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Deeds Of Darkness

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"That must be rather galling," said Wagstaffe.

"Ah! but listen! Of course party politics have now been merged in the common cause--see local organs, passim--and both sides are working shoulder to shoulder for the maintenance of our national existence."

"Applause!" murmured Kemp.

"That is to say," continued Borrodaile with calm relish, "my opponent, whose strong suit for the last twenty years has been to cry down the horrors of militarism, and the madness of national service, and the unwieldy size of the British Empire, is now compelled to spend his evenings taking the chair at mass meetings for the encouragement of recruiting. I believe the way in which he eats up his own previous utterances on the subject is quite superb. On these occasions I always send him a telegram, containing a kindly pat on the back for him and a sort of semi-official message for the audience. He has to read this out on the platform!"

"What sort of message?" asked a delighted voice.

"Oh--Send along some more of our boys. Lord Kitchener says there are none to touch them. Borrodaile, Bruce and Wallace Highlanders. Or--All success to the meeting, and best thanks to you personally for carrying on in my absence. Borrodaile, Bruce and Wallace Highlanders. I have a lot of quiet fun," said Borrodaile meditatively, "composing those telegrams. I rather fancy"--he examined the luminous watch on his wrist--"it's five minutes past eight: I rather fancy the old thing is reading one now!"

The prospective candidate leaned back against the damp wall of the dug-out with a happy sigh. "What have you got out of the war, Ayling?" he inquired.

"Change," said Ayling.

"For better or worse?"

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"If you had spent seven years in a big public school," said Ayling, "teaching exactly the same thing, at exactly the same hour, to exactly the same kind of boy, for weeks on end, what sort of change would you welcome most?"

"Death," said several voices.

"Nothing of the kind!" said Ayling warmly. "It's a great life, if you are cut out for it. But there is no doubt that the regularity of the hours, and the absolute certainty of the future, make a man a bit groovy. Now in this life we are living we have to do lots of dull or unpleasant things, but they are never quite the same things. They are progressive, and not circular, if you know what I mean; and the immediate future is absolutely unknown, which is an untold blessing. What about you, Sketchley?"

A fat voice replied--

"War is good for adipose Special Reservists. I have decreased four inches round the waist since October. Next?"

So the talk ran on. Young Lochgair, heir to untold acres in the far north and master of unlimited pocket-money, admitted frankly that the sum of eight-and-sixpence per day, which he was now earning by the sweat of his brow and the expenditure of shoe-leather, was sweeter to him than honey in the honeycomb. Hattrick, who had recently put up a plate in Harley Street, said it was good to be earning a living wage at last. Mr. Waddell, pressed to say a few words of encouragement of the present campaign, delivered himself of a guarded but illuminating eulogy of war as a cure for indecision of mind; from which, coupled with a coy reference to "some one" in distant St. Andrews, the company were enabled to gather that Mr. Waddell had carried a position with his new sword which had proved impregnable to civilian assault.

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The First Hundred Thousand
Ian Hay

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