• Includes original illustrations
• The book has been proof-read and corrected for spelling and grammatical errors
• All our books with improved formatting and links to chapters
• Includes notes with links
Now, I could walk and outwalk most men I knew on the marshes, the most difficult form of progression probably known to man, as anyone who has tramped the thick, black mud and the marrum grass well knows. No professional wild-fowler from Stiffkey or Cockthorpe could outdo me. Yet, when I went to Norwich and offered myself for the East Norfolk Territorial Battalion, a fool of a doctor in goggles, with whom I wouldn't have cleaned my ten-bore, rejected me at once, despite all I could say or do—and, what is more, told me that I would have no possible chance elsewhere. I told him what I thought of him, and nearly cried. Then I went out into an adjacent pub, had some beer, and cursed bitterly, until the recruiting sergeant whom I had first interviewed, likewise in search of beer, happened to come into the private bar. He was a decent sort of johnny and told me a few eye-opening things about doctors. He said that he would be proud to have me in his company, and he gave me an invaluable tip. Finding out that I knew something about engineering, he suggested that I should go to London and try and get into the Royal Naval Flying Corps. At that time, the great fleet of armoured motor cars was being got ready. I could drive a car with any man and I was a fairly good motor mechanic.
My brother, Bernard, was, as I said, in the Navy. He was, by this time, Lieutenant-Commander in the submarine section, and he was in London, having been shot in the arm during a little scrap off Heligoland.
I got leave from old Upjelly, who, for some queer reason or other, did not seem to take to the idea of my enlisting—though, heaven knows, he had never shown any appreciation of my services—and went up to town. I found Bernard just out of hospital. He had to rest for another month, and, as he had hardly any money beyond his pay and special allowances, he wanted to do it on the cheap. I suggested that he should come down to Morstone and stay in the village pub. He was as keen on shooting as I, and he hailed the idea with joy.
He took me to the then depôt of the R.N.F.C., at the big Daily Mail air-ship shed at Wormwood Scrubbs, and he used every possible bit of influence he had got to get me in.
The naval people were all awfully jolly, but regulations were strict, and though they moved heaven and earth for me, it could not be done.
I said good-bye to my brother, who was to come down to Morstone almost immediately, and one dull, bitter afternoon in the middle of December, I found myself in a third-class carriage going home—once more a hopeless failure.
I could see old Upjelly's mocking sneer, I could hear little Lockhart's titter; old Pugmire would say, "A gin and soda is clearly indicated in this crisis." And Doris—what would Doris say?
Well, Doris, poor Doris, would weep. She would know it was not my fault, dear little girl, but she would weep. And for many days I should read my newspaper, which arrived in the evening, over the fire in my sitting-room in the north wing at the end of the dormitory, and if I did not weep too, it would be because I was a man and not a girl. Other people would be doing glorious things. Two-thirds of the men of my own college were already either at the front or in training. Some smug, who could not get into the second fifteen at Exeter, would become D.S.O. or V.C. Morstone would be full of farm lads, who had gone out louts and come back wounded heroes. And for me, only what some priggish hymn or other describes as "the daily round, the common task," how damnably common, only I myself knew.
The afternoon, as I have said, was dark and lowering, and as I changed at Heacham for the local train, a bitter wind, which cut like a knife, swept over the vast flats, straight from Heligoland, the Kiel Canal, and the tossing wastes of the North Sea.
|Sold by:||Barnes & Noble|
|File size:||444 KB|