12 The year that followed was a busy one for me, and, except for my visits to Mrs. Dempster, lonely. My school friends accused me of being a know-all, and with characteristic perversity I liked the description. By searching the dictionary I discovered that a know-all was called, among people who appreciated knowledge and culture, a polymath, and I set to work to become a polymath with the same enthusiasm that I had once laboured to be a conjurer. It was much easier work; I simply read the encyclopaedia in our village library. It was a Chambers’, the Farewell to the Cork 4 страница 1888 edition, and I was not such a fool as to think I could read it through; I read the articles that appealed to me, and when I found something particularly juicy I read everything around it that I could find. I beavered away at that encyclopaedia with a tenacity that I wish I possessed now, and if I did not become a complete polymath I certainly gained enough information to be a nuisance to everybody who knew me.
I also came to know my father much better, for after the search for Mrs. Dempster in the pit he put himself out Farewell to the Cork 4 страница to make a friend of me. He was an intelligent man and well educated in an old-fashioned way; he had gone to Dumfries Academy as a boy, and what he knew he could marshal with a precision I have often envied; it was he and he alone who made the study of Latin anything but a penance to me, for he insisted that without Latin nobody could write clear English.
Sometimes on our Sunday walks along the railroad track we were joined by Sam West, an electrician with a mind above the limitations of his work; as Farewell to the Cork 4 страница a boy he had been kept hard at the Bible, and not only could he quote it freely, but there was not a contradiction or an absurdity in it that he did not know and relish. His detestation of religion and churches was absolute, and he scolded about them in language that owed all its bite to the Old Testament. He was unfailingly upright in all his dealings, to show the slaves of priestcraft and superstition that morality has nothing to do with religion, and he was an occasional attendant at all our local churches, in order to wrestle mentally Farewell to the Cork 4 страница with the sermon and confute it. His imitations of the parsons were finely observed, and he was very good as the Reverend Andrew Bowyer: “O Lord, take Thou a live coal from off Thine altar and touch our lips,” he would shout, in a caricature of our minister’s fine Edinburgh accent; then, with a howl of laughter, “Wouldn’t he be surprised if his prayer was answered!”
If he hoped to make an atheist of me, this was where he went wrong; I knew a metaphor when I heard one, and I liked metaphor better than Farewell to the Cork 4 страница reason. I have known many atheists since Sam, and they all fall down on metaphor.
At school I was a nuisance, for my father was now Chairman of our Continuation School Board, and I affected airs of near-equality with the teacher that must have galled her; I wanted to argue about everything, expand everything, and generally turn every class into a Socratic powwow instead of getting on with the curriculum. Probably I made her nervous, as a pupil full of green, fermenting information is so well able to do. I have dealt with innumerable variations of my young self in Farewell to the Cork 4 страница classrooms since then, and I have mentally apologized for my tiresomeness.
My contemporaries were growing up too. Leola Cruikshank was now a village beauty, and well understood to be Percy Boyd Staunton’s girl. Spider Webb still thought me wonderful and I graciously permitted her to worship me from a distance. Milo Papple had found that a gift for breaking wind was not in itself enough for social success, and he learned a few things from the travelling salesmen who were shaved by his father that gave him quite a new status. It was an era when parodies Farewell to the Cork 4 страница of popular songs were thought very funny, and when conversation flagged he would burst into:
I had a dewlap, A big flabby dewlap,And you had A red, red nose. Or perhaps:
I dream of Jeannie With the light brown hair,Drunk in the privy In her underwear. These fragments were always very brief, and he counted on his hearers bursting into uncontrollable laughter before they were finished. Nuisance that I was, I used to urge him to continue, for which he very properly hated me. He also had a few pleasantries about smelly feet, which went well at parties. I Farewell to the Cork 4 страница refused to laugh at them, for I was jealous of anybody who was funnier than I. The trouble was that my jokes tended to be so complicated that nobody laughed but Spider Webb, who obviously did not understand them.
