When he had partially recovered his composure he related his version of the story in a meek tone, no doubt hoping to excite pity. But I noticed that the young medical officer had to bite his moustache to maintain a straight face and I think this practically saved the situation.
“Who gave you permission to give orders to prisoners?” asked the officer severely.
The sentry’s dismay at the officer rounding upon him was so complete that he could not venture an answer.
“Don’t let it occur again or I’ll report you!” continued the doctor sternly. “Don’t you know your duty is to obey orders and not to give them!” he thundered with an effort. The sentry dismissed so unceremoniously slunk away miserably and absolutely crestfallen.
When the soldier had gone the officer turned upon me and lectured me severely, though sympathetically, upon the enormity of my offence. While he was speaking, Dr. Ascher sauntered up and the incident was related to him. Turning to me with a gravity which I could see was assumed, he remarked:
“Mahoney, if you get up to such tricks again you’ll get into serious trouble. You must never forget the uniform!”
As I turned to resume work I noticed the two medical men having a hearty silent laugh over the whole affair, the younger man graphically describing the blown sentry and race as he had seen it.
But Dr. Ascher did not let the matter rest there. He reported the sentry for exceeding his orders, which was a serious offence because it affected the doctor’s discipline over prisoners who were under his charge at the hospitals. All the reward and consolation the insolent cub received for his parade of assumed authority before his audience of girls was change to another duty, coupled with severe reprimand. Through Dr. Ascher’s intervention the sentry was deprived of all opportunity to snatch a revenge upon me. Such actions, however, were characteristic of Dr. Ascher. It was his love of fair-play which endeared him to every Britisher in the camp. Whenever one of us left Sennelager there was no man from whom to part was such a wrench as Dr. Ascher. We all grew to like and admire him to such a degree that it seemed to be parting from a very dear and old friend when we shook hands in farewell with him.
THE AFTERMATH OF THE ELEVENTH
As the day of the 12th advanced without bringing any signs of official intentions to improve our accommodation upon “the field,” several of us decided to do the only thing possible—to help ourselves. It was perfectly evident that we were not to be taken back to barracks, even for the time being, while it was equally apparent that no tents were going to be set up for us. Also it was quite possible that we should be exposed to another fearful storm, because the season was advancing. Consequently it was just as well that we should improvise some kind of shelter over our heads. The issue was where to discover the materials, since the authorities were not disposed to extend us any assistance whatever.