All Roads Lead to Calvary
Jerome K. Jerome
Part 5 out of 6
The works, since Arthur had shared the management, had gradually
been regaining their position; and he had urged her to let him
increase her allowance.
"It will give you greater freedom," he had suggested with fine
assumption of propounding a mere business proposition; "enabling
you to choose your work entirely for its own sake. I have always
wanted to take a hand in helping things on. It will come to just
the same, your doing it for me."
She had suppressed a smile, and had accepted. "Thanks, Dad," she
had answered. "It will be nice, having you as my backer."
Her admiration of the independent woman had undergone some
modification since she had come in contact with her. Woman was
intended to be dependent upon man. It was the part appointed to
him in the social scheme. Woman had hers, no less important.
Earning her own living did not improve her. It was one of the
drawbacks of civilization that so many had to do it of necessity.
It developed her on the wrong lines--against her nature. This cry
of the unsexed: that woman must always be the paid servant instead
of the helper of man--paid for being mother, paid for being wife!
Why not carry it to its logical conclusion, and insist that she
should be paid for her embraces? That she should share in man's
labour, in his hopes, that was the true comradeship. What mattered
it, who held the purse-strings!
Her room was always kept ready for her. Often she would lie there,
watching the moonlight creep across the floor; and a curious
feeling would come to her of being something wandering, incomplete.
She would see as through a mist the passionate, restless child with
the rebellious eyes to whom the room had once belonged; and later
the strangely self-possessed girl with that impalpable veil of
mystery around her who would stand with folded hands, there by the
window, seeming always to be listening. And she, too, had passed
away. The tears would come into her eyes, and she would stretch
out yearning arms towards their shadowy forms. But they would only
turn upon her eyes that saw not, and would fade away.
In the day-time, when Arthur and her father were at the works, she
would move through the high, square, stiffly-furnished rooms, or
about the great formal garden, with its ordered walks and level
lawns. And as with knowledge we come to love some old, stern face
our childish eyes had thought forbidding, and would not have it
changed, there came to her with the years a growing fondness for
the old, plain brick-built house. Generations of Allways had lived
and died there: men and women somewhat narrow, unsympathetic, a
little hard of understanding; but at least earnest, sincere,
seeking to do their duty in their solid, unimaginative way.
Perhaps there were other ways besides those of speech and pen.
Perhaps one did better, keeping to one's own people; the very
qualities that separated us from them being intended for their
need. What mattered the colours, so that one followed the flag?
Somewhere, all roads would meet.
Arthur had to be in London generally once or twice a month, and it
came to be accepted that he should always call upon her and "take
her out." She had lost the self-sufficiency that had made roaming
about London by herself a pleasurable adventure; and a newly-born
fear of what people were saying and thinking about her made her shy
even of the few friends she still clung to, so that his visits grew
to be of the nature of childish treats to which she found herself
looking forward--counting the days. Also, she came to be dependent
upon him for the keeping alight within her of that little kindly
fire of self-conceit at which we warm our hands in wintry days. It
is not good that a young woman should remain for long a stranger to
her mirror--above her frocks, indifferent to the angle of her hat.
She had met the women superior to feminine vanities. Handsome
enough, some of them must once have been; now sunk in slovenliness,
uncleanliness, in disrespect to womanhood. It would not be fair to
him. The worshipper has his rights. The goddess must remember
always that she is a goddess--must pull herself together and behave
as such, appearing upon her pedestal becomingly attired; seeing to
it that in all things she is at her best; not allowing private
grief to render her neglectful of this duty.
She had not told him of the Phillips episode. But she felt
instinctively that he knew. It was always a little mysterious to
her, his perception in matters pertaining to herself.
"I want your love," she said to him one day. "It helps me. I used
to think it was selfish of me to take it, knowing I could never
return it--not that love. But I no longer feel that now. Your
love seems to me a fountain from which I can drink without hurting
"I should love to be with you always," he answered, "if you wished
it. You won't forget your promise?"
She remembered it then. "No," she answered with a smile. "I shall
keep watch. Perhaps I shall be worthy of it by that time."
She had lost her faith in journalism as a drum for the rousing of
the people against wrong. Its beat had led too often to the
trickster's booth, to the cheap-jack's rostrum. It had lost its
rallying power. The popular Press had made the newspaper a byword
for falsehood. Even its supporters, while reading it because it
pandered to their passions, tickled their vices, and flattered
their ignorance, despised and disbelieved it. Here and there, an
honest journal advocated a reform, pleaded for the sweeping away of
an injustice. The public shrugged its shoulders. Another
newspaper stunt! A bid for popularity, for notoriety: with its
consequent financial kudos.
She still continued to write for Greyson, but felt she was
labouring for the doomed. Lord Sutcliffe had died suddenly and his
holding in the Evening Gazette had passed to his nephew, a
gentleman more interested in big game shooting than in politics.
Greyson's support of Phillips had brought him within the net of
Carleton's operations, and negotiations for purchase had already
been commenced. She knew that, sooner or later, Greyson would be
offered the alternative of either changing his opinions or of
going. And she knew that he would go. Her work for Mrs. Denton
was less likely to be interfered with. It appealed only to the
few, and aimed at informing and explaining rather than directly
converting. Useful enough work in its way, no doubt; but to put
heart into it seemed to require longer views than is given to the
eyes of youth.
