Occasionally I receive letters from friends, whom I have not seen lately, addressed to Lieutenant M —- and apologizing prettily inside in case I am by now a colonel; in drawing-rooms I am sometimes called “Captain-er”; and up at the Fort the other day a sentry of the Royal Defence Corps, wearing the Crecy medal, mistook me for a Major, and presented crossbows to me. This is all wrong. As Mr. Garvin well points out, it is important that we should not have a false perspective of the War. Let me, then, make it perfectly plain–I am a Second Lieutenant.
When I first became a Second Lieutenant I was rather proud. I was a Second Lieutenant “on probation.” On my right sleeve I wore a single star. So:
(on probation, of course). On my left sleeve I wore another star. So:
(also on probation).
They were good stars, none better in the service; and as we didn’t like the sound of “on probation” Celia put a few stitches in them to make them more permanent. This proved effective. Six months later I had a very pleasant note from the King telling me that the days of probation were now over, and making it clear that he and I were friends.
I was now a real Second Lieutenant. On my right sleeve I had a single star. Thus:
* (not on probation).
On my left sleeve I also had a single star. In this manner:
This star also was now a fixed one.
From that time forward my thoughts dwelt naturally on promotion. There were exalted persons in the regiment called Lieutenants. They had two stars on each sleeve. So:
I decided to become a Lieutenant.
Promotion in our regiment was difficult. After giving the matter every consideration I came to the conclusion that the only way to win my second star was to save the Colonel’s life. I used to follow him about affectionately in the hope that he would fall into the sea. He was a big strong man and a powerful swimmer, but once in the water it would not be difficult to cling round his neck and give an impression that I was rescuing him. However, he refused to fall in. I fancy that he wore somebody’s Military Soles which prevent slipping.
Years rolled on. I used to look at my stars sometimes, one on each sleeve; they seemed very lonely. At times they came close together; but at other times as, for instance, when I was semaphoring, they were very far apart. To prevent these occasional separations Celia took them off my sleeves and put them on my shoulders. One on each shoulder. So:
There they stayed.
And more years rolled on.
One day Celia came to me in great excitement.
“Have you seen this in the paper about promotion?” she said eagerly.
“No; what is it?” I asked. “Are they making more generals?”
“I don’t know about generals; it’s Second Lieutenants being Lieutenants.”
“You’re joking on a very grave subject,” I said seriously. “You can’t expect to win the War if you go on like that.”
“Well, you read it,” she said, handing me the paper.
I took the paper with a trembling hand, and read. She was right! If the paper was to be believed, all Second Lieutenants were to become Lieutenants after eighteen years’ service. At last my chance had come.
“My dear, this is wonderful,” I said. “In another fifteen years we shall be there. You might buy two more stars this afternoon and practise sewing them on, in order to be ready. You mustn’t be taken by surprise when the actual moment comes.”
“But you’re a Lieutenant now,” she said, “if that’s true. It says that ‘after eighteen months–‘”
I snatched up the paper again. Good Heavens! it was eighteen months–not years.
“Then I am a Lieutenant,” I said.
We had a bottle of champagne for dinner that night, and Celia got the paper and read it aloud to my tunic. And just for practice she took the two stars off my other tunic and sewed them on this one–thus:
And we had a very happy evening.
“I suppose it will be a few days before it’s officially announced,” I said.
“Bother, I suppose it will,” said Celia, and very reluctantly she took one star off each shoulder,
leaving the matter–so:
And the years rolled on….
And I am still a Second Lieutenant….
I do not complain; indeed I am even rather proud of it. If I am not gaining on my original one star, at least I am keeping pace with it. I might so easily have been a corporal by now.
But I should like to have seen a little more notice taken of me in the “Gazette.” I scan it every day, hoping for some such announcement as this:
“Second Lieutenant M —- to remain a Second Lieutenant.”
“Second Lieutenant M —- to be seconded and to retain his present rank of Second Lieutenant.”
Or even this:
“Second Lieutenant M —- relinquishes the rank of Acting Second Lieutenant on ceasing to command a Battalion, and reverts to the rank of Second Lieutenant.”
Failing this, I have thought sometimes of making an announcement in the Personal Column of “The Times”:
“Second Lieutenant M —- regrets that his duties as a Second Lieutenant prevent him from replying personally to the many kind inquiries he has received, and begs to take this opportunity of announcing that he still retains a star on each shoulder. Both doing well.”
But perhaps that is unnecessary now. I think that by this time I have made it clear just how many stars I possess.
One on the right shoulder. So:
And one on the left shoulder. So:
That is all.
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