Sometime between the cheese and the fruit, while the port was still being passed, Lieutenant Wilby allowed a sweet, but rather too boisterous fart to slip between his buttocks. The company around the mess table was talking quietly, listening to the sound of the liquor filling the glasses, holding it up in the lamplight to relish its color against the white canvas of the tent. It was, Lieutenant Bromhead had just explained, a bottle from General Chelmsford’s own stock, and not the regulation port issued to officers. A hush of appreciation had fallen over the table.

Of course, Wilby had known the fan was coming, but it was much louder and more prolonged than he had anticipated and the look of surprise on his face would have given him away even if Major Black to his left, the port already extended, had not said, “Wilby!” in a sharp, shocked bellow.

“Sorry, sir,” Wilby said. His face burned as if he’d been sitting in front of the hearth at home, reading by the firelight.

He risked one q…