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Page 202

CHAPTER XV

But the next morning was wet and everyone was in a bad temper. Denis put on his corps cape and crept out under the tent. A soft drizzle drifted down from a leaden sky and the turf was sodden and slippery.
The wind was blowing the rain into the mess tent, which had therefore been closed on all sides. Wren's section, marching in to breakfast, were greeted by the warm smell of stale food and unwashed wooden tables. A pair of orderlies stumbled in with a dish of damp, fat bacon, and tempers did not improve.
" Who'll go across to the canteen and buy a pot of marmalade ?" said Beckett. No one answered. Denis looked at Featherstone, who looked gloomily at his plate. The fat bacon had been the last straw.
" Here's sixpence," said Beckett. " Any offers ? " North and Peter produced sixpence each and Worming Major collected the offertory and hurried off through the rain.
Soon after breakfast an orderly came round with a message cancelling morning parade. Novels and magazines were brought out and rolled palliasses made a comfortable rest for the back and head. The rain fell softly on the canvas. In Owen Jones's tent Oliver had earned the gratitude of the rest by getting up clumsily and rubbing his shoulder against the roof, with the result that the water leaked through and formed a large puddle by Robin's place. Robin and Oliver had taken up temporary quarters in Taunton's tent. Featherstone snored unevenly in his corner, and Denis opened his diary. For three years he had noted each evening the main facts of the day, without expressing an opinion of his own on their significance. He had a notion that one day this factual record of his life would

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