“And what does that mean?”
“I want to get back again, sir,” Granet replied eagerly.
The General stroked his grey moustache and looked searchingly at the young officer. He was standing full in the light of a ray of sunshine which came streaming through the high, uncurtained windows. Although he was still a little haggard, his eyes were bright, his lips were parted in an anticipatory smile, his whole expression was engaging. General Brice, studying him closely, felt compelled to admit the improbability of his vague suspicions.
“That’s all very well, you know,” he reminded him quietly, “but you won’t be fit enough for active service for some time to come.”
The young man’s face fell.
“I am sure they must be wanting me back, sir,” he said naively.
The General shook his head.
“I don’t want to disappoint you, young fellow,” he continued, “but I heard from your Brigadier only yesterday. He has been obliged to fill up your place and I don’t think he has room for any one on his staff.”
Granet looked a little hurt.
“I thought he might have made a temporary appointment,” he said gloomily.
“This is no time to consider individuals,” the General pointed out. “What about finding you a billet at home for a time, eh? You’ve seen a bit of the rough side of the war, you know.”
“I’d sooner go out and dig trenches!”
Thomson had risen slowly from his place and, with a sheet of foolscap in his hand, closely covered with writing, crossed the room.
“You might get taken prisoner again, Captain Granet,” he remarked drily.
There was a moment’s rather tense silence. The young man’s lips had come together, his eyes flashed.
“I did not recognise you, Major Thomson,” he said calmly. “Have you found a new billet?”
“My old one is sufficiently absorbing just at present,” the other replied laying his calculations on the General’s desk. “Forgive my interrupting you, sir, but you told me to let you have this as soon as I had finished. That is my estimate of the number of beds we could stow away in the cubic feet you offer us.”
The General glanced at the paper and nodded.
“Don’t go, Thomson,” he said. “I’ll talk to you about this later on. Well, Captain Granet,” he added, “you’d better leave things in my hands. I’ll do the best I can for you.”
“I shall be very disappointed if I don’t get out to the Front again soon, sir,” the young man declared simply.
“I’ll do the best I can,” the General repeated, touching his bell.
Granet was shown out and the door was closed. General Brice turned towards his companion.
“Thomson,” he said, “frankly, I can’t believe it. However, we’ll find him a billet where he can’t possibly do any mischief.”
“If you found him a billet where I should like to see him,” Surgeon-Major Thomson observed bitterly, “he would never do any more mischief in this world! Any dispatches from the Front, sir?”