AUDIENCE AND INTERLOCUTORS.
Lieut. John Polkinghorne. R.F.A., of the Battery.Sec. Lieut. Samuel Barham, M.C. R.F.A., of the Battery.Sec. Lieut. Percy Yarrell-Smith. R.F.A., of the BatterySec Lieut. Noel Williams, R.F.A., attached for instruction.
But military duties usually restricted the audience to two at a time, though there were three on the night when Barham (Sammy) set his C.O. going with a paragraph from an old newspaper. The captain—one McInnes, promoted from the ranks—attended one stance only. He dwelt down at the wagon-lines along with the Veterinary Officer, and brought up the ammunition most nights, vanishing back in the small hours like a ghost before cock-crow.
The battery lay somewhat wide to the right of its fellows in the brigade; in a saucer-shaped hollow on the hill-side, well screened with scrub. Roughly it curved back from the straight lip overlooking the slope, in a three-fifths segment of a circle; and the officers' mess made a short arc in it, some way in rear of the guns. You descended, by steps, cut in the soil and well pounded, into a dwelling rather commodious than large: for Otway—who knew about yachts—had taken a fancy to construct it nautical-wise, with lockers that served for seats at a narrow saloon table, sleeping bunks excavated along the sides, and air-holes like cabin top-lights, cunningly curtained by night, under the shell-proof cover.
"It cost us a week," he wrote home to his sister, "to get the place to my mind. Since then we have been adding fancy touches almost daily, and now the other batteries froth with envy. You see, it had to be contrived, like the poet's chest of drawers."
A double debt to pay:Doss-house by night and bag-of-tricks by day.
And here we have lived now, shooting and sleeping (very little sleeping) for five solid weeks. All leave being off, I have fallen into this way of life, almost without a thought that there ever had been, or could be, another, and feel as if my destiny were to go on at it for ever and ever. And this at thirty-five, Sally!
"It must be ever so much worse for the youngsters, one would say. Anyway I have had ten good years that they are missing… Cambridge, Henley, Lord's; Ascot, and home-to-tidy, and afterwards the little Mercedes, and you and I rolling in to Prince's and the theatre, whilst good old Bob is for the House, to take his exercises walking the lobbies; clean linen after the bath, and my own sister beside me—she that always knew how to dress—and the summer evening over Hyde Park Corner and the Green Park.… No, I mustn't go on. It is verboten even to think of a white shirt until the Bosch hangs out the tail of his.
"My youngsters are missing all this, I tell myself. Yet they are a cheerful crowd, and keep smiling on their Papa. The worst is, a kind of paralysis seems to have smitten our home mails and general transport for close upon a fortnight. No letters, no parcels—but one case of wine, six weeks overdue, with half the bottles in shards: no newspapers. This last specially afflicts young Sammy Barham, who is a glutton for the halfpenny press: which again is odd, because his comments on it are vitriolic....