obliged to go abroad whether they wanted to or not,
and the too-prudent "Home-service" men were not
allowed to forget their previous prudence.
As I sat on the ground with my half-cleaned saddle
and the War Office letter, I felt very much a man
dedicated to death. And to one who had never heard
the hiss of machine-gun bullets there was nothing
imaginatively abhorrent in the notion. Reality was
a long way off; I had still to learn how to roll my
"cloak" neatly on the pommel of my saddle, and
various other elementary things. Nor had I yet
learned how to clean my rifle; I hadn't even fired a
shot with it. Most of the letters I had received since
enlisting had been bills. But they no longer mattered.
If the War goes on till next spring, I ruminated, I
shall be quite rich. Being in the army was economical,
at any rate!
The bugle blew for twelve o'clock "stables", and I
went down to the horse-lines to take Cockbird to the
watering trough. Everyone had been talking about
the hundred thousand Russians who were supposed
to have passed through England on their way to
France. Away across the hot mid-day miles the bells
of Canterbury Cathedral refused to recognize the
existence of a war. It was just a dazzling early
autumn day, and the gaitered farmer came riding
in from his fields on a cob.
As I was leading Cockbird back from watering
I passed Nigel Croplady, who was one of the troop
leaders. He stopped to speak to me for a moment,
and asked whether I had heard from Denis Milden
lately; this caused me to feel slightly less declasst.
Calling the officers "sir" and saluting them still made
me feel silly. But I got on so comfortably with the
other troopers that I couldn't imagine myself living