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The Daily Grind

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"You'll tak' the high road and I'll tak' the low road--"

On we swing, full-throated. An English battalion, halted at a cross-road to let us go by, gazes curiously upon us. "Tipperary" they know, Harry Lauder they have heard of; but this song has no meaning for them. It is ours, ours, ours. So we march on. The feet of Bobby Little, as he tramps at the head of his platoon, hardly touch the ground. His head is in the air. One day, he feels instinctively, he will hear that song again, amid sterner surroundings. When that day comes, the song, please God, for all its sorrowful wording, will reflect no sorrow from the hearts of those who sing it--only courage, and the joy of battle, and the knowledge of victory.

"--And I'll be in Scotland before ye. But me and my true love will never meet again On the bonny, bonny baanks--"

A shrill whistle sounds far ahead. It means "March at Attention." "Loch Lomond" dies away with uncanny suddenness--discipline is waxing stronger every day--and tunics are buttoned and rifles unslung. Three minutes later we swing demurely on to the barrack-square, across which a pleasant aroma of stewed onions is wafting, and deploy with creditable precision into the formation known as "mass." Then comes much dressing of ranks and adjusting of distances. The Colonel is very particular about a clean finish to any piece of work.

Presently the four companies are aligned: the N.C.O.'s retire to the supernumerary ranks. The battalion stands rigid, facing a motionless figure upon horseback. The figure stirs.

"Fall out, the officers!"

They come trooping, stand fast, and salute--very smartly. We must set an example to the men. Besides, we are hungry too.

"Battalion, slope arms! Dis-miss!"

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Every man, with one or two incurable exceptions, turns sharply to his right and cheerfully smacks the butt of his rifle with his disengaged hand. The Colonel gravely returns the salute; and we stream away, all the thousand of us, in the direction of the savoury smell. Two o'clock will come round all too soon, and with it company drill and tiresome musketry exercises; but by that time we shall have dined, and Fate cannot touch us for another twenty-four hours.

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The First Hundred Thousand
Ian Hay

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