Besides, her pen was no longer able to absorb her attention, to
keep her mind from wandering. The solitude of her desk gave her
the feeling of a prison. Her body made perpetual claims upon her,
as though it were some restless, fretful child, dragging her out
into the streets without knowing where it wanted to go,
discontented with everything it did: then hurrying her back to
fling itself upon a chair, weary, but still dissatisfied.
If only she could do something. She was sick of thinking.
These physical activities into which women were throwing
themselves! Where one used one's body as well as one's brain--
hastened to appointments; gathered round noisy tables; met fellow
human beings, argued with them, walked with them, laughing and
talking; forced one's way through crowds; cheered, shouted; stood
up on platforms before a sea of faces; roused applause, filling and
emptying one's lungs; met interruptions with swift flash of wit or
anger, faced opposition, danger--felt one's blood surging through
one's veins, felt one's nerves quivering with excitement; felt the
delirious thrill of passion; felt the mad joy of the loosened
She threw herself into the suffrage movement. It satisfied her for
a while. She had the rare gift of public speaking, and enjoyed her
triumphs. She was temperate, reasonable; persuasive rather than
aggressive; feeling her audience as she went, never losing touch
with them. She had the magnetism that comes of sympathy. Medical
students who came intending to tell her to go home and mind the
baby, remained to wonder if man really was the undoubted sovereign
of the world, born to look upon woman as his willing subject; to
wonder whether under some unwritten whispered law it might not be
the other way about. Perhaps she had the right--with or without
the baby--to move about the kingdom, express her wishes for its
care and management. Possibly his doubts may not have been brought
about solely by the force and logic of her arguments. Possibly the
voice of Nature is not altogether out of place in discussions upon
She wanted votes for women. But she wanted them clean--won without
dishonour. These "monkey tricks"--this apish fury and impatience!
Suppose it did hasten by a few months, more or less, the coming of
the inevitable. Suppose, by unlawful methods, one could succeed in
dragging a reform a little prematurely from the womb of time, did
not one endanger the child's health? Of what value was woman's
influence on public affairs going to be, if she was to boast that
she had won the right to exercise it by unscrupulousness and
They were to be found at every corner: the reformers who could not
reform themselves. The believers in universal brotherhood who
hated half the people. The denouncers of tyranny demanding lamp-
posts for their opponents. The bloodthirsty preachers of peace.
The moralists who had persuaded themselves that every wrong was
justified provided one were fighting for the right. The deaf
shouters for justice. The excellent intentioned men and women
labouring for reforms that could only be hoped for when greed and
prejudice had yielded place to reason, and who sought to bring
about their ends by appeals to passion and self-interest.
And the insincere, the self-seekers, the self-advertisers! Those
who were in the business for even coarser profit! The lime-light
lovers who would always say and do the clever, the unexpected thing
rather than the useful and the helpful thing: to whom paradox was
more than principle.
Ought there not to be a school for reformers, a training college
where could be inculcated self-examination, patience, temperance,
subordination to duty; with lectures on the fundamental laws,
within which all progress must be accomplished, outside which lay
confusion and explosions; with lectures on history, showing how
improvements had been brought about and how failure had been
invited, thus avoiding much waste of reforming zeal; with lectures
on the properties and tendencies of human nature, forbidding the
attempt to treat it as a sum in rule of three?
There were the others. The men and women not in the lime-light.
The lone, scattered men and women who saw no flag but Pity's ragged
skirt; who heard no drum but the world's low cry of pain; who
fought with feeble hands against the wrong around them; who with
aching heart and troubled eyes laboured to make kinder the little
space about them. The great army of the nameless reformers
uncheered, unparagraphed, unhonoured. The unknown sowers of the
seed. Would the reapers of the harvest remember them?
Beyond giving up her visits to the house, she had made no attempt
to avoid meeting Phillips; and at public functions and at mutual
friends they sometimes found themselves near to one another. It
surprised her that she could see him, talk to him, and even be
alone with him without its troubling her. He seemed to belong to a
part of her that lay dead and buried--something belonging to her
that she had thrust away with her own hands: that she knew would
never come back to her.
She was still interested in his work and keen to help him. It was
going to be a stiff fight. He himself, in spite of Carleton's
opposition, had been returned with an increased majority; but the
Party as a whole had suffered loss, especially in the counties.
The struggle centred round the agricultural labourer. If he could
be won over the Government would go ahead with Phillips's scheme.
