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The Army Of A Dream
by [?]

“The Line comes next to the Guard. The Linesman’s generally a town-bird who can’t afford to be a Volunteer. He has to go into camp in an Area for two months his first year, six weeks his second, and a month the third. He gets about five bob a week the year round for that and for being on duty two days of the week, and for being liable to be ordered out to help the Guard in a row. He needn’t live in barracks unless he wants to, and he and his family can feed at the regimental canteen at usual rates. The women like it.”

“All this,” I said politely, but intensely, “is the raving of delirium. Where may your precious recruit who needn’t live in barracks learn his drill?”

“At his precious school, my child, like the rest of us. The notion of allowing a human being to reach his twentieth year before asking him to put his feet in the first position was raving lunacy if you like!” Boy Bayley dived back into the conversation.

“Very good,” I said meekly. “I accept the virtuous plumber who puts in two months of his valuable time at Aldershot—-“

“Aldershot!” The table exploded. I felt a little annoyed.

“A camp in an Area is not exactly Aldershot,” said Burgard. “The Line isn’t exactly what you fancy. Some of them even come to us!”

“You recruit from ’em?”

“I beg your pardon,” said Devine with mock solemnity. “The Guard doesn’t recruit. It selects.”

“It would,” I said, “with a Spiers and Pond restaurant; pretty girls to play with; and—-“

“A room apiece, four bob a day and all found,” said Verschoyle. “Don’t forget that.”

“Of course!” I said. “It probably beats off recruits with a club.”

“No, with the ballot-box,” said Verschoyle, laughing. “At least in all R.C. companies.”

“I didn’t know Roman Catholics were so particular,” I ventured.

They grinned. “R.C. companies,” said the Boy, “mean Right of Choice. When a company has been very good and pious for a long time it may, if the C.O. thinks fit, choose its own men–all same one-piecee club. All our companies are R.C.’s, and as the battalion is making up a few vacancies ere starting once more on the wild and trackless ‘heef’ into the Areas, the Linesman is here in force to-day sucking up to our non-coms.”

“Would some one mind explaining to me the meaning of every other word you’ve used,” I said. “What’s a trackless ‘heef’? What’s an Area? What’s everything generally?” I asked.

“Oh, ‘heefs’ part of the British Constitution,” said the Boy. “It began long ago when they’d first mapped out the big military manoeuvring grounds–we call ’em Areas for short–where the I. G. spend two-thirds of their time and the other regiments get their training. It was slang originally for beef on the hoof, because in the Military Areas two-thirds of your meat-rations at least are handed over to you on the hoof, and you make your own arrangements. The word ‘heef’ became a parable for camping in the Military Areas and all its miseries. There are two Areas in Ireland, one in Wales for hill-work, a couple in Scotland, and a sort of parade-ground in the Lake District; but the real working Areas are in India, Africa, and Australia, and so on.”

“And what do you do there?”

“We ‘heef’ under service conditions, which are rather like hard work. We ‘heef’ in an English Area for about a year, coming into barracks for one month to make up wastage. Then we may ‘heef’ foreign for another year or eighteen months. Then we do sea-time in the war boats—-“

What-t?” I said.

“Sea-time,” Bayley repeated. “Just like Marines, to learn about the big guns and how to embark and disembark quick. Then we come back to our territorial headquarters for six months, to educate the Line and Volunteer camps, to go to Hythe, to keep abreast of any new ideas, and then we fill up vacancies. We call those six months ‘Schools,’ Then we begin all over again, thus: Home ‘heef,’ foreign ‘heef,’ sea-time, schools. ‘Heefing’ isn’t precisely luxurious, but it’s on ‘heef’ that we make our head-money.”