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Table Of Contents: The First Hundred Thousand

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"Not your business to think. Only to make a straightforward charge. Be very careful in future. You other two"--the witnesses come guiltily to attention--"I shall talk to your platoon sergeant about you. Not going to have Government property knocked about!"

Bobby Little's eyebrows, willy-nilly, have been steadily rising during the last five minutes. He knows the meaning of red tape now!

Then comes sentence.

"Private McNulty, you have pleaded guilty to a charge of destroying Government property, so you go before the Commanding Officer. Don't suppose you'll be punished, beyond paying for the damage."

"Right turn! Quick march!" chants the Sergeant-Major.

The downtrodden McNulty disappears, with his traducers. But Bobby Little's eyebrows have not been altogether thrown away upon his Company Commander.

"Got the biscuits here, Sergeant-Major?"

"Yes, sirr."

"Show them."

The Sergeant-Major dives into a pile of brown blankets, and presently extracts three small brown mattresses, each two feet square. These appear to have been stabbed in several places with a knife.

Captain Blaikie's eyes twinkle, and he chuckles to his now scarlet-faced junior--

"More biscuits in heaven and earth than ever came out of Huntley and Palmer's, my son! Private Robb!"

Presently Private Robb stands at the table. He is a fresh-faced, well-set-up youth, with a slightly receding chin and a most dejected manner.

"Private Robb," reads the Captain. "While on active service, drunk and singing in Wellington Street about nine p.m. on Saturday, the sixth. Sergeant Garrett!"

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The proceedings follow their usual course, except that in this case some of the evidence is "documentary"--put in in the form of a report from the sergeant of the Military Police who escorted the melodious Robb home to bed.

The Captain addresses the prisoner.

"Private Robb, this is the second time. Sorry--very sorry. In all other ways you are doing well. Very keen and promising soldier. Why is it--eh?"

The contrite Robb hangs his head. His judge continues--

"I'll tell you. You haven't found out yet how much you can hold. That it?"

The prisoner nods assent.

"Well--find out! See? It's one of the first things a young man ought to learn. Very valuable piece of information. I know myself, so I'm safe. Want you to do the same. Every man has a different limit. What did you have on Saturday?"

Private Robb reflects.

"Five pints, sirr," he announces.

"Well, next time try three, and then you won't go serenading policemen. As it is, you will have to go before the Commanding Officer and get punished. Want to go to the front, don't you?"

"Yes, sirr." Private Robb's dismal features flush.

"Well, mind this. We all want to go, but we can't go till every man in the battalion is efficient. You want to be the man who kept the rest from going to the front--eh?"

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The First Hundred Thousand
Ian Hay

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