After another half-hour of this, with eyes feverishly searching for recognizable landmarks, I again began to have doubts as to the veracity of the tram lines. However, pretending that I placed their honesty beyond all doubt, I plodded on; but round a corner, found the outlook so unfamiliar that I determined to ask again. Not a soul about. Presently I discovered a small house, standing back off the road and showing a thin slit of light above the shutters of a downstairs window. I tapped on the glass. A sound as of someone hurriedly trying to hide a pile of coverless umbrellas in a cupboard was followed by the opening of the window, and a bristling head was silhouetted against the light.
I squeezed out the same old sentence:
“Pour Bleville, Monsieur?”
A fearful cataract of unintelligible words burst from the head, but left me almost as much in the dark as ever, though with a faint glimmering that I was “warmer.” I felt that if I went back about a mile and turned to the left, all would be well.
I thanked the gollywog in the window, who, somehow or other, I think must have been a printer working late, and started off once more.
After another hour’s route march I came to some scattered houses, and finally to a village. I was indignantly staring at a house when suddenly, joy!—I realized that what I was looking at was an unfamiliar view of the cafe where I had breakfasted earlier in the day.
Another ten minutes and I reached the Camp. Time now 2.30 a.m. I thought I would just take a look in at the Orderly Room tent to see if there were any orders in for me. It was lucky I did. Inside I found an orderly asleep in a blanket, and woke him.
“Anything in for me?” I asked. “Bairnsfather’s my name.”
“Yes, sir, there is,” came through the blanket, and getting up he went to the table at the other end of the tent. He sleepily handed me the wire: “Lieutenant Bairnsfather to proceed to join his battalion as machine-gun officer....”
“What time do I have to push off?” I inquired.
“By the eight o’clock from Havre to-morrow, sir.”
Time now 3 a.m. To-morrow—the front! And then I crept into my tent and tried to sleep.
tablets—dumped at A siding—I join
Not much sleep that night, a sort of feverish coma instead: wild dreams in which I and the gendarme were attacking a German trench, the officer in charge of which we found to be the Base Camp Adjutant after all.
However, I got up early—packed my few belongings in my valise, which had mysteriously turned up from the docks, and went off on the tram down to Havre. That hundred men I had brought over had nothing to do with me now. I was entirely on my own, and was off to the Front to join my battalion. Down at Havre the officials at the station gave me a complicated yellow diagram, known as a travelling pass, and I got into a carriage in the train bound for Rouen.