Otherwise there was danger of its being shelved. The difficulty
was the old problem of how to get at the men of the scattered
villages, the lonely cottages. The only papers that they ever saw
were those, chiefly of the Carleton group, that the farmers and the
gentry took care should come within their reach; that were handed
to them at the end of their day's work as a kindly gift; given to
the school children to take home with them; supplied in ample
numbers to all the little inns and public-houses. In all these,
Phillips was held up as their arch enemy, his proposal explained as
a device to lower their wages, decrease their chances of
employment, and rob them of the produce of their gardens and
allotments. No arguments were used. A daily stream of abuse,
misrepresentation and deliberate lies, set forth under flaming
headlines, served their simple purpose. The one weekly paper that
had got itself established among them, that their fathers had
always taken, that dimly they had come to look upon as their one
friend, Carleton had at last succeeded in purchasing. When that,
too, pictured Phillips's plan as a diabolical intent to take from
them even the little that they had, and give it to the loafing
socialist and the bloated foreigner, no room for doubt was left to
He had organized volunteer cycle companies of speakers from the
towns, young working-men and women and students, to go out on
summer evenings and hold meetings on the village greens. They were
winning their way. But it was slow work. And Carleton was
countering their efforts by a hired opposition that followed them
from place to place, and whose interruptions were made use of to
represent the whole campaign as a fiasco.
"He's clever," laughed Phillips. "I'd enjoy the fight, if I'd only
myself to think of, and life wasn't so short."
The laugh died away and a shadow fell upon his face.
"If I could get a few of the big landlords to come in on my side,"
he continued, "it would make all the difference in the world.
They're sensible men, some of them; and the whole thing could be
carried out without injury to any legitimate interest. I could
make them see that, if I could only get them quietly into a
"But they're frightened of me," he added, with a shrug of his broad
shoulders, "and I don't seem to know how to tackle them."
Those drawing-rooms? Might not something of the sort be possible?
Not, perhaps, the sumptuous salon of her imagination, thronged with
the fair and famous, suitably attired. Something, perhaps, more
homely, more immediately attainable. Some of the women dressed,
perhaps, a little dowdily; not all of them young and beautiful.
The men wise, perhaps, rather than persistently witty; a few of
them prosy, maybe a trifle ponderous; but solid and influential.
Mrs. Denton's great empty house in Gower Street? A central
situation and near to the tube. Lords and ladies had once ruffled
there; trod a measure on its spacious floors; filled its echoing
stone hall with their greetings and their partings. The gaping
sconces, where their link-boys had extinguished their torches,
still capped its grim iron railings.
Seated in the great, sombre library, Joan hazarded the suggestion.
Mrs. Denton might almost have been waiting for it. It would be
quite easy. A little opening of long fastened windows; a lighting
of chill grates; a little mending of moth-eaten curtains, a
sweeping away of long-gathered dust and cobwebs.
Mrs. Denton knew just the right people. They might be induced to
bring their sons and daughters--it might be their grandchildren,
youth being there to welcome them. For Joan, of course, would play
The lonely woman touched her lightly on the hand. There shot a
pleading look from the old stern eyes.
"You will have to imagine yourself my daughter," she said. "You
are taller, but the colouring was the same. You won't mind, will
The right people did come: Mrs. Denton being a personage that a
landed gentry, rendered jumpy by the perpetual explosion of new
ideas under their very feet, and casting about eagerly for friends,
could not afford to snub. A kindly, simple folk, quite
intelligent, some of them, as Phillips had surmised. Mrs. Denton
made no mystery of why she had invited them. Why should all
questions be left to the politicians and the journalists? Why
should not the people interested take a hand; meet and talk over
these little matters with quiet voices and attentive ears, amid
surroundings where the unwritten law would restrain ladies and
gentlemen from addressing other ladies and gentlemen as blood-
suckers or anarchists, as grinders of the faces of the poor or as
oily-tongued rogues; arguments not really conducive to mutual
understanding and the bridging over of differences. The latest
Russian dancer, the last new musical revue, the marvellous things
that can happen at golf, the curious hands that one picks up at
bridge, the eternal fox, the sacred bird! Excellent material for
nine-tenths of our conversation. But the remaining tenth? Would
it be such excruciatingly bad form for us to be intelligent,
occasionally; say, on one or two Fridays during the season? Mrs.
Denton wrapped it up tactfully; but that was her daring suggestion.
It took them aback at first. There were people who did this sort
of thing. People of no class, who called themselves names and took
up things. But for people of social standing to talk about serious
subjects--except, perhaps, in bed to one's wife! It sounded so un-
With the elders it was sense of duty that prevailed. That, at all
events, was English. The country must be saved. To their sons and
daughters it was the originality, the novelty that gradually
appealed. Mrs. Denton's Fridays became a new sensation. It came
to be the chic and proper thing to appear at them in shades of
mauve or purple. A pushing little woman in Hanover Street designed
the "Denton" bodice, with hanging sleeves and square-cut neck. The
younger men inclined towards a coat shaped to the waist with a roll
Joan sighed. It looked as if the word had been passed round to
treat the whole thing as a joke. Mrs. Denton took a different
"Nothing better could have happened," she was of opinion. "It
means that their hearts are in it."
The stone hall was still vibrating to the voices of the last
departed guests. Joan was seated on a footstool before the fire in
front of Mrs. Denton's chair.
"It's the thing that gives me greatest hope," she continued. "The
childishness of men and women. It means that the world is still
young, still teachable."
"But they're so slow at their lessons," grumbled Joan. "One
repeats it and repeats it; and then, when one feels that surely now
at least one has drummed it into their heads, one finds they have
forgotten all that one has ever said."
