Teatime. Priestman joined the other pilots sitting in the shade of the mess tent. They were drinking tea. No sooner had Priestman sat down than the airman/cook shoved a mug of the hot, sweet stuff into his hand. Priestman smiled up at him, “You are a marvel, Thatcher.”
“Just doing my job, sir.”
“Doing a damned good job, if I may say so, Thatcher.”
“Thank you, sir.” The airman actually looked embarrassed, as if he didn’t know what to do with appreciation – and that made Priestman feel guilty: obviously he and his colleagues were a little too sparing with praise and thanks.
The telephone was ringing in the ops tent. They turned their heads and stared at the tent, waiting.
“Maybe it is just someone ringing up to see how the weather is over here.”
“Or someone calling to ask if there is anything we lack?” “Maybe someone has just signed a surrender.”
No, it didn’t look like that. Yardly was standing in the entry, waving furiously at them.
“Once more unto the breach, dear friends, once more,” Shakespeare intoned as he set his mug aside.
“Shut up!” Roger told him irritably – much too irritably. You could tell his nerves were a bit frayed. He’d had an ugly belly landing the other day and hadn’t been the same since, really.
“What’s the matter?” Driver asked innocently.
Yardly was shouting at them to “get cracking,” but they ignored him. After all, he wasn’t flying, and they didn’t presume it would make much difference to the war if they were a minute or two later. It was all a cock-up, anyway.
“It’s the next line,” Priestman explained to Driver, putting his own mug aside carefully.
“‘Or close the wall up with our English dead.’”
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