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0105_001E Blank Cartridges Ian Hay

Shooting Straight

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"Less talking there!" he announces severely, "or I shall have to stand you all at attention!"

There is immediate silence--there is nothing the matter with Bobby's discipline--and the outraged M'Micking has to content himself with a homicidal glare in the direction of M'Leary, who is now hanging virtuously upon his officer's lips.

"This," proceeds Bobby Little, "is what is known as a landscape target."

He indicates the picture, which, apparently overcome by so much public notice, promptly falls flat upon its face. A fatigue party under the sergeant hurries to its assistance.

"It is intended," resumes Bobby presently, "to teach you--us--to become familiar with various kinds of country, and to get into the habit of picking out conspicuous features of the landscape, and getting them by heart, and--er--so on. I want you all to study this picture for three minutes. Then I shall face you about and ask you to describe it to me."

After three minutes of puckered brows and hard breathing the squad is turned to its rear and the examination proceeds.

"Lance-Corporal Ness, what did you notice in the foreground of the picture?"

Lance-Corporal Ness gazes fiercely before him. He has noticed a good deal, but can remember nothing. Moreover, he has no very clear idea what a foreground may be.

"Private Mucklewame?"

Again silence, while the rotund Mucklewame perspires in the throes of mental exertion.

"Private Wemyss?"

No answer.

"Private M'Micking!"

The "buzzer" smiles feebly, but says nothing.

"Well,"--desperately--"Sergeant Angus! Tell them what you noticed in the foreground."

Sergeant Angus (floruit A.D. 1895) springs smartly to attention, and replies, with the instant obedience of the old soldier--

"The sky, sirr."

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"Not in the foreground, as a rule," replies Bobby Little gently. "About turn again, all of you, and we'll have another try."

In his next attempt Bobby abandons individual catechism.

"Now," he begins, "what conspicuous objects do we notice on this target? In the foreground I can see a low knoll. To the left I see a windmill. In the distance is a tall chimney. Half-right is a church. How would that church be marked on a map?"

No reply.

"Well," explains Bobby, anxious to parade a piece of knowledge which he only acquired himself a day or two ago, "churches are denoted in maps by a cross, mounted on a square or circle, according as the church has a square tower or a steeple. What has this church got?"

"A nock!" bellow the platoon, with stunning enthusiasm. (All but Private M'Micking, that is.)

"A clock, sir," translates the sergeant, sotto voce.

"A clock? All right: but what I wanted was a steeple. Then, farther away, we can see a mine, a winding brook, and a house, with a wall in front of it. Who can see them?"

To judge by the collective expression of the audience, no one does. Bobby ploughs on.

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The First Hundred Thousand
Ian Hay

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