The great event of the spring was the revelation that Percy Boyd Staunton and Mabel Heighington had been surprised in the sexual act by Mabel’s mother, who had tracked them to Dr. Staunton’s barn and pounced. Mrs. Heighington was a small, dirty, hysterical woman whose own chastity was seriously flawed; she had been a grass Farewell to the Cork 4 страница-widow for several years. What she said to Percy’s father, whom she insisted on seeing just as he got nicely off into his after-dinner nap one day, was so often repeated by herself on the streets that I heard it more than once. If he thought because she was a poor widow her only daughter could be trampled under foot by a rich man’s son and then flung aside, by Jesus she would show him different. She had her feelings, like anybody else. Was she to go to Mr. Mahaffey right then and get the law to work Farewell to the Cork 4 страница, or was he going to ask her to sit down and talk turkey?
What turkey amounted to remained a mystery. Some said fifty dollars, and others said a hundred. Mrs. Heighington never revealed the precise sum. There were those who said that twenty-five cents would have been a sufficient price for Mabel’s virtue, such as it was; she consistently met the brakeman of a freight train that lay on a siding near the gravel pit for half an hour every Friday, and he enjoyed her favours on some sacks in a freight car; she had Farewell to the Cork 4 страница also had to do with a couple of farmhands who worked over near the Indian Reservation. But Dr. Staunton had money—reputedly lots of money—for he had built up substantial land holdings over the years and was doing very well growing tobacco and sugar-beet, which was just coming into its own as an important crop. The doctoring was a second string with him, and he kept it up chiefly for the prestige it carried. Still, he was a doctor, and when Mrs. Heighington told him that if there was a baby she would expect him to do Farewell to the Cork 4 страница something about it, she struck a telling blow.
For our village, this amounted to scandal in high society. Mrs. Staunton was elaborately pitied by some of the women; others blamed her for letting Percy have his own way too much. Some of the men thought Percy a young rip, but the Cece Athelstan crowd acclaimed him as one of themselves. Ben Cruikshank, a tough little carpenter, stopped Percy on the street and told him if he ever came near Leola again he would cripple him; Leola wore a stricken face for days, and it was known that she was pining Farewell to the Cork 4 страница for Percy and forgave him in spite of everything, which made me cynical about women. Some of our more profound moralists harked back to the incident of Mrs. Dempster and said that if a parson’s wife behaved like that, it was no wonder young ones picked up notions. Dr. Staunton kept his own counsel, but it became known that he had decided to send Percy away to school, where he would not have his mother to baby him. And that, Headmaster, is how Percy came to be at Colborne College, of which in time he became a distinguished Old Boy Farewell to the Cork 4 страница, and Chairman of the Board of Governors.
13 The autumn of 1914 was remarkable in most places for the outbreak of the war, but in Deptford my brother Willie’s illness ran it close as a subject of interest.
Willie had been ill at intervals for four years. His trouble began with an accident in the Banner plant when he had attempted to take some rollers from the big press—the one used for printing the newspaper—without help. Jumper Saul was absent, pitching for the local baseball team. The rollers were not extremely heavy but they were awkward, and one Farewell to the Cork 4 страница of them fell on Willie and knocked him down. At first it seemed that nothing would come of it except a large bruise on his back, but as time wore on Willie began to have spells of illness marked by severe internal pain. Dr. McCausland could not do much for him; X-ray was unheard of in our part of the world, and the kind of exploratory operations that are so common now were virtually unknown. My parents took Willie to Pittstown a few times to see a chiropractor, but the treatments hurt Willie so much that the chiropractor Farewell to the Cork 4 страница refused to continue them. Until the autumn of 1914, however, Willie had come round after a few days in bed, with a light diet and a quantity of Sexton Blake stories to help him along.
This time he was really very ill—so ill that he had periods of delirium. His most dramatic symptom, however, spoken of around the village in hushed tones, was a stubborn retention of urine that added greatly to his distress. Dr. McCausland sent to Toronto for a specialist—an alarming move in our village—and the specialist had very little to suggest Farewell to the Cork 4 страница except that immersions in warm water at four-hour intervals might help; he did not advise an operation yet, for at that time the removal of a kidney was an extremely grave matter.
As soon as the news of what the specialist had said got around we had a group of volunteers to assist with the immersions. These were bound to be troublesome, for we had no bathtub except a portable one, which could be put by the bed, and to which all the warm water had to be carried in pails. I have already said that our village had Farewell to the Cork 4 страница a kind heart, and practical help of this kind was what it understood best; six immersions a day were nothing, in the light of their desire to lend a hand. Even the new Presbyterian minister, the Reverend Donald Phelps (come to replace the Reverend Andrew Bowyer, retired in the spring of 1914), was a volunteer, comparative stranger though he was; more astonishing, Cece Athelstan was one of the group, and was cold sober every time he turned up. Getting Willie through this bad time became a public cause.