"Not always forgotten," answered Mrs. Denton; "mislaid, it may be,
for the moment. An Indian student, the son of an old Rajah, called
on me a little while ago. He was going back to organize a system
of education among his people. 'My father heard you speak when you
were over in India,' he told me. 'He has always been thinking
about it.' Thirty years ago it must have been, that I undertook
that mission to India. I had always looked back upon it as one of
my many failures."
"But why leave it to his son," argued Joan. "Why couldn't the old
man have set about it himself, instead of wasting thirty precious
"I should have preferred it, myself," agreed Mrs. Denton. "I
remember when I was a very little girl my mother longing for a tree
upon the lawn underneath which she could sit. I found an acorn and
planted it just in the right spot. I thought I would surprise her.
I happened to be in the neighbourhood last summer, and I walked
over. There was such a nice old lady sitting under it, knitting
stockings. So you see it wasn't wasted."
"I wouldn't mind the waiting," answered Joan, "if it were not for
the sorrow and the suffering that I see all round me. I want to
get rid of it right away, now. I could be patient for myself, but
not for others."
The little old lady straightened herself. There came a hardening
of the thin, firm mouth.
"And those that have gone before?" she demanded. "Those that have
won the ground from where we are fighting. Had they no need of
patience? Was the cry never wrung from their lips: 'How long, oh
Lord, how long?' Is it for us to lay aside the sword that they
bequeath us because we cannot hope any more than they to see the
far-off victory? Fifty years I have fought, and what, a few years
hence, will my closing eyes still see but the banners of the foe
still waving, fresh armies pouring to his standard?"
She flung back her head and the grim mouth broke into a smile.
"But I've won," she said. "I'm dying further forward. I've helped
advance the line."
She put out her hands and drew Joan to her.
"Let me think of you," she said, "as taking my place, pushing the
outposts a little further on."
Joan did not meet Hilda again till the child had grown into a
woman--practically speaking. She had always been years older than
her age. It was at a reception given in the Foreign Office.
Joan's dress had been trodden on and torn. She had struggled out
of the crowd into an empty room, and was examining the damage
somewhat ruefully, when she heard a voice behind her, proffering
help. It was a hard, cold voice, that yet sounded familiar, and
There was no forgetting those deep, burning eyes, though the face
had changed. The thin red lips still remained its one touch of
colour; but the unhealthy whiteness of the skin had given place to
a delicate pallor; and the features that had been indistinct had
shaped themselves in fine, firm lines. It was a beautiful,
arresting face, marred only by the sullen callousness of the dark,
Joan was glad of the assistance. Hilda produced pins.
"I always come prepared to these scrimmages," she explained. "I've
got some Hazeline in my bag. They haven't kicked you, have they?"
"No," laughed Joan. "At least, I don't think so."
"They do sometimes," answered Hilda, "if you happen to be in the
way, near the feeding troughs. If they'd only put all the
refreshments into one room, one could avoid it. But they will
scatter them about so that one never knows for certain whether one
is in the danger zone or not. I hate a mob."
"Why do you come?" asked Joan.
"Oh, I!" answered the girl. "I go everywhere where there's a
chance of picking up a swell husband. They've got to come to these
shows, they can't help themselves. One never knows what incident
may give one one's opportunity."
Joan shot a glance. The girl was evidently serious.
"You think it would prove a useful alliance?" she suggested.
"It would help, undoubtedly," the girl answered. "I don't see any
other way of getting hold of them."
Joan seated herself on one of the chairs ranged round the walls,
and drew the girl down beside her. Through the closed door, the
mingled voices of the Foreign Secretary's guests sounded curiously
like the buzzing of flies.
"It's quite easy," said Joan, "with your beauty. Especially if
you're not going to be particular. But isn't there danger of your
devotion to your father leading you too far? A marriage founded on
a lie--no matter for what purpose!--mustn't it degrade a woman--
smirch her soul for all time? We have a right to give up the
things that belong to ourselves, but not the things that belong to
God: our truth, our sincerity, our cleanliness of mind and body;
the things that He may one day want of us. It led you into evil
once before. Don't think I'm judging you. I was no better than
you. I argued just as you must have done. Something stopped me
just in time. That was the only difference between us."
The girl turned her dark eyes full upon Joan. "What did stop you?"
"Does it matter what we call it?" answered Joan. "It was a voice."
"It told me to do it," answered the girl.
"Did no other voice speak to you?" asked Joan.
"Yes," answered the girl. "The voice of weakness."
There came a fierce anger into the dark eyes. "Why did you listen
to it?" she demanded. "All would have been easy if you hadn't."
"You mean," answered Joan quietly, "that if I had let your mother
die and had married your father, that he and I would have loved
each other to the end; that I should have helped him and encouraged
him in all things, so that his success would have been certain. Is
that the argument?"
