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0105_001E Action Front Boyd Cable

A Benevolent Neutral

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Courtenay was a good deal put out by this announcement.

"I suppose there's no help for it," he said resignedly, "but it's dashed awkward. I'm due back at the billets now really, and another two or three hours late--whew!"

"Carryin' a message, I s'pose," said the sergeant, as together they seized the cycle and pushed it towards the repair lorry.

"No," said Courtenay, "I was over seeing another officer out this way." He had an idea from the sergeant's free and easy style of address that the mackintosh, without any visible badges and with a very visible spattering of mud, had concealed the fact that he was an officer, and when he reached the light he casually opened his coat to show his belts and tunic. But the sergeant made not the slightest difference in his manner.

"Guess you'd better pull that wet coat right off," he said casually, "and set down while I get busy. You boys, pike out, hit it for the downy, an' get any sleep you all can snatch. That break-down will be ambling along in about three hours an' shoutin' for quick repairs, so you'll have to hustle some. That three hours is about all the sleep comin' to you to-night; so, beat it."

The damaged cycle was lifted into the lorry and propped up on its stand and before the men had donned their mackintoshes and "beat it," the sergeant was busy dismembering the damaged fork. Courtenay pulled off his wet coat and settled himself comfortably on a box after offering his assistance and being assured it was not required. The sergeant conversed affably as he worked.

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At first he addressed Courtenay as "mister," but suddenly--"Say," he remarked, "what ought I to be calling you? I never can remember just what those different stars-an'-stripes fixin's mean."

"My name is Courtenay and I'm second lieutenant," said the other. He was a good deal surprised, for naturally, a man does not usually reach the rank of sergeant without learning the meaning of the badges of rank on an officer's sleeve.

"My name's Rawbon--Willard K. Rawbon," said the sergeant easily. "So now we know where we are. Will you have a cigar, Loo-tenant?" he went on, slipping a case from his pocket and extending it. Courtenay noticed the solidly expensive get-up and the gold initials on the leather and was still more puzzled. He reassured himself by another look at the sergeant's stripes and the regulation soldier's khaki jacket. "No, thanks," he said politely, and struggling with an inclination to laugh, "I'll smoke a cigarette," and took one from his own case and lighted it. He was a good deal interested and probed gently.

"You're Canadian, I suppose?" he said. "But this isn't Canadian Transport, is it?"

"Not," said the sergeant "Neither it nor me. No Canuck in mine, Loo-tenant. I'm good United States."

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