The baths certainly seemed to make Willie a little easier, though the Farewell to the Cork 4 страница swelling caused by the retention of urine grew worse. He had been in bed for more than two weeks when the Saturday of our Fall Fair came and brought special problems with it. My father had to attend; not only had he to write it up for the Banner, but as Chairman of our Continuation School Board he had to judge two or three contests. My mother was expected to attend, and wanted to attend, because the Ladies’ Aid of our church was offering a Fowl Supper, and she was a noted organizer and pusher of fancy victuals. The men Farewell to the Cork 4 страница who would give Willie his six-o’clock plunge bath would arrive in plenty of time, but who was to stay with him during the afternoon? I was happy to do so; I would go to the Fair after supper, because it always seemed particularly gay and romantic as darkness fell.
From two until three I sat in Willie’s room, reading, and between three and half-past I did what I could for Willie while he died. What I could do was little enough. He became restless and hot, so I put a cold towel on Farewell to the Cork 4 страница his head. He began to twist and moan, so I held his hands and said what I could think of that might encourage him. He ceased to hear me, and his twisting became jerking and convulsion. He cried out five or six times—not screaming, but spasmodic cries—and in a very few minutes became extremely cold. I wanted to call the doctor, but I dared not leave Willie. I put my ear to his heart: nothing. I tried to find his pulse: nothing. Certainly he was not breathing, for I hurried to fetch my mother’s hand mirror and hold Farewell to the Cork 4 страница it over his mouth: it did not cloud. I opened one eye: it was rolled upward in his head. It came upon me that he was dead.
It is very easy to say now what I should have done. I can only record what I did do. From the catastrophe of realizing that Willie was dead—it was the psychological equivalent of a house falling inward upon itself, and I can still recall the feeling—I passed quickly into strong revolt. Willie could not be dead. It must not be. I would not have it. And, without Farewell to the Cork 4 страница giving a thought to calling the doctor (whom I had never really liked, though it was the family custom to respect him), I set out on the run to fetch Mrs. Dempster.
Why? I don”t know why. It was not a matter of reason—not a decision at all. But I can remember running through the hot autumn afternoon, and I can remember hearing the faint music of the merry-go-round as I ran. Nothing was very far away in our village, and I was at the Dempsters’ cottage in not much more than three minutes. Locked Farewell to the Cork 4 страница. Of course. Paul’s father would have taken him to the Fair. I was through the living-room window, cutting Mrs. Dempster’s rope, telling her what I wanted and dragging her back through the window with me, in a muddle of action that I cannot clearly remember at all. I suppose we would have looked an odd pair, if there had been anyone to see us, running through the streets hand in hand, and I do remember that she hoisted up her skirts to run, which was a girlish thing no grown woman would ever have done if she had not Farewell to the Cork 4 страница caught the infection of my emotion.
What I do remember was getting back to Willie’s room, which was my parents’ room, given up to the sick boy because it was the most comfortable, and finding him just as I had left him, white and cold and stiff. Mrs. Dempster looked at him solemnly but not sadly, then she knelt by the bed and took his hands in hers and prayed. I had no way of knowing how long she prayed, but it was less than ten minutes. I could not pray and did not kneel. I gaped—and Farewell to the Cork 4 страница hoped.
After a while she raised her head and called him. “Willie,” she said in a low, infinitely kind, and indeed almost a cheerful tone. Again, “Willie.” I hoped till I ached. She shook his hands gently, as if rousing a sleeper. “Willie.”
Willie sighed and moved his legs a little. I fainted.
When I came round, Mrs. Dempster was sitting on Willie’s bed, talking quietly and cheerfully to him, and he was replying, weakly but eagerly. I dashed around, fetched a towel to bathe his face, the orange and albumen drink he was allowed in very small Farewell to the Cork 4 страница quantities, a fan to create a better current of air—everything there was that might help and give expression to my terrible joy. Quite soon Willie fell asleep, and Mrs. Dempster and I talked in whispers. She was deeply pleased but, as I now remember it, did not seem particularly surprised by what had happened. I know I babbled like a fool.
