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Full text of "TheCompleteMemoirsOfGeorgeSherston"

blue capped German prisoners was at work on the
road close by, and their sullen under-nourished faces
made our own troops look as if they were lucky in
some sort of liberty. But whistles blew, pack straps
were adjusted, and on we went. By half-past one the
Battalion was in its billets in Corbie.

Before dinner Ralph Wilmot came round to our
Company Mess to suggest that Leake and myself
should join "a bit of a jolly59 which he'd arranged for
that evening. Wilmot was a dark, monocled young
man, mature for his years. His war experience had
begun with despatch riding on a motor-bicycle in
1914. Afterwards he had gone to Gallipoli, where he
had survived until the historic Evacuation. He had
now done a long spell of service in France, and was a
popular character in the Second Battalion. He had
the whimsical smile which illuminated a half-melan-
choly temperament, and could give an amusing twist
to the sorriest situation, since he liked to see life as a
tragi-comedy and himself as a debonair philosopher,
a man with a gay past who had learned to look at the
world more in sorrow than in anger. His unobtrusive
jests were enunciated with a stammer which somehow
increased their effect. With some difficulty he now
told us that he had discovered a place where we could
"buy some bubbly and tickle the ivories". The ivory-
tickling would be his own contribution, for he had a
passion for playing the piano. So we spent the evening
in a sparsely furnished little parlour on the ground-
floor of a wine-merchant's house. The wine-merchant's
wife, a sallow silent woman, brought in bottle after
bottle of "bubbly" which, whatever its quality, pro-