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Shooting Straight

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"In yon place."

"How would you indicate the position of the place?"

"I would pint it oot with ma finger, sirr."

"Invisible objects half a mile away are not easily pointed out with the finger," Captain Wagstaffe mentions. "Lance-Corporal Ness, how would you describe it?"

"I would tak' you there, sirr."

"Thanks! But I doubt if either of us would come back! Private Wemyss?"

"I would say, sirr, that the place was west of the mansion-hoose."

"There's a good deal of land west of that mansion-house, you know," expostulates the Captain gently; "but we are getting on. Thompson?"

"I would say, sir," replies Thompson, puckering his brow, "that it was in ablow they trees."

"It would be hard to indicate the exact trees you meant. Trees are too common. You try, Corporal King."

But Corporal King, who earned his stripes by reason of physical rather than intellectual attributes, can only contribute a lame reference to "a bit hedge by yon dyke, where there's a kin' o' hole in the tairget." Wagstaffe breaks in--

"Now, everybody, take some conspicuous and unmistakable object about the middle of that landscape--something which no one can mistake. The mansion-house will do--the near end. Now then--mansion-house, near end! Got that?"

There is a general chorus of assent.

"Very well. I want you to imagine that the base of the mansion-house is the centre of a great clock-face. Where would twelve o'clock be?"

The platoon are plainly tickled by this new round-game. They reply--

"Straught up!"

"Right. Where is nine o'clock?"

"Over tae the left."

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"Very good. And so on with all the other hours. Now, supposing I were to say, End of mansion-house--six o'clock--white gate--you would carry your eye straight downward, through the garden, until it encountered the gate. I would thus have enabled you to recognise a very small object in a wide landscape in the quickest possible time. See the idea?"

"Yes, sirr."

"All right. Now for our fold in the ground. End of mansion-house--eight o'clock--got that?"

There is an interested murmur of assent.

"That gives you the direction from the house. Now for the distance! End of mansion-house--eight o 'clock--two finger-breadths--what does that give you, Lance-Corporal Ness?"

"The corrner of a field, sirr."

"Right. This is our field. We have picked it correctly out of about twenty fields, you see. Corner of field. In the middle of the field, a fold in the ground. At nine hundred--at the fold in the ground--five rounds--fire! You see the idea now?"

"Yes, sirr."

"Very good. Let the platoon practise describing targets to one another, Mr. Little. Don't be too elaborate. Never employ either the clock or finger method if you can describe your target without. For instance: Left of windmill--triangular cornfield. At the nearest corner--six hundred--rapid fire! is all you want. Carry on, Mr. Little."

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The First Hundred Thousand
Ian Hay

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