The passing of time that afternoon was all awry, for it did not seem long to me before the men came to get Willie’s six-o’clock plunge ready, so it must have been half Farewell to the Cork 4 страница-past five. They were astonished to find her there, but sometimes extraordinary situations impose their own tactful good manners, and nobody said anything to emphasize their first amazement. Willie insisted that she stand by him while he was being plunged, and she helped in the difficult business of drying him off, for he was tender all around his body. Therefore I suppose it must have been close to half-past six when my mother and father arrived home, and with them Amasa Dempster. I don’t know what sort of scene I expected; something on Biblical lines would have Farewell to the Cork 4 страница appeared appropriate to me. But instead Dempster took his wife’s arm in his, as I had seen him do it so often, and led her away. As she went she paused for an instant to blow a kiss to Willie. It was the first time I had ever seen anybody do such a thing, and I thought it a gesture of great beauty; to Willie’s everlasting credit, he blew a kiss back again, and I have never seen my mother’s face blacker than at that moment.
When the Dempsters were gone, and the men had Farewell to the Cork 4 страница been thanked, and offered food, which they refused (this was ritual, for only the night plungers, at two and six in the morning, thought it right to accept coffee and sandwiches), there was a scene downstairs which was as bad, though not as prolonged, as anything I later experienced in the war.
What did I mean by failing to send for Dr. McCausland and my parents at the first sign of danger? What under Heaven had possessed me to turn to that woman, who was an insane degenerate, and bring her, not only into our house but to the Farewell to the Cork 4 страница very bedside of a boy who was dangerously ill? Did all this cynical nonsense I had been talking, and the superior airs I had been assuming, mean that I too was going off my head? How did I come to be so thick with Mary Dempster in her present condition? If this was what all my reading led to, it was high time I was put to a job that would straighten the kinks out of me.
Most of this was my mother, and she performed variations on these themes until I was heartsick with hearing them. I know now Farewell to the Cork 4 страница that a lot of her anger arose from self-reproach because she had been absent, making a great figure of herself in the Ladies’ Aid, when duty should have kept her at Willie’s bedside. But she certainly took it out of me, and so, to a lesser degree, did my father, who felt himself bound to back her up but who plainly did not like it.
This would have gone on until we all dropped with exhaustion, I suppose, if Dr. McCausland had not arrived; he had been in the country and had just returned. He brought his own Farewell to the Cork 4 страница sort of atmosphere, which was cold and chilly and smelled of disinfectant, and took a good look at Willie. Then he questioned me. He catechized me thoroughly about what symptoms Willie had shown, and how he had behaved before he died. Because I insisted that Willie had indeed died. No pulse; no breathing.
“But clenched hands?” said Dr. McCausland. Yes, said I, but did that mean that Willie could not have been dead? “Obviously he was not dead,” said the doctor; “if he had been dead I would not have been talking to him a few Farewell to the Cork 4 страница minutes ago. I think you may safely leave it to me to say when people are dead, Dunny,” he continued, with what I am sure he meant as a kindly smile. It had been a strong convulsion, he told my parents; the tight clenching of the hands was a part of it, and an unskilled person could not be expected to detect very faint breathing, or heartbeat either. He was all reason, all reasurance, and the next day he came early and did an operation on Willie called “tapping”; he dug a hollow needle into his side and drew off an Farewell to the Cork 4 страница astonishing quantity of bloody urine. In a week Willie was up and about; in four months he had somehow lied his way into the Canadian Army; in 1916 he was one of those who disappeared forever in the mud at St. Eloi.
I wonder if his hands were clenched after death? Later on I saw more men than I could count die, myself, and a surprising number of the corpses I stumbled over, or cleared out of the way, had clenched hands, though I never took the trouble to write to Dr. McCausland and tell him so.
For me, Willie’s Farewell to the Cork 4 страница recall from death is, and will always be, Mrs. Dempster’s second miracle.
14 The weeks following were painful and disillusioning. Among my friends I dropped from the position of polymath to that of a credulous ass who thought that a dangerous lunatic could raise the dead. I should explain that Mrs. Dempster was now thought to be dangerous, not because of any violence on her part, but because fearful people were frightened that if she were to wander away again some new sexual scandal would come of it; I think they really believed that she would corrupt some innocent Farewell to the Cork 4 страница youth or bewitch some faithful husband by the unreason of her lust. It was widely accepted that, even if she could not help it, she was in the grip of unappeasable and indiscriminate desire. Inevitably it came out that I had been visiting her on the sly, and there was a lot of dirty joking about that, but the best joke of all was that I thought she had brought my brother back to life.
