At seven o'clock on Friday we set off in the village fly. While wejolted along in that musty smelling vehicle with its incessantlyrattling windows I was anxious and excited. These feelings wereaugmented by shyness and gawkiness by the time I had entered theballroom, which was full of antlers and old armour. Standing by myselfin a corner I fidgetted with my gloves. Now and again I glancednervously round the room. Sleek-haired little boys in Eton jackets wereengaging themselves for future dances with pert little girls in shortfrocks. Shyness was being artificially dispelled by solicitous ladies,one of whom now swooped down on me and led me away to be introduced toequally unenterprising partners. The room was filling up, and I was soonjostling and bumping round with a demure little girl in a pink dress,while the local schoolmaster, a solemn man with a walrus moustache,thrummed out 'The Blue Danube' on an elderly upright piano, reinforcedby a squeaky violinist who could also play the cornet; he often did itat village concerts, so my partner informed me, biting her lip assomeone trod on her foot. Steering my clumsy course round the room, Iwondered whether Lady Dumborough had arrived yet.
Fred Buzzaway, whose name has just cropped up casually, was a totallydifferent type of sportsman from that reticent local magnate Sir JohnRuddimore (of Rapworth Park). Always fond of a joke, Fred Buzzaway was ablue-jowled dog-faced bachelor, who habitually dressed as though it weregoing to be a pouring wet day. Bowler hat well down over his ears; darkwhipcord coat and serviceable brown breeches; tight and skimpy stock;such was his rig-out, wet or fine. I see him now, splashed with mud, hiscoat collar turned up, and his head bent against the driving rain. Hisboots were usually muddy owing to his laudable habit of getting off hishorse as often as possible to give it a rest, and during a slow hunt hewas often to be seen leading his mount and even running beside it. Hewas an active man on his feet, and when he wasn't riding to hounds hewas following a pack of foot-harriers. Stag-hunting he despised."Jackasses hunting a carted jackass," he called it. In his youthBuzzaway had been called to the Bar. His friends always said that whenhe got there he asked for a bottle of 'Bass' and never went back againafter he had discovered his mistake. From this it may be inferred thathe had a wholesome belief in good liquor.
It was after half-past six when he came in. He seemed to take me forgranted already, but he assured me once again that he was "terriblepleased to have someone to talk to." He threw off his wet hunting-coatand slipped into a ragged tweed jacket which the silent servant Henryheld out for him. As soon as he had swallowed a cup of tea he lit hispipe and sat down at his writing-table to open a pile of letters. Hehanded me one, with a grimy envelope addressed to "Mr. Milden, The DogKennels, Ringwell." The writer complained that a fox had been the nightbefore and killed three more of his pullets, and unless he could bringthe dogs there soon there wouldn't be one left and they'd really have tostart shooting the foxes, and respectfully begging to state that he wasowed fifteen shillings by the Hunt for compensation. Many of Denis'sletters were complaints from poultry keepers or from small farmers whoseseeds or sown ground had been ridden over when the land was wet. I askedwhat he did with these, and he replied that he sent them on to oldMcCosh, the Hunt secretary. "But when they look like being troublesome Igo over and talk to them myself."
My ride with Dick was a great success. Over the rolling uplands andthrough an occasional strip of woodland, with the sun shining and bigclouds moving prosperously on a boisterous north-west wind, we rode to avillage six or seven miles away, and had tea at an unbelievable shopwhere the cakes were as good as anything in Amiens. I wouldn't like tosay how many we ate, but the evening star shone benevolently down on usfrom among a drift of rosy clouds while we were cantering home toMorlancourt. But about a fortnight later, when Dick was up in thetrenches, I received a letter in reply to the one I had sent Dixon.Someone informed me that Sergeant Dixon had died of pneumonia. MajorKinjack arrived to take command a day or two afterwards.
For identification purposes a dead body would be better than nothing,Kinjack said. O'Brien and I went out one moonlight night into a part ofNo Man's Land where there were no mine-craters. We had been instructedto bring in a dead body which (so our Observation Officer said) waslying out there. The Germans had been across the night before, cuttingour wire, and the Lewis-gun officer was certain that he had inflictedsevere casualties on them. Anyhow, a pair of boots could be seensticking up out of a shell-hole. But when we arrived at the boots wefound them attached to the body of a French soldier who had been thereseveral months. I didn't like this much; but O'Brien whispered to me:"T'Colonel shall have t'boot," and the boot, with half a leg on it, wassent down to Kinjack, as a proof of our efficiency. 2b1af7f3a8