"Didn't you love him?" asked the girl, staring. "Wouldn't you have
"I can't tell," answered Joan. "I should have meant to. Many men
and women have loved, and have meant to help each other all their
lives; and with the years have drifted asunder; coming even to be
against one another. We change and our thoughts change; slight
differences of temperament grow into barriers between us; unguessed
antagonisms widen into gulfs. Accidents come into our lives. A
friend was telling me the other day of a woman who practically
proposed to and married a musical genius, purely and solely to be
of use to him. She earned quite a big income, drawing fashions;
and her idea was to relieve him of the necessity of doing pot-
boilers for a living, so that he might devote his whole time to his
real work. And a few weeks after they were married she ran the
point of a lead pencil through her eye and it set up inflammation
of her brain. And now all the poor fellow has to think of is how
to make enough to pay for her keep at a private lunatic asylum. I
don't mean to be flippant. It's the very absurdity of it all that
makes the mystery of life--that renders it so hopeless for us to
attempt to find our way through it by our own judgment. It is like
the ants making all their clever, laborious plans, knowing nothing
of chickens and the gardener's spade. That is why we have to cling
to the life we can order for ourselves--the life within us. Truth,
Justice, Pity. They are the strong things, the eternal things, the
things we've got to sacrifice ourselves for--serve with our bodies
and our souls.
"Don't think me a prig," she pleaded. "I'm talking as if I knew
all about it. I don't really. I grope in the dark; and now and
then--at least so it seems to me--I catch a glint of light. We are
powerless in ourselves. It is only God working through us that
enables us to be of any use. All we can do is to keep ourselves
kind and clean and free from self, waiting for Him to come to us."
The girl rose. "I must be getting back," she said. "Dad will be
wondering where I've got to."
She paused with the door in her hand, and a faint smile played
round the thin red lips.
"Tell me," she said. "What is God?"
"A Labourer, together with man, according to Saint Paul," Joan
The girl turned and went. Joan watched her as she descended the
great staircase. She moved with a curious, gliding motion, pausing
at times for the people to make way for her.
It was a summer's evening; Joan had dropped in at the Greysons and
had found Mary alone, Francis not having yet returned from a
bachelor dinner at his uncle's, who was some big pot in the Navy.
They sat in the twilight, facing the open French windows, through
which one caught a glimpse of the park. A great stillness seemed
to be around them.
The sale and purchase of the Evening Gazette had been completed a
few days before. Greyson had been offered the alternative of
gradually and gracefully changing his opinions, or getting out; and
had, of course, chosen dismissal. He was taking a holiday, as Mary
explained with a short laugh.
"He had some shares in it himself, hadn't he?" Joan asked.
"Oh, just enough to be of no use," Mary answered. "Carleton was
rather decent, so far as that part of it was concerned, and
insisted on paying him a fair price. The market value would have
been much less; and he wanted to be out of it."
Joan remained silent. It made her mad, that a man could be
suddenly robbed of fifteen years' labour: the weapon that his
heart and brain had made keen wrested from his hand by a legal
process, and turned against the very principles for which all his
life he had been fighting.
"I'm almost more sorry for myself than for him," said Mary, making
a whimsical grimace. "He will start something else, so soon as
he's got over his first soreness; but I'm too old to dream of
He came in a little later and, seating himself between them, filled
and lighted his pipe. Looking back, Joan remembered that curiously
none of them had spoken. Mary had turned at the sound of his key
in the door. She seemed to be watching him intently; but it was
too dark to notice her expression. He pulled at his pipe till it
was well alight and then removed it.
"It's war," he said.
The words made no immediate impression upon Joan. There had been
rumours, threatenings and alarms, newspaper talk. But so there had
been before. It would come one day: the world war that one felt
was gathering in the air; that would burst like a second deluge on
the nations. But it would not be in our time: it was too big. A
way out would be found.
"Is there no hope?" asked Mary.
"Yes," he answered. "The hope that a miracle may happen. The
Navy's got its orders."
And suddenly--as years before in a Paris music hall--there leapt to
life within Joan's brain a little impish creature that took
possession of her. She hoped the miracle would not happen. The
little impish creature within her brain was marching up and down
beating a drum. She wished he would stop a minute. Someone was
trying to talk to her, telling her she ought to be tremendously
shocked and grieved. He--or she, or whatever it was that was
trying to talk to her, appeared concerned about Reason and Pity and
Universal Brotherhood and Civilization's clock--things like that.
But the little impish drummer was making such a din, she couldn't
properly hear. Later on, perhaps, he would get tired; and then she
would be able to listen to this humane and sensible person, whoever
it might be.
Mary argued that England could and should keep out of it; but
Greyson was convinced it would be impossible, not to say
dishonourable: a sentiment that won the enthusiastic approval of
the little drummer in Joan's brain. He played "Rule Britannia" and
"God Save the King," the "Marseillaise" and the Russian National
hymn, all at the same time. He would have included "Deutschland
uber Alles," if Joan hadn't made a supreme effort and stopped him.
Evidently a sporting little devil. He took himself off into a
corner after a time, where he played quietly to himself; and Joan
was able to join in the conversation.
Greyson spoke with an enthusiasm that was unusual to him. So many
of our wars had been mean wars--wars for the wrong; sordid wars for
territory, for gold mines; wars against the weak at the bidding of
our traders, our financiers. "Shouldering the white man's burden,"
we called it. Wars for the right of selling opium; wars to
perpetuate the vile rule of the Turk because it happened to serve
our commercial interests. This time, we were out to play the
knight; to save the smaller peoples; to rescue our once "sweet
enemy," fair France. Russia was the disturbing thought. It
somewhat discounted the knight-errant idea, riding stirrup to
stirrup beside that barbarian horseman. But there were
possibilities about Russia. Idealism lay hid within that sleeping
brain. It would be a holy war for the Kingdom of the Peoples.
