No orders had been given, but the betting amongst the Blue Marines was about ninety-seven to one in favor of their moving. Sure enough, orders were given to pack up and prepare to move as soon as it was dark, and the captain went off with a working party to reconnoiter a new position and prepare places for the cars. Mary was sent off in “the shore boat” (otherwise the light runabout which carried them on duty or pleasure to and from the ten-mile-distant town) with orders to draw the day’s rations, collect the day’s mail, buy the day’s papers, and return to the village, being back not later than five o’clock.
It was made known that the position to which the captain contemplated moving was one in a clump of trees within half a mile of the position they were leaving. Mary was hugely satisfied. “That ain’t half bad,” he said when he heard. “I can walk over and water the garden at night, and pop across any time between the Tauby’s usual promenade hours and do a bit o’ weeding, and just keep an eye on things generally. And inside a week we’re going to have carrots for dinner every day, and spring onions. Hey, my lads! what about bread and cheese and spring onions, wot?”
He climbed aboard the run-about, drove out of the yard, and rattled off down the road. He executed his commissions, and was sailing happily back to the village, when about a mile short of it a sitting figure rose from the roadside, stepped forward, and waved an arresting hand. To his surprise, Mary saw that it was one of the Blue Marines.
“What’s up?” he said, as the Marine came round to the side and proceeded to step on board.
“Orders,” said the Marine briefly. “I was looking out for you. Change course and direction and steer for the new anchorage.”
“The idea being wot!” asked Mary.
“We’ve been in action again,” said the Marine gloomily. “Only two shells this time, but they did more damage than all the rest put together this morning.”
“More damage?” gasped Mary. “Wot—wot have they damaged?”
The Marine ticked off the damages on his fingers one by one.
“Car hit, badly damaged, and down by the stern; gun out of action—mounting smashed; the sergeant hit, piece of his starboard leg carried away; and five men slightly wounded.”
He dropped his hands, which Mary took as a sign that the tally was finished. “Is that all?” he said, and breathed a sigh of relief. “Strewth! I thought you was going to tell me that my garden had been gott-straffed.”
This is not a story, it is rather a fragment, beginning where usually a battle story ends, with a man being “casualtied,” showing the principal character only in a passive part—a very passive part—and ending, I am afraid, with a lot of unsatisfactory loose ends ungathered up. I only tell it because I fancy that at the back of it you may find some hint of the spirit that has helped the British Army in many a tight corner.