"I followed the Captain with me eye, gentlemen, and I'm blessed if he didn't walk straight across the open and over the support trench. Then he drops into a bit of a shell-hole and I lost sight of him. Well, I waited and waited and no sign of th' orficer. The rocket goes up and our lads begin to come back with half a dozen Huns runnin' in front of them with their hands up. Some of the chaps as they passed me wanted to know if I was a-goin' to stay there all night! And the Brigade buzzin' like mad to talk to the Captain.
"I sat in that blessed trench till everybody had cleared out. Then, seeing as how not even the docket had brought th' orficer back, I sez to myself as how he must ha' stopped one. So I gets out of the trench and starts crawling across the top towards the place where I see the Captain disappear. As I got near the support line the ground went up a little and then dropped, so I got a bit of a view on to the ground ahead. And then I sees the Captain here!"
Buzzer Barling stopped. All had listened to his story with the deepest interest, especially Strangwise, who never took his eyes off the gunner's brown face. Some men are born story-tellers and there was a rugged picturesqueness about Barling's simple narrative which conjured up in the minds of his hearers the picture of the lonely signaller cowering in the abandoned trench among the freshly slain, waiting for the officer who never came back.
"It's not a nice thing to have to say about an orficer," the gunner presently continued, "and so help me God, gentlemen, I kep' my mouth shut about it until... until..."
He broke off and looked quickly at Desmond.
"Keep that until the end, Barling," said Desmond, "finish about the raid now!"
"Well, as I was sayin', gentlemen, I was up on a bit of hillock near Fritz's support line when I sees the Captain here. He was settin' all comfortable in a shell-hole, his glases in his hand, chattin' quite friendly like with two of the Gers. orficers, I reckoned they was, along o' the silver lace on their collars. One was wearin' one o' them coal-scuttle helmets, t'other a little flat cap with a shiny peak. And the Captain here was a-pointin' at our lines and a-wavin' his hand about like he was a-tellin' the two Fritzes all about it, and the chap in the coal-scuttle hat was a-writin' it all down in a book."
Barling paused. He was rather flushed and his eyes burned brightly in his weather-beaten face.