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Live Rounds Ian Hay

The Gathering Of The Eagles

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"Take it out of that," he says grandly.

He receives his change, and counts it with a great air of wisdom. The épicière breaks into a rapid recital--it sounds rather like our curate at home getting to work on When the wicked man--of the beauty and succulence of her other wares. Up goes Goffin's hand again.

"Na pooh!" he exclaims.. "Bong jooer!" And he stumps out to the mess-cart.

"Na pooh!" is a mysterious but invaluable expression. Possibly it is derived from "Il n'y a plus." It means, "All over!" You say "Na pooh!" when you push your plate away after dinner. It also means, "Not likely!" or "Nothing doing!" By a further development it has come to mean "done for," "finished," and in extreme cases, "dead." "Poor Bill got na-poohed by a rifle-grenade yesterday," says one mourner to another.

The Oxford Dictionary of the English Language will have to be revised and enlarged when this war is over.

* * * * *

Meanwhile, a few doors away, a host of officers is sitting in the Café de la Terre. Cafés are as plentiful as blackberries in this, as in most other French provincial towns, and they are usually filled to overflowing with privates of the British Army heroically drinking beer upon which they know it is impossible to get intoxicated. But the proprietor of the Café de la Terre is a long-headed citizen. By the simple expedient of labelling his premises "Officers Only," and making a minimum charge of one franc per drink, he has at a single stroke ensured the presence of the élite and increased his profits tenfold.

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Many arms of the Service are grouped round the little marble-topped tables, for the district is stiff with British troops, and promises to grow stiffer. In fact, so persistently are the eagles gathering together upon this, the edge of the fighting line, that rumour is busier than ever. The Big Push holds redoubled sway in our thoughts. The First Hundred Thousand are well represented, for the whole Scottish Division is in the neighbourhood. Beside the glengarries there are countless flat caps--line regiments, territorials, gunners, and sappers. The Army Service Corps is there in force, recruiting exhausted nature from the strain of dashing about the countryside in motor-cars. The R.A.M.C. is strongly represented, doubtless to test the purity of the refreshment provided. Even the Staff has torn itself away from its arduous duties for the moment, as sundry red tabs testify. In one corner sit four stout French civilians, playing a mysterious card-game.

At the very next table we find ourselves among friends. Here are Major Kemp, also Captain Blaikie. They are accompanied by Ayling, Bobby Little, and Mr. Waddell. The battalion came out of trenches yesterday, and for the first time found itself in urban billets. For the moment haylofts and wash-houses are things of the dim past. We are living in real houses, sleeping in real beds, some with sheets.

To this group enters unexpectedly Captain Wagstaffe.

"Hallo, Wagger!" says Blaikie. "Back already?"

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The First Hundred Thousand
Ian Hay

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