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Concert Pitch

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Table Of Contents: The First Hundred Thousand

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"Just that, sirr."

"Have you had much experience?"

"No that much."

"But you feel capable of taking on the job?"

"I do, sirr."

"You seem quite eager about it."

"Yes, sirr," said Dunshie, with gusto.

A sudden thought occurred to Ayling.

"Do you know what a chiropodist is?" he asked.

"No, sirr," replied Dunshie, with unabated aplomb.

* * * * *

To do him justice, the revelation of the nature of his prospective labours made no difference whatever to Dunshie's willingness to undertake them. Now, upon Saturday mornings, when men stand stiffly at attention beside their beds to have their feet inspected, you may behold, sweeping majestically in the wake of the Medical Officer as he makes his rounds, the swelling figure of Private Dunshie, carrying the implements of his gruesome trade. He has found his vocation at last, and his bearing in consequence is something between that of a Court Physician and a Staff Officer.


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So much for the rank and file. Of the officers we need only say that the old hands have been a godsend to our young regiment; while the juniors, to quote their own Colonel, have learned as much in six months as the average subaltern learns in three years; and whereas in the old days a young officer could always depend on his platoon sergeant to give him the right word of command or instruct him in company routine, the positions are now in many cases reversed. But that by the way. The outstanding feature of the relationship between officers and men during all this long, laborious, sometimes heart-breaking winter has been this--that, despite the rawness of our material and the novelty of our surroundings, in the face of difficulties which are now happily growing dim in our memory, the various ranks have never quite given up trying, never altogether lost faith, never entirely forgotten the Cause which has brought us together. And the result--the joint result--of it all is a real live regiment, with a morale and soul of its own.

But so far everything has been purely suppositious. We have no knowledge as to what our real strength or weakness may be. We have run our trial trips over a landlocked stretch of smooth water. To-morrow, when we steam out to face the tempest which is shaking the foundations of the world, we shall see what we shall see. Some of us, who at present are exalted for our smartness and efficiency, will indubitably be found wanting--wanting in stamina of body or soul--while others, hitherto undistinguished, will come to their own. Only War itself can discover the qualities which count in War. But we silently pray, in our dour and inarticulate hearts, that the supreme British virtue--the virtue of holding on, and holding on, and holding on, until our end is accomplished--may not be found wanting in a single one of us.

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The First Hundred Thousand
Ian Hay

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