The older people took the matter more seriously. Some thought that my known habit of reading a great deal had unseated my Farewell to the Cork 4 страница reason, and perhaps that dreaded disease “brain fever”, supposed to attack students, was not far off. One or two friends suggested to my father that immediate removal from school, and a year or two of hard work on a farm, might cure me. Dr. McCausland found a chance to have what he called “a word” with me, the gist of which was that I might become queer if I did not attempt to balance my theoretical knowledge with the kind of common sense that could be learned from—well, for instance, from himself. He hinted that I might become like Farewell to the Cork 4 страница Elbert Hubbard if I continued in my present course. Elbert Hubbard was a notoriously queer American who thought that work could be a pleasure.
Our new minister, the Reverend Donald Phelps, took me on and advised me that it was blasphemous to think that anyone—even someone of unimpeachable character—could restore the dead to life. The age of miracles was past, said he, and I got the impression that he was heartily glad of it. I liked him; he meant it kindly, which McCausland certainly did not.
My father talked to me several times in a Farewell to the Cork 4 страница way that gave me some insight into his own character, for though he was a man of unusual courage as an editor, he was a peace-at-any-pricer at home. I would do best, he thought, to keep my own counsel and not insist on things my mother could not tolerate.
I might even have done so—if she had been content to let the subject drop. But she was so anxious to root out of my mind any fragment of belief in what I had seen, and to exact from me promises that I would never see Mrs. Dempster again Farewell to the Cork 4 страница and furthermore would accept the village’s opinion of her, that she kept alluding to it darkly, or bringing it out for full discussion, usually at meals. It was clear that she now regarded a hint of tenderness toward Mrs. Dempster as disloyalty to herself, and as loyalty was the only kind of love she could bring herself to ask for, she was most passionate when she thought she was being most reasonable. I said very little during these scenes, and she quite rightly interpreted my silence as a refusal to change my mind.
She did not know how Farewell to the Cork 4 страница much I loved her, and how miserable it made me to defy her, but what was I to do? Deep inside myself I knew that to yield, and promise what she wanted, would be the end of anything that was any good in me; I was not her husband, who could keep his peace in the face of her furious rectitude; I was her son, with a full share of her own Highland temper and granite determination.
One day, after a particularly wretched supper, she concluded by demanding that I make a choice between her and “that Farewell to the Cork 4 страница woman”. I made a third choice. I had enough money for a railway ticket, and the next day I skipped school, went to the county town, and enlisted.
This changed matters considerably. I was nearly two years under age, but I was tall and strong and a good liar, and I had no difficulty in being accepted. She wanted to go to the authorities and get me out, but my father put his foot down there. He said he would not permit me to be disgraced by having my mother drag me out of the Army. So now she was Farewell to the Cork 4 страница torn between a fear that I would certainly be shot dead the day after I began training, and a conviction that there was something even darker between Mrs. Dempster and me than she had permitted herself to think.
As for my father, he was disgusted with me. He had a poor opinion of soldiers and as he had run some risks by being pro-Boer in 1901 he had serious doubts about the justice of any war. Feeling about the war in our village was romantic, because it touched us so little, but my father and Mr. Mahaffey were Farewell to the Cork 4 страница better aware of what went into the making of that war and could not share the popular feeling. He urged me to reveal my true age and withdraw, but I was pig-headed and spread the news of what I had done as fast as I could.
What my elders thought I did not know or care, but I regained some of the position I had lost among my contemporaries. I loafed at school, as became a man waiting his call to more serious things. My friends seemed to think I might disappear at any hour, and whenever I met Milo Farewell to the Cork 4 страница Papple, which was at least once a day, he would seize my hand and declaim passionately;
Say cuspidor, But not spittoon— which was the barbershop version of a song of the day that began:
Say au revoir, But not good-bye. Girls took a new view of me, and to my delighted surprise Leola Cruikshank made it clear that she was mine on loan, so to speak. She still pined for Percy Boyd Staunton, but he was away at school and was a bad and irregular letter-writer, so Leola thought that a modest romance with a hero in Farewell to the Cork 4 страница embryo could do no harm—might even be a patriotic duty.
