Really, men, you must control yourselves. We are all glad and sustained by any victory, however slight, but you must not give way to unmeaning boisterousness. “This morning, on a front of three miles, after an intense artillery preparation, the Australians"’——
There was a medley of submerged, prolonged snores. The chaplain looked up indignantly. With the exception of Selwyn and the two Australians, every one had followed the lead of the Cockney and disappeared underneath the bed-clothes.
‘This,’ said the good man—’this frivolity at such a harrowing moment in our country’s destiny is neither seemly nor respectful. Cheerfulness is admirable, until it descends to horseplay.’
With which parting salvo the worthy chaplain, who had never been to France, and who was doing the best he could according to his clerical upbringing, left his unruly flock, taking the communique with him.
A little later the doctor made his rounds, pronouncing Selwyn’s wound as not dangerous, but assuring him he was lucky to be alive. Another inch either way and—— Passing on to the Scotsman, he stayed a considerable length of time; but as the screen was set for the examination, the American had no way of knowing its nature.
And so, with constant badinage, seldom brilliant, but never unkind, the morning wore on. It was nearly noon when Selwyn saw a wheeled stretcher brought into the ward and the Highlander lifted on to it.
‘Jock,’ said the little Cockney, ’I ’opes as ’ow everythink will come out orlright.’
‘By Gar, Scoachie!’ cried the French-Canadian, ’I am sorree. You are one dam fine feller, Scoachie.’
‘Dinna worry yersel’s,’ said the man from the North. ‘I’m rare an’ lucky that it’s to be ma richt leg an’ no the left, for that richt shank o’ mine was aye a wee thing crookit at the knee, and didna dae credit tae the airchitecture o’ tither ane.’
Thus, amid the rough encouragement of his fellows, and by no means unconscious of the dignity of his position, the Highland soldier was taken away to the operating-room.
The French-Canadian made a remark to Selwyn, but it was not until the second repetition that he heard him.
About three o’clock that afternoon a little stream of visitors began to arrive, and Thomas Atkins, with his extraordinary adaptability, gravely, if somewhat inaccurately, answered the catechism of well-meaning old ladies, and flirted heartily and openly with giggling ‘flappers.’