“Now lookahere, Loo-tenant,” said Rawbon soothingly. “There’s no need for you to feel peaked—not any. It was darn good of you to let me in on these sacred no-admittance-’cept-on-business trenches, and I’m plumb glad I landed in the mix-up. It would probably raise trouble for you if your boss knew you’d slipped me in; and it sure would raise everlasting trouble for me at home if my name was flourishin’ in the papers gettin’ an A.B.C. or D.A.M.N. or whatever the fixin’ is. And I’d sooner have this”—slapping the German helmet that dangled at his belt—“than your whole darn alphabet o’ initials. Don’t forget what I told you about the dad an’ those Schwartzeheimer friends o’ his, the cousins o’ which same friends I’ve been blowin’ off the earth with bomb base-balls. Let it go at that, and never forget it, friend—I’m a Benevolent Neutral.”
“I won’t forget it,” said Courtenay, laughing and shaking hands. He watched the sergeant as he bestrode the motor-cycle, pushed off, and swung off warily down the wet road into the morning mist.
“What was it that despatch said a while back!” he mused. “Something about ’There are few who appreciate or even understand the value of the varied work of the Army Service Corps.’ Well, this lot was a bit more varied than usual, and I fancy it might astonish even the fellow who wrote that line.”
“Yesterday one of the enemy’s heavy guns was put out of action by our artillery.”—Extract from despatch.
“Stand fast!” the instructor bellowed, and while the detachment stiffened to immobility he went on, without stopping to draw breath, bellowing other and less printable remarks. After he had finished these he ordered “Detachment rear!” and taking more time and adding even more point to his remarks, he repeated some of them and added others, addressing abruptly and virulently the “Number” whose bungling had aroused his wrath.
“You’ve learnt your gun drill,” he said, “learned it like a sulphur-crested cockatoo learns to gabble ’Pretty Polly scratch a poll’; why in the name of Moses you can’t make your hands do what your tongue says ’as me beat. You, Donovan, that’s Number Three, let me hear you repeat the drill for Action Front.”
Donovan, standing strictly to attention, and with his eyes fixed straight to his front, drew a deep breath and rattled off:
“At the order or signal from the battery leader or section commander, ‘Halt action front!’ One orders ’Halt action front!’—At the order from One, the detachment dismounts, Three unkeys, and with Two lifts the trail; when the trail is clear of the hook, Three orders ’Limber drive on.’”
The instructor interrupted explosively.
“You see,” he growled, “you know it. Three orders ‘Limber drive on.’ You’re Three! but did you order limber drive on, or limber drive off, or drive anywhere at all? Did you expect drivers that would be sitting up there on their horses, with their backs turned to you, to have eyes in the backs of their heads to see when you had the trail lifted, or did you be expectin’ them to thought-read that you wanted them to drive on!”