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|Blank Cartridges||Ian Hay|
The Laws Of The Medes And Persians
|Page 6 of 6||
Then we pass on to our letters. Many of us--particularly the senior officers--have news direct from the trenches--scribbled scraps torn out of field-message books. We get constant tidings of the Old Regiment. They marched thirty-five miles on such a day; they captured a position after being under continuous shell fire for eight hours on another; they were personally thanked by the Field-Marshal on another. Oh, we shall have to work hard to get up to that standard!
"They want more officers," announces the Colonel. "Naturally, after the time they've been having! But they must go to the Third Battalion for them: that's the proper place. I will not have them coming here: I've told them so at Headquarters. The Service Battalions simply must be led by the officers who have trained them if they are to have a Chinaman's chance when we go out. I shall threaten to resign if they try any more of their tricks. That'll frighten 'em! Even dug-outs like me are rare and valuable objects at present."
The Company Commanders murmur assent--on the whole sympathetically. Anxious though they are to get upon business terms with the Kaiser, they are loath to abandon the unkempt but sturdy companies over which they have toiled so hard, and which now, though destitute of blossom, are rich in promise of fruit. But the senior subalterns look up hopefully. Their lot is hard. Some of them have been in the Service for ten years, yet they have been left behind. They command no companies. "Here," their faces say, "we are merely marking time while others learn. Send us!"
* * * * *
However, though they have taken no officers yet, signs are not wanting that they will take some soon. To-day each of us was presented with a small metal disc.
Bobby Little examined his curiously. Upon the face thereof was stamped, in ragged, irregular capitals--
"What is this for?" he asked.
Captain Wagstaffe answered.
"You wear it round your neck," he said.
Our four friends, once bitten, regarded the humorist suspiciously.
"Are you rotting us?" asked Waddell cautiously.
"No, my son," replied Wagstaffe, "I am not."
"What is it for, then?"
"It's called an Identity Disc. Every soldier on active service wears one."
"Why should the idiots put one's religion on the thing?" inquired Master Cockerell, scornfully regarding the letters "C. of E." upon his disc.
Wagstaffe regarded him curiously.
"Think it over," he suggested.
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