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|Live Rounds||Ian Hay|
The Gathering Of The Eagles
|Page 4 of 6||
"But what," inquired that earnest seeker after knowledge, Mr. Waddell, "is the general attitude of the country at large upon this grave question?"
Captain Wagstaffe chuckled.
"The dear old country at large," he replied, "is its dear old self, as usual. It is not worrying one jot about Conscription, or us, or anything like that. The one topic of conversation at present is--Charlie Chaplin."
"Who is Charlie Chaplin?" inquired several voices.
Wagstaffe shook his head.
"I haven't the faintest idea," he said. "All I know is that you can't go anywhere in London without running up against him. He is It. The mention of his name in a revue is greeted with thunders of applause. At one place I went to, twenty young men came upon the stage at once, all got up as Charlie Chaplin."
"But who is he?"
"That I can't tell you. I made several attempts to find out; but whenever I asked the question people simply stared at me in amazement. I felt quite ashamed: it was plain that I ought to have known. I have a vague idea that he is some tremendous new boss whom the Government have appointed to make shells, or something. Anyhow, the great British Nation is far too much engrossed with Charles to worry about a little thing like Conscription. Still, I should like to know. I feel I have been rather unpatriotic about it all."
"I can tell you," said Bobby Little. "My servant is a great admirer of his. He is the latest cinema star. Falls off roofs, and gets run over by motors--"
"And keeps the police at bay with a firehose," added Wagstaffe. "That's him! I know the type. Thank you, Bobby!"
Major Kemp put down his glass with a gentle sigh, and rose to go.
"We are a great nation," he remarked contentedly. "I was a bit anxious about things at home, but I see now there was nothing to worry about. We shall win all right. Well, I am off to the Mess. See you later, everybody!"
"Meanwhile," inquired Wagstaffe, as the party settled down again, "what is brewing here! I haven't seen the adjutant yet."
"You'll see him soon enough," replied Blaikie grimly. He glanced over his shoulder towards the four civilian card-players. They looked bourgeois enough and patriotic enough, but it is wise to take no risks in a café, as a printed notice upon the war, signed by the Provost-Marshal, was careful to point out. "Come for a stroll," he said.
Presently the two captains found themselves in a shady boulevard leading to the outskirts of the town. Darkness was falling, and soon would be intense; for lights are taboo in the neighbourhood of the firing line.
"Have we finished that new trench in front of our wire?" asked Wagstaffe.
"Yes. It is the best thing we have done yet. Divisional Headquarters are rightly pleased about it."
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