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|Blank Cartridges||Ian Hay|
The Laws Of The Medes And Persians
|Page 2 of 6||
"What do you do when you are leading a party along a road and meet a Staff Officer?" asked Bobby Little.
"Make a point," replied Cockerell patronisingly, "of saluting all persons wearing red bands round their hats. They may not be entitled to it, but it tickles their ribs and gets you the reputation, of being an intelligent young officer."
"But I say," announced Waddell plaintively, "I saluted a man with a red hat the other day, and he turned out to be a Military Policeman!"
"As a matter of fact," announced the pundit Struthers, after the laughter had subsided, "you need not salute anybody. No compliments are paid on active service, and we are on active service now."
"Yes, but suppose some one salutes you?" objected the conscientious Bobby Little. "You must salute back again, and sometimes you don't know how to do it. The other day I was bringing the company back from the ranges and we met a company from another battalion--the Mid Mudshires, I think. Before I knew where I was the fellow in charge called them to attention and then gave 'Eyes right!'"
"What did you do?" asked Struthers anxiously.
"I hadn't time to do anything except grin, and say, 'Good morning!'" confessed Bobby Little.
"You were perfectly right," announced Struthers, and Cockerell murmured assent.
"Are you sure?" persisted Bobby Little. "As I passed the tail of their company one of their subs turned to another and said quite loud, 'My God, what swine!'"
"Showed his rotten ignorance," commented Cockerell.
At this moment Mr. Waddell, whose thoughts were never disturbed by conversation around him, broke in with a question.
"What does a Tommy do," he inquired, "if he meets an officer wheeling a wheelbarrow?"
"Who is wheeling the barrow," inquired the meticulous Struthers--"the officer or the Tommy?"
"The Tommy, of course!" replied Waddell in quite a shocked voice. "What is he to do? If he tries to salute he will upset the barrow, you know."
"He turns his head sharply towards the officer for six paces," explained the ever-ready Struthers. "When a soldier is not in a position to salute in the ordinary way--"
"I say," inquired Bobby Little rather shyly, "do you ever look the other way when you meet a Tommy?"
"How do you mean?" asked everybody.
"Well, the other day I met one walking out with his girl along the road, and I felt so blooming de trop that--"
Here the "fall-in" sounded, and this delicate problem was left unsolved. But Mr. Waddell, who liked to get to the bottom of things, continued to ponder these matters as he marched. He mistrusted the omniscience of Struthers and the superficial infallibility of the self-satisfied Cockerell. Accordingly, after consultation with that eager searcher after knowledge, Second Lieutenant Little, he took the laudable but fatal step of carrying his difficulties to one Captain Wagstaffe, the humorist of the Battalion.
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