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The Civil Servant
by [?]

“I could get sick leave easily enough,” said Harold, “if it wasn’t for more than eight or nine months.”

“Do; that will be excellent. Here’s a blank cheque for your outfit. Can you get off to-morrow? But I suppose you’ll have one or two things to finish up at the office first?”

“Well,” said Harold cautiously, “I WAS in, and I’d made ninety-six. But if I go back and finish my innings now, and then have to-morrow for buying things, I could get off on Friday.”

“Good,” said the editor. “Well, here’s luck. Come back alive if you can, and if you do we shan’t forget you.”

Harold spent the next day buying a war correspondent’s outfit:–the camel, the travelling bath, the putties, the pith helmet, the quinine, the sleeping-bag, and the thousand-and-one other necessities of active service. On the Friday his colleagues at the office came down in a body to Southampton to see him off. Little did they think that nearly a year would elapse before he again set foot upon England.

I shall not describe all his famous coups in Mexico. Sufficient to say that experience taught him quickly all that he had need to learn; and that whereas he was more than a week late with his cabled account of the first engagement of the war, he was frequently more than a week early afterwards. Indeed, the battle of Parson’s Nose, so realistically described in his last telegram, is still waiting to be fought. It is to be hoped that it will be in time for his aptly-named book, With the Mexicans in Mexico, which is coming out next month.

On his return to England Harold found that time had wrought many changes. To begin with, the editor of The Evening Surprise had passed on to The Morning Exclamation.

“You had better take his place,” said the ducal proprietor to Harold.

“Right,” said Harold. “I suppose I shall have to resign my post at the office?”

“Just as you like. I don’t see why you should.”

“I should miss the cricket,” said Harold wistfully, “and the salary. I’ll go round and see what I can arrange.”

But there were also changes at the office. Harold had been rising steadily in salary and seniority during his absence, and he found to his delight that he was now a Principal Clerk. He found, too, that he had acquired quite a reputation in the office for quickness and efficiency in his new work.

The first thing to arrange about was his holiday. He had had no holiday for more than a year, and there were some eight weeks owing to him.

“Hullo,” said the Assistant Secretary as Harold came in, “you’re looking well. I suppose you manage to get away for the week-ends?”

“I’ve been away on sick leave for some time,” said Harold pathetically.

“Have you? You’ve kept it very secret. Come out and have lunch with me, and we’ll do a matinee afterwards.”

Harold went out with him happily. It would be pleasant to accept the editorship of The Evening Surprise without giving up the Governmental work which was so dear to him, and the Assistant Secretary’s words made this possible for a year or so anyhow. Then, when his absence from the office first began to be noticed, it would be time to think of retiring on an adequate pension.