She was a delightful girl, pretty, full of sentimental nonsense, and clean about her person—she always smelled of fresh ironing. I saw a great deal of her, persuaded her that a few kisses did not really mean disloyalty to Percy, and paraded her up and down our main street on Saturday nights, wearing my best suit.
I had kept away from Mrs. Dempster, partly from obedience and fear and partly because I could not bear to face her when so many hateful opinions about Farewell to the Cork 4 страница her were ringing in my ears. I knew, however, that I could not go off to war without saying good-bye, and one afternoon, with great stealth, I reached her cottage and climbed through the window for the last time. She spoke to me as if I had visited her as often as usual, and did not seem greatly surprised by the news that I had joined the Army. We had talked a great deal about the war when it first broke out, and she had laughed heartily at the news that two Deptford women who liked to dabble in spiritualism went Farewell to the Cork 4 страница several times a week to the cemetery to read the latest news from France to their dead mother, sitting on her grave, picnic-style. When I had to leave she kissed me on both cheeks—a thing she had never done before—and said, “There’s just one thing to remember; whatever happens, it does no good to be afraid.” So I promised not to be afraid, and may even have been fool enough to think I could keep my promise.
In time my call came. I climbed on the train, proud of my pass to the Farewell to the Cork 4 страница camp, and waved from the window to my almost weeping mother, and my father, whose expression I could not interpret. Leola was in school, for we had agreed that it would not do for her to come to the station—too much like a formal engagement. But the night before I left she had confided that in spite of her best efforts to keep the image of Percy bright in her heart she had discovered that she really loved me, and would love me forever, and wait until I returned from the battlefields of Europe.
II. I Am Born Again Farewell to the Cork 4 страница1 I shall say little about the war, because though I was in it from early 1915 until late 1917 I never found out much about it until later. Commanders and historians are the people to discuss wars; I was in the infantry, and most of the time I did not know where I was or what I was doing except that I was obeying orders and trying not to be killed in any of the variety of horrible ways open to me. Since then I have read enough to know a little of the actions in which I took Farewell to the Cork 4 страница part, but what the historians say throws no great light on what I remember. Because I do not want to posture in this account of myself as anything other than what I was at the time of my narrative, I shall write here only of what I knew when it happened.
When I left Deptford for the training camp, I had never been away from home alone before. I found myself among men more experienced in the world than I, and I tried not to attract attention by any kind of singular behaviour. Some of them knew I was desperately homesick and Farewell to the Cork 4 страница were kindly; others jeered at me and the other very young fellows. They were anxious to make men of us, by which they meant making us like themselves. Some of them were men indeed—grave, slow young farmers and artisans with apparently boundless resources of strength and courage; others were just riffraff of the kind you get in any chance collection of men. None of them had much education; none had any clear idea what the war was about, though many felt that England had been menaced and had to be defended; perhaps the most astonishing thing Farewell to the Cork 4 страница was that none of us had much notion of geography and thought that going to fight in France might involve almost any kind of climate, from the Pole to the Equator. Of course some of us had some geography in school and had studied maps, but a school map is a terribly uncommunicative thing.
I was a member of the Second Canadian Division, and later we were part of the Canadian Corps, but such descriptions meant little to me; I was aware of the men directly around me and rarely had a chance to meet any others. I might as Farewell to the Cork 4 страница well say at once that although I was on pretty good terms with everybody I made no lasting friends. There were men who formed strong friendships, which sometimes led to acts of bravery, and there were men who were great on what they called “pals” and talked and sang loudly about it. Those now living are still at it. But I was a lonely creature, and although I would have been very happy to have a friend I just never happened to meet one.
Probably my boredom was to blame. For I was bored as I have never Farewell to the Cork 4 страница been since—bored till every bone in my body was heavy with it. This was not the boredom of inactivity; an infantry trainee is kept on the hop from morning till night, and his sleep is sound. It was the boredom that comes of being cut off from everything that could make life sweet, or arouse curiosity, or enlarge the range of the senses. It was the boredom that comes of having to perform endless tasks that have no savour and acquire skills one would gladly be without. I learned to march and drill and shoot and keep Farewell to the Cork 4 страница myself clean according to Army standards; to make my bed and polish my boots and my buttons and to wrap lengths of dung-coloured rag around my legs in the approved way. None of it had any great reality for me, but I learned to do it all, and even to do it well.