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T. E. Lawrence, The Mint

PART III


 

3:  MANNERS

Up ever so early, but with this wonderful sunshine filling the hut from soon after five, it feels sticky lying abed. The place is country. I wandered across to the reception hut, where I'd spent the first night, and helped myself to a hot bath, quietly, not to wake Barnard. That had been his stipulation, in making me free of his water. The reason he's so favoured with it is that Hut 83 backs on the cadets' lines, and they must have hot water always. I thank them. So shall I.

Back, and everybody yet asleep. I made my bed up, Depot fashion, and went to breakfast. When I came in again, my neighbour was regarding the bed with disfavour. 'You bobbing, mate?' he queried. 'This here's not the fuckin' Depot, you know.' Out came the Corporal from the bunk. 'Where do you come from, anyhow?' 'Depot, Corporal,' I rejoined, bringing my heels together as I'd been taught. 'Well, just you forget it, see? And put your bed like this.' With three or four deft twists of the hand my bedding sprawled and poked its corners to the four airts, like a dissipated haycock. 'And you don't stand to attention in the Air Force when you talk to an N.C.O.'

'Right O, Corporal,' I laughed, daring a pounce at this new easy manner. In Depot 'Right O' to a strange corporal would have put me on a charge. The Corporal rounded on me like a trodden snake. 'And cut that right out, too, you and your “Corporal.” Want to make a bloody cunt of me? My name's Geordie: get it? This is Cadet College. Wash out all that blarsted bull-shit you've bin taught. You're in the Air Force now. Fucking corporals in the Depot are bigger 'n wing commanders outside.'

He's right: it isn't the Depot. That assertion of manner has passed, with its boastful carriage, the abrupt heely stride, the clatter of boot-nails. These fellows can saunter as if no eye was on them: and when they want to hurry they nip along, quiet-footed, with a spring in it. Perhaps they're allowed rubbers on their soles. Their uniforms, too, seem worn: not so much badges of service, as the private clothing of their profession. Blue is a reducing agent. The modest colour and spare fit prompt its wearers to seem a handy size.




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