With Germany freed from the monster of blood and iron that was
crushing out her soul, with Russia awakened to life, we would build
the United States of Europe. Even his voice was changed. Joan
could almost fancy it was some excited schoolboy that was talking.
Mary had been clasping and unclasping her hands, a habit of hers
when troubled. Could good ever come out of evil? That was her
doubt. Did war ever do anything but sow the seeds of future
violence; substitute one injustice for another; change wrong for
wrong. Did it ever do anything but add to the world's sum of evil,
making God's task the heavier?
Suddenly, while speaking, she fell into a passionate fit of
weeping. She went on through her tears:
"It will be terrible," she said. "It will last longer than you
say. Every nation will be drawn into it. There will be no voice
left to speak for reason. Every day we shall grow more brutalized,
more pitiless. It will degrade us, crush the soul out of us.
Blood and iron! It will become our God too: the God of all the
world. You say we are going into it with clean hands, this time.
How long will they keep clean? The people who only live for making
money: how long do you think they will remain silent? What has
been all the talk of the last ten years but of capturing German
trade. We shall be told that we owe it to our dead to make a
profit out of them; that otherwise they will have died in vain.
Who will care for the people but to use them for killing one
another--to hound them on like dogs. In every country nothing but
greed and hatred will be preached. Horrible men and women will
write to the papers crying out for more blood, more cruelty.
Everything that can make for anger and revenge will be screamed
from every newspaper. Every plea for humanity will be jeered at as
'sickly sentimentality.' Every man and woman who remembers the
ideals with which we started will be shrieked at as a traitor. The
people who are doing well out of it, they will get hold of the
Press, appeal to the passions of the mob. Nobody else will be
allowed to speak. It always has been so in war. It always will
be. This will be no exception merely because it's bigger. Every
country will be given over to savagery. There will be no appeal
against it. The whole world will sink back into the beast."
She ended by rising abruptly and wishing them goodnight. Her
outburst had silenced Joan's impish drummer, for the time. He
appeared to be nervous and depressed, but bucked up again on the
way to the bus. Greyson walked with her as usual. They took the
long way round by the outer circle.
"Poor Mary!" he said. "I should not have talked before her if I
had thought. Her horror of war is almost physical. She will not
even read about them. It has the same effect upon her as stories
"But there's truth in a good deal that she says," he added. "War
can bring out all that is best in a people; but also it brings out
the worst. We shall have to take care that the ideals are not lost
"I wish this wretched business of the paper hadn't come just at
this time," said Joan: "just when your voice is most needed.
"Couldn't you get enough money together to start something
quickly," she continued, the idea suddenly coming to her. "I think
I could help you. It wouldn't matter its being something small to
begin with. So long as it was entirely your own, and couldn't be
taken away from you. You'd soon work it up."
"Thanks," he answered. "I may ask you to later on. But just now--
" He paused.
Of course. For war you wanted men, to fight. She had been
thinking of them in the lump: hurrying masses such as one sees on
cinema screens, blurred but picturesque. Of course, when you came
to think of it, they would have to be made up of individuals--
gallant-hearted, boyish sort of men who would pass through doors,
one at a time, into little rooms; give their name and address to a
soldier man seated at a big deal table. Later on, one would say
good-bye to them on crowded platforms, wave a handkerchief. Not
all of them would come back. "You can't make omelettes without
breaking eggs," she told herself.
It annoyed her, that silly saying having come into her mind. She
could see them lying there, with their white faces to the night.
Surely she might have thought of some remark less idiotic to make
to herself, at such a time.
He was explaining to her things about the air service. It seemed
he had had experience in flying--some relation of his with whom he
had spent a holiday last summer.
It would mean his getting out quickly. He seemed quite eager to be
"Isn't it rather dangerous work?" she asked. She felt it was a
footling question even as she asked it. Her brain had become
"Nothing like as dangerous as being in the Infantry," he answered.
"And that would be my only other alternative. Besides I get out of
the drilling." He laughed. "I should hate being shouted at and
ordered about by a husky old sergeant."
They neither spoke again till they came to the bridge, from the
other side of which the busses started.
"I may not see you again before I go," he said. "Look after Mary.
I shall try to persuade her to go down to her aunt in Hampshire.
It's rather a bit of luck, as it turns out, the paper being
finished with. I shouldn't have quite known what to do."
He had stopped at the corner. They were still beneath the shadow
of the trees. Quite unconsciously she put her face up; and as if
it had always been the custom at their partings, he drew her to him
and kissed her; though it really was for the first time.
She walked home instead of taking the bus. She wanted to think. A
day or two would decide the question. She determined that if the
miracle did not happen, she would go down to Liverpool. Her father
was on the committee of one of the great hospitals; and she knew
one or two of the matrons. She would want to be doing something--
to get out to the front, if possible. Maybe, her desire to serve
was not altogether free from curiosity--from the craving for
adventure. There's a spice of the man even in the best of women.
Her conscience plagued her when she thought of Mrs. Denton. For
some time now, they had been very close together; and the old lady
had come to depend upon her. She waited till all doubt was ended
before calling to say good-bye. Mrs. Denton was seated before an
old bureau that had long stood locked in a corner of the library.
