captain addresses the other witness.
"You doing it too?"
The Captain turns again to the prisoner.
"Why didn't you lodge a complaint?" (The schoolboy code does not obtain in the Army.)
"I did, sir. I tellt"--indicating Corporal Mather with an elbow--"this genelman here."
Corporal Mather cannot help it. He swells perceptibly. But swift puncture awaits him.
"Corporal Mather, why didn't you mention this?"
"I didna think it affected the crime, sir."
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