“It’s more than a fellow can do,” he said; “at least to be certain of. I can blow away the shells in front and the shells from the right, but if Master’s map is correct we’re going to get enfiladed from the left as well, and one can’t be everywhere. This wants thinking about.”
So he dived head downwards into the deepest recesses of my pocket and abandoned himself to thought. A little later he came up with a smile....
Next morning I stayed in bed and the doctor came. Common looked over his shoulder as he read the thermometer.
“A hundred and four,” said Common. “Golly! I hope I haven’t over-done it.”
He came with me to the clearing station.
“I only just blowed a germ at him,” he said wistfully—“one I found in his pocket. I only just blowed it at him.”
We went down to the base hospital together; we went back to England. And in the hospital in England Common suddenly saw his mistress again.
“I’ve brought him back, Missis,” he said. “Here he is. Have I done well?”
* * * * *
He sits now in a little basket lined with flannel, a hero returned from the War. Round his neck he wears the regimental colours, and on his chest will be sewn whatever medal is given to those who have served faithfully on the Western Front. Seated in your comfortable club, my very dear sir, or in your delightful drawing-room, madam, you smile pityingly....
Or perhaps you don’t.
(THE LAST OF THE WAR STORIES)
The Colonel of the Nth Blankshires was seated in his office. It was not an imposing room to look at. Furnished simply but tastefully with a table, officers, for use of, one, and a chair, ditto, one, it gave little evidence of the distressing scenes which had been enacted in it, and still less evidence of the terrible scene which was to come. Within these walls the Colonel was accustomed to deal out stern justice to offenders, and many a hardened criminal had been carried out fainting upon hearing the terrible verdict, “One day’s C.B.”
But the Colonel was not holding the scales of justice now, for it was late afternoon. With an expression of the utmost anxiety upon his face he read and re-read the official-looking document which he held in his hand. Even the photograph of the Sergeant-Major (signed, “Yours ever, Henry"), which stood upon his desk, brought him no comfort.
The door opened and Major Murgatroyd, second in command of the famous Blankshires, came in.
“Come in,” said Colonel Blowhard.
The Major saluted impressively, and the Colonel rose and returned his salute with the politeness typical of the British Army.
“You wished to see me, Colonel?”
“I did, Major.” They saluted each other again. “A secret document of enormous importance,” went on the Colonel, “has just reached me from the War Office. It concerns the Regiment, the dear old Regiment.” Both men saluted, and the Colonel went on hoarsely, “Were the news in this document to become public property before its time, nothing could avert the defeat of England in the present world-wide cataclysm.”