The drawers were open and books and papers were scattered about.
Joan told her plans. "You'll be able to get along without me for a
little while?" she asked doubtfully.
Mrs. Denton laughed. "I haven't much more to do," she answered.
"Just tidying up, as you see; and two or three half-finished things
I shall try to complete. After that, I'll perhaps take a rest."
She took from among the litter a faded photograph and handed it to
Joan. "Odd," she said. "I've just turned it out."
It represented a long, thin line of eminently respectable ladies
and gentlemen in early Victorian costume. The men in peg-top
trousers and silk stocks, the women in crinolines and poke bonnets.
Among them, holding the hand of a benevolent-looking, stoutish
gentleman, was a mere girl. The terminating frills of a white
unmentionable garment showed beneath her skirts. She wore a
porkpie hat with a feather in it.
"My first public appearance," explained Mrs. Denton. "I teased my
father into taking me with him. We represented Great Britain and
Ireland. I suppose I'm the only one left."
"I shouldn't have recognized you," laughed Joan. "What was the
"The great International Peace Congress at Paris," explained Mrs.
Denton; "just after the Crimean war. It made quite a stir at the
time. The Emperor opened our proceedings in person, and the Pope
and the Archbishop of Canterbury both sent us their blessing. We
had a copy of the speeches presented to us on leaving, in every
known language in Europe, bound in vellum. I'm hoping to find it.
And the Press was enthusiastic. There were to be Acts of
Parliament, Courts of Arbitration, International Laws, Diplomatic
Treaties. A Sub-Committee was appointed to prepare a special set
of prayers and a Palace of Peace was to be erected. There was only
one thing we forgot, and that was the foundation."
"I may not be here," she continued, "when the new plans are
submitted. Tell them not to forget the foundation this time. Tell
them to teach the children."
Joan dined at a popular restaurant that evening. She fancied it
might cheer her up. But the noisy patriotism of the over-fed crowd
only irritated her. These elderly, flabby men, these fleshy women,
who would form the spectators, who would loll on their cushioned
seats protected from the sun, munching contentedly from their well-
provided baskets while listening to the dying groans rising upwards
from the drenched arena. She glanced from one podgy thumb to
another and a feeling of nausea crept over her.
Suddenly the band struck up "God Save the King." Three commonplace
enough young men, seated at a table near to her, laid down their
napkins and stood up. Yes, there was something to be said for war,
she felt, as she looked at their boyish faces, transfigured. Not
for them Business as usual, the Capture of German Trade. Other
visions those young eyes were seeing. The little imp within her
brain had seized his drum again. "Follow me"--so he seemed to
beat--"I teach men courage, duty, the laying down of self. I open
the gates of honour. I make heroes out of dust. Isn't it worth my
A figure was loitering the other side of the street when she
reached home. She thought she somehow recognized it, and crossed
over. It was McKean, smoking his everlasting pipe. Success having
demanded some such change, he had migrated to "The Albany," and she
had not seen him for some time. He had come to have a last look at
the house--in case it might happen to be the last. He was off to
Scotland the next morning, where he intended to "join up."
"But are you sure it's your particular duty?" suggested Joan. "I'm
told you've become a household word both in Germany and France. If
we really are out to end war and establish the brotherhood of
nations, the work you are doing is of more importance than even the
killing of Germans. It isn't as if there wouldn't be enough
"To tell the truth," he answered, "that's exactly what I've been
saying to myself. I shan't be any good. I don't see myself
sticking a bayonet into even a German. Unless he happened to be
abnormally clumsy. I tried to shoot a rabbit once. I might have
done it if the little beggar, instead of running away, hadn't
turned and looked at me."
"I should keep out of it if I were you," laughed Joan.
"I can't," he answered. "I'm too great a coward."
"An odd reason for enlisting," thought Joan.
"I couldn't face it," he went on; "the way people would be looking
at me in trains and omnibuses; the things people would say of me,
the things I should imagine they were saying; what my valet would
be thinking of me. Oh, I'm ashamed enough of myself. It's the
artistic temperament, I suppose. We must always be admired,
praised. We're not the stuff that martyrs are made of. We must
for ever be kow-towing to the cackling geese around us. We're so
terrified lest they should hiss us."
The street was empty. They were pacing it slowly, up and down.
"I've always been a coward," he continued. "I fell in love with
you the first day I met you on the stairs. But I dared not tell
"You didn't give me that impression," answered Joan.
She had always found it difficult to know when to take him
seriously and when not.
"I was so afraid you would find it out," he explained.
"You thought I would take advantage of it," she suggested.
"One can never be sure of a woman," he answered. "And it would
have been so difficult. There was a girl down in Scotland, one of
the village girls. It wasn't anything really. We had just been
children together. But they all thought I had gone away to make my
fortune so as to come back and marry her--even my mother. It would
have looked so mean if after getting on I had married a fine London
lady. I could never have gone home again."
"But you haven't married her--or have you?" asked Joan.
