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The Spike: or, Victoria College Review, June 1910

The Professor at the Mess Table

page 20

The Professor at the Mess Table.

The oil lamps swinging from the pole of the marquee shed their light on an assortment of faces ranged along the two mess hi table. Continuous conversation and occasional laughter showed that the last act in the day's instruction of the Officers' Training Corps—the Major's lecture—had not begun.

Presently, out of the darkness beyond the door, appeared the head of the Sergeant for the day calling the Company to attention, and the next moment the Major, blowzed with the heat of the summer's sun, an immaculate parting in his hair, stood before them, and the lecture commenced.

"Time to snooze." murmured the Lance-Corporal drowsily, for a Lance-Corporal, of course, is almost quite one of the fellows, and is not obliged to be the same model of soldierly wakefulness that. Say, a Sergeant is. Yet I have known even a Lyon sleep after a full meal.

So the Lance-Corporal let his head droop on his folded arms, and his subsequent impression of the Major's lecture was something like this:—

"Ugh! This fellow is a d—d fool! . . . You'll find that A has gone off to see a man about a dog, and B has gone to round up A . . . find yourself on the crest with only half-a-dozen men . . . time to choose a halo to suit your complexion. . . If you don't turf him out. he will scupper you. . . Now for pickets and sentry groups . . . before you find you're not swattin' over a Latin prose, you'll have a very realistic sort of bayonet between your ribs. . . Sentry posts will be driven in—"

"What," moaned the Lance-Corporal. "Post driving! Does this mean more fatigue work tomorrow?"

"Yes, dear boy," volunteered Scraper; "they want the use of a monkey to drive in posts, and the Major was suggesting you for the job."

But the limit of the Lance-Corporal's attentive powers was reached. and Ids head drooped again, but he was jerked kick into wakefulness by a great chortle across the table, and found himself looking at Prid O., who chirruped:

page 21

"Look at the Professors!"

The Professors certainly did merit the attention now bestowed on them. The sight of a couple of them sitting in sleepy boredom at a lecture was as novel as entertaining, and rather fielded the student palate. "Ridiculous visu," as Scraper put it, with a furtive glance at the Latinist.

Prof. E. sat at the head of the table on a soap box, with his hack to the bronzed Vonzed, who stared at the Major with wide, unseeing eyes, his thoughts perhaps on the life of luxury he had left behind, perhaps on the intricacies of some German sentence—anywhere but on the subject of outposts. His academical colleague nodded drowsily, occasionally pricking up his ears to catch one of the Major's pet expressions, of which he was making a collection, for the benefit of Section 1.

The interest aroused by the Professors lasted nearly till the close of the lecture.

Now it was bedtime, the Professors appeared to wake up. A figure suddenly plunged into a tent belonging to Section 4 and extinguished the light. The infuriated soldier who followed him ran him to earth after he had plunged three tents in darkness. It was Professor E.!

Larking snored heavily that night. His efforts rent the silence of midnight. His wakeful neighbour saw a dark figure reach across the tent entrance and secure a bayonet, and he remembered with horror the suggestion of Professor K. at bedtime that all snorers should, for purposes of identification, wear white socks and thrust his feet well out into the light. Larking was saved a maiming only by the hasty intercession of his neighbour.

That night has also become memorable for the night alarm. Loyal to their training, the occupants of each tent conducted their robing with a minimum of noise, and in total darkness, though, indeed, one tent of Section 2 was partially illuminated by the sentiments of Trevor when he found that Prof. E. had "collared" his boots.

Out in the moonlight, hastily donned khaki covered a multitude of sins, many of which were uncovered by the watchful Major and exposed, to the delight of everyone. The Professors seemed to have fared worst, though among the others "long No. 3" had covered his manly chest with his putties, and a sleepy private of Section 3 had made his pyjamas serve the purpose of socks.

page 22

A few minutes of this hilarious entertainment, then the Company was dismissed, each unit to wander to his hard-earned pallet to sleep, and to be no more disturbed, till at 5 a.m. the notes of the "Rouse" rang out over the silent paddocks, and woke the slumberers to the business of another day.

"War," reflected Professor E., as he surreptitiously drew on one of Chapman's socks, "War is a demoralising game."

D. E. C. Mackay.

Sketch of waiter carrying tray