With the news of Marie's pregnancy, John's patience practically vanished. Despite his Captain's best efforts he was unable to get leave. Instead, he was forced to sit in camp as the battalion went through a daily grind of make-work. How easy it would be to desert, he thought. Once in France I could blend right in. The General could make sure they never got me back.
He checked daily orders. Sure enough, "1000 hours - lecture - Should higher education be compulsory?"
He took his seat in the hut that was to hold the lecture. 10:00 passed. 10:15. 10:30. The hut grew restless.
From the back a soft refrain swelled, in a dirge-like mutter:
WHY are we WAITing, repeated over and over. He looked around. There were no officers present.
Why were they waiting? Why were they still in Belgium instead of going home?
****** it - he wasn't going to stop them.
He'd had enough. He got up and headed for the door. Behind him he could hear a chorus of browned-off muttering and chairs being scraped back or knocked over, and boots on the floor behind him.
He stopped, turned around, and headed back into the hut.
"WHERE do you think you lot are going! SIT DOWN!"
Accustomed to obedience, especially where a popular NCO was involved, the men sat down. Shortly after, some officers arrived with the speaker. The men listened, but there were few questions or opinions.
Afterwards, the Captain took John aside.
"Thanks for doing that, John. I know they're fed up. I know you are too - with a whole lot more reason. But don't even think of going over the hill. I'd hate to have to put a Sergeant with the Military Medal under close arrest."
"But I don't have...."
"Now you do. It just came through. You've earned it a dozen times over, from that time you saved my life on. Have patience, John. We're working on your discharge, but since yours is an unusual case they have to invent the procedures as they go along."