No, Olympus thinks it wiser not to put temptation in the way of underpaid officers. So the boots remain locked up, and the taxpayer is protected. But to be just, there is always a solution to an Olympian enigma, if you have the patience to go on looking for it. In this case the proper proceeding is for all concerned, including the prostrate M'Splae, to wait patiently for a Board to sit.
The captain explains that there are plenty of boots, but that under the rules of the present round game no one has any power to issue them. Not even the colonel can gain access to the regimental boot store. For all Olympus can tell, he might draw a pair of boots and wear them himself, or dress his children up in them, or bribe the brigadier with them, instead of issuing them to Private M'Splae.
The game just described is played chiefly by officers; but this is a democratic age, and the rank and file are now occasionally permitted to take part. For example, boots. Private M'Splae is the possessor, we will say, of a pair of flat feet, or arched insteps, or other military incommodities, and his regulation boots do not fit him.
There the matter rests until, a few days later, M'Splae falls out on a long regimental route-march, and hobbles home, chaperoned by a not ungrateful lance-corporal, in a state of semi-collapse. This time the M.O. reports to the captain that Private M'Splae will be unfit for further duty until he is provided with a proper pair of boots. Are there no boots in the quartermaster's store?
The Medical Officer, a terribly efficient individual, keenly sometimes too keenly alert for signs of malingering, takes a cursory glance at M'Splae's feet, and directs the patient's attention to the healing properties of soap and water. M'Splae departs, grumbling, and reappears on sick parade a few days later, palpably worse.
This time, the M.O. being a little less pressed with work, M'Splae is given a dressing for his feet, coupled with a recommendation to procure a new pair of boots without delay. If M'Splae is a novice in regimental diplomacy, he will thereupon address himself to his platoon sergeant, who will consign him, eloquently, to a destination where only boots with asbestos soles will be of any use.
If a soldier wishes to speak to an officer, an introduction must be effected by a sergeant. Let us suppose that Private M'Splae, in the course of a route-march, develops a blister upon his great toe. He begins by intimating the fact to the nearest lance-corporal.
If M'Splae's company commander happens to be president of the Board the boots are condemned, and the portals of the quarter-master's store swing open for a brief moment to emit a new pair. When M'Splae comes out of hospital, the boots, provided no one has appropriated them during the term, of his indisposition, are his.