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The Visitors’ Book
by [?]

“This way, sir,” said a voice above, and down came Billy, followed by the Brigadier. We jumped up.

“You’ll have a drink, sir?” said Billy.

“Oh, thanks very much.”

“What will you have, sir?” asked Blake, looking round wildly. “Lime juice or–or lime juice?”

“I’ll have lime juice, thank you,” said the General after consideration.

Blake produced the book nervously.

“I wonder if you’d mind,” he began.

The General looked inquiring, and started feeling for his glasses. He was just feeling in his fifth pocket when Billy came to the rescue.

“It’s only some nonsense of Blake’s, sir,” he said. “He keeps a visitors’ book.”

“Ah, well,” said the General, getting up, “another day, perhaps.”

When we were alone again Blake turned on Billy.

“You are a silly ass,” he said. “If you hadn’t interfered, he’d have done it. Well, I shall fill it in myself now.”

He took a pencil and wrote:

“Monday–Hospitably received by ‘D’ Company and much enjoyed the mess president’s amusing conversation. The company commander and a subaltern named Rogers struck me as rather lacking in intelligence. R. Blake, D.S.O., Brig.-Gen.”

* * * * *

I had been out of it for a long time, and when quite accidentally I met an officer of the battalion in London I was nearly a year behind the news.

“And Blake,” I said, after he’d told me some of it, “that nice child in ‘D’ Company; what happened to him?”

“Didn’t you hear? He had rather a funny experience. He went into that last show as senior subaltern of ‘D.’ Billy was knocked out pretty early and Blake took on. After that we had a lot of casualties, and finally we were cut off from headquarters altogether and had to carry on on our own. Billy was the senior company commander and took charge of the battalion. I don’t quite know how it happened after that. We all got rather mixed up, I suppose. Anyway, at one time Blake was actually commanding the brigade. He was splendid; simply all over the place. He got the D.S.O. He’s rather bucked with himself. Young Blake as a Brigadier–funny, isn’t it?”

“Not so very,” I said.