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Table Of Contents: The First Hundred Thousand

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"No, sirr, I do not."

"All right, then. Next Saturday night say to yourself: 'Another pint, and I keep the Battalion back!' If you do that, you'll come back to barracks sober, like a decent chap. That'll do. Don't salute with your cap off. Next man, Sergeant-Major!"

"Good boy, that," remarks the Captain to Bobby Little, as the contrite Robb is removed. "Keen as mustard. But his high-water mark for beer is somewhere in his boots. All right, now I've scared him."

"Last prisoner, sirr," announces the Sergeant-Major.

"Glad to hear it. H'm! Private M'Queen again!"

Private M'Queen is an unpleasant-looking creature, with a drooping red moustache and a cheese-coloured complexion. His misdeeds are recited. Having been punished for misconduct early in the week, he has piled Pelion on Ossa by appearing fighting drunk at defaulters' parade. From all accounts he has livened up that usually decorous assemblage considerably.

After the corroborative evidence, the Captain asks his usual question of the prisoner--

"Anything to say?"

"No," growls Private M'Queen.

The Captain takes up the prisoner's conduct-sheet, reads it through, and folds it up deliberately.

"I am going to ask the Commanding Officer to discharge you," he says; and there is nothing homely or paternal in his speech now. "Can't make out why men like you join the Army--especially this Army. Been a nuisance ever since you came here. Drunk--beastly drunk--four times in three weeks. Always dirty and insubordinate. Always trying to stir up trouble among the young soldiers. Been in the army before, haven't you?"


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"That's not true. Can always tell an old soldier on parade. Fact is, you have either deserted or been discharged as incorrigible. Going to be discharged as incorrigible again. Keeping the regiment back, that's why: that's a real crime. Go home, and explain that you were turned out of the King's Army because you weren't worthy of the honour of staying in. When decent men see that people like you have no place in this regiment, perhaps they will see that this regiment is just the place for them. Take him away."

Private M'Queen shambles out of the room for the last time in his life. Captain Blaikie, a little exhausted by his own unusual loquacity, turns to Bobby Little with a contented sigh.

"That's the last of the shysters," he says. "Been weeding them out for six weeks. Now I have got rid of that nobleman I can look the rest of the Company in the face. Come to breakfast!"

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The First Hundred Thousand
Ian Hay

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