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Full text of "TheCompleteMemoirsOfGeorgeSherston"

PART FOUR: BATTLE
I

ON THE morning of a Battalion move I made it
my business to keep out of the way until the last
moment. At the end of a march I had my definite
duties, but before we started Barton was always in
such a stew that my absence was a positive advantage
to him. So on Monday, after bolting my breakfast
while Flook waited to pack the mugs and plates in the
mess-box, I left Barton shouting irritably for the
Sergeant-Major and wandered away to sit by the river
until the whistles began to blow. Durley and Jenkins
had gone to make sure that the billets were being left
clean and tidy. In the green orchard behind the farm
buildings the men were putting their kits together,
their voices sounding as jolly as though they were off
for a summer holiday. For me, it was a luxury to be
alone for a few minutes, watching the yellow irises,
and the ribbon weeds that swayed like fishes in the
dimpling stream. I was sorry to be saying good-bye
to the Marais and its grey-green pools and creeks and
the congregation of poplar stems that upheld a cool
whispering roof. Water-haunting birds whistled and
piped, swinging on the bullrushes and tufted reeds,
and a tribe of little green and gold frogs hopped about
in the grass without caring whether they arrived any-
where. All this was obviously preferable to a battle,
and it was a perfect morning to be reading a book
beside the river.

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