THE OPEN PORT
‘Fun!’ said Ken Carrington, as he leaned over the rail of the transport, ‘Cardigan Castle,’ and watched the phosphorescent waters of the Aegean foaming white through the darkness against her tall side. ‘Fun!’ he repeated rather grimly. ’You won’t think it so funny when you find yourself crawling up a cliff with quick-firers barking at you from behind every rock, and a strand of barbed wire to cut each five yards, to say nothing of snipers socking lead at you the whole time. No, Dave, I’ll lay, whatever you think, you won’t consider it funny.’
Dave Burney, the tall young Australian who was standing beside Ken Carrington, turned his head slowly towards the other.
‘You talk as if you’d seen fighting,’ he remarked in his soft but pleasant drawl.
Ken paused a moment before replying.
‘I have,’ he said quietly.
Burney straightened his long body with unusual suddenness.
’The mischief, you have! My word, Ken, you’re a queer chap. Here you and I have been training together these six months, and you’ve never said a word of it to me or any of the rest of the crowd.’
‘Come to that, I don’t quite know why I have now,’ answered Ken Carrington dryly.
Burney wisely made no reply, and after a few moments the other spoke again.
’You see, Dave, it wasn’t anything to be proud of, so far as I’m concerned, and it brings back the most rotten time I ever had. So it isn’t much wonder I don’t talk about it.’
‘Don’t say anything now unless you want to,’ said Burney, with the quiet courtesy which was part of him.
’But I do want to. And I’d a jolly sight sooner tell you than any one else. That is, if you don’t mind listening.’
‘I’d like to hear,’ said Burney simply. ’It’s always been a bit of a puzzle to me how a chap like you came to be a Tommy in this outfit. With your education, you ought to be an officer in some home regiment.’
‘That’s all rot,’ returned Ken quickly. ’I’d a jolly sight sooner be in with this crowd than any I know of. And as for a commission, that’s a thing which it seems to me a chap ought to win instead of getting it as a gift.
’But I’m gassing. I was going to tell you how it was that I’d seen fighting. My father was in the British Navy. He rose to the rank of Captain, and then had an offer from the Turkish Government of a place in the Naval Arsenal at Constantinople.’
‘From the Turks!’ said Burney in evident surprise.
’Yes. Lots of our people were in Turkey in those days. It was a British officer, Admiral Gamble, who managed all the Turkish naval affairs. That was before the Germans got their claws into the wretched country.’
‘I’ve heard of Admiral Gamble,’ put in Burney. ‘Well, what happened then?’
’My father took the job, and did jolly well until the Germans started their games. Finally they got hold of everything, and five years ago Admiral Gamble gave up. So did my father, but he had bought land in Turkey and had a lot of friends there, so he did not go back to England.