The gunner was known throughout the unit by no other name than Mary, fittingly taken from the nursery rhyme which inquires, “Mary, Mary, quite contrary, how does your garden grow?” The similarity between Mary of the Blue Marines and Mary of the nursery rhyme ends, however, with the first line, since Blue Marine Mary made no attempt to rear “silver bells and cockle shells” (whatever they may be) all in a row. His whole energies were devoted to the raising of much more practical things, like lettuces, radishes, carrots, spring onions, and any other vegetable which has the commendable reputation of arriving reasonably early at maturity.
Twice that spring Mary’s labors had been wasted because the section had moved before the time was ripe from a gardener’s point of view, and although Mary strove to transplant his garden by uprooting the vegetables, packing them away in a box in the motor, and planting them out in the new position, the vegetables failed to survive the breaking of their home ties, and languished and died in spite of Mary’s tender care. After the first failure he tried to lay out a portable garden, enlisting the aid of “Chips” the carpenter in the manufacture of a number of boxes, in which he placed earth and his new seedlings. This attempt, however, failed even more disastrously than the first, the O.C. having made a most unpleasant fuss on the discovery of two large boxes of mustard and cress “cluttering up,” as he called it, the gun-mountings on one of the armored cars, and, when the section moved suddenly in the dead of night, refusing point-blank to allow any available space to be loaded up with Mary’s budding garden. Mary’s plaintive inquiry as to what he was to do with the boxes was met by the brutal order to “chuck the lot overboard,” and the counter-inquiry as to whether he thought this show was a perambulating botanical gardens.
So Mary lost his second garden complete, even unto the box of spring onions which were the apple of his gardening eye. But he brisked up when the new position was established and he learned through the officer’s servant that the selected spot was considered an excellent one, and offered every prospect of being held by the section for a considerable time. He selected a favorable spot and proceeded once more to lay out a garden and to plant out a new lot of vegetables.
The section’s new position was only some fifteen hundred yards from the forward trench; but, being at the bottom of a gently sloping ridge which ran between the position and the German lines, it was covered from all except air observation. The two armored cars, containing guns, were hidden away amongst the shattered ruins of a little hamlet; their armor-plated bodies, already rendered as inconspicuous as possible by erratic daubs of bright colors laid on after the most approved Futurist style, were further hidden by untidy wisps of straw, a few casual beams, and any other of the broken rubbish which had once been a village. The men had their quarters in the cellars of one of the broken houses, and the two officers inhabited the corner of a house with a more or less remaining roof.