"No," he answered. "She wrote me a beautiful letter that I shall
always keep, begging me to forgive her, and hoping I might be
happy. She had married a young farmer, and was going out to
Canada. My mother will never allow her name to be mentioned in our
They had reached the end of the street again. Joan held out her
hand with a laugh.
"Thanks for the compliment," she said. "Though I notice you wait
till you're going away before telling me."
"But quite seriously," she added, "give it a little more thought--
the enlisting, I mean. The world isn't too rich in kind
influences. It needs men like you. Come, pull yourself together
and show a little pluck." She laughed.
"I'll try," he promised, "but it won't be any use; I shall drift
about the streets, seeking to put heart into myself, but all the
while my footsteps will be bearing me nearer and nearer to the
recruiting office; and outside the door some girl in the crowd will
smile approval or some old fool will pat me on the shoulder and I
shall sneak in and it will close behind me. It must be fine to
He wrote her two days later from Ayr, giving her the name of his
regiment, and again some six months later from Flanders. But there
would have been no sense in her replying to that last.
She lingered in the street by herself, a little time, after he had
turned the corner. It had been a house of sorrow and
disappointment to her; but so also she had dreamed her dreams
there, seen her visions. She had never made much headway with her
landlord and her landlady: a worthy couple, who had proved most
excellent servants, but who prided themselves, to use their own
expression, on knowing their place and keeping themselves to
themselves. Joan had given them notice that morning, and had been
surprised at the woman's bursting into tears.
"I felt it just the same when young Mr. McKean left us," she
explained with apologies. "He had been with us five years. He was
like you, miss, so unpracticable. I'd got used to looking after
Mary Greyson called on her in the morning, while she was still at
breakfast. She had come from seeing Francis off by an early train
from Euston. He had sent Joan a ring.
"He is so afraid you may not be able to wear it--that it will not
fit you," said Mary, "but I told him I was sure it would."
Joan held our her hand for the letter. "I was afraid he had
forgotten it," she answered, with a smile.
She placed the ring on her finger and held out her hand. "I might
have been measured for it," she said. "I wonder how he knew."
"You left a glove behind you, the first day you ever came to our
house," Mary explained. "And I kept it."
She was following his wishes and going down into the country. They
did not meet again until after the war.
Madge dropped in on her during the week and brought Flossie with
her. Flossie's husband, Sam, had departed for the Navy; and Niel
Singleton, who had offered and been rejected for the Army, had
joined a Red Cross unit. Madge herself was taking up canteen work.
Joan rather expected Flossie to be in favour of the war, and Madge
against it. Instead of which, it turned out the other way round.
It seemed difficult to forecast opinion in this matter.
Madge thought that England, in particular, had been too much given
up to luxury and pleasure. There had been too much idleness and
empty laughter: Hitchicoo dances and women undressing themselves
upon the stage. Even the working classes seemed to think of
nothing else but cinemas and beer. She dreamed of a United Kingdom
purified by suffering, cleansed by tears; its people drawn together
by memory of common sacrifice; class antagonism buried in the grave
where Duke's son and cook's son would lie side by side: of a new-
born Europe rising from the ashes of the old. With Germany beaten,
her lust of war burnt out, her hideous doctrine of Force proved to
be false, the world would breathe a freer air. Passion and hatred
would fall from man's eyes. The people would see one another and
Flossie was sceptical. "Why hasn't it done it before?" she wanted
to know. "Good Lord! There's been enough of it."
"Why didn't we all kiss and be friends after the Napoleonic wars?"
she demanded, "instead of getting up Peterloo massacres, and anti-
Corn Law riots, and breaking the Duke of Wellington's windows?"
"All this talk of downing Militarism," she continued. "It's like
trying to do away with the other sort of disorderly house. You
don't stamp out a vice by chivying it round the corner. When men
and women have become decent there will be no more disorderly
houses. But it won't come before. Suppose we do knock Militarism
out of Germany, like we did out of France, not so very long ago?
It will only slip round the corner into Russia or Japan. Come and
settle over here, as likely as not, especially if we have a few
victories and get to fancy ourselves."
Madge was of opinion that the world would have had enough of war.
Not armies but whole peoples would be involved this time. The
lesson would be driven home.
"Oh, yes, we shall have had enough of it," agreed Flossie, "by the
time we've paid up. There's no doubt of that. What about our
children? I've just left young Frank strutting all over the house
and flourishing a paper knife. And the servants have had to bar
the kitchen door to prevent his bursting in every five minutes and
attacking them. What's he going to say when I tell him, later on,
that his father and myself have had all the war we want, and have
decided there shall be no more? The old folks have had their fun.
Why shouldn't I have mine? That will be his argument."
"You can't do it," she concluded, "unless you are prepared to keep
half the world's literature away from the children, scrap half your
music, edit your museums and your picture galleries; bowdlerize
your Old Testament and rewrite your histories. And then you'll
have to be careful for twenty-four hours a day that they never see
Madge still held to her hope. God would make a wind of reason to
pass over the earth. He would not smite again his people.
"I wish poor dear Sam could have been kept out of it," said
Flossie. She wiped her eyes and finished her tea.
Joan had arranged to leave on the Monday. She ran down to see Mary
Stopperton on the Saturday afternoon. Mr. Stopperton had died the
year before, and Mary had been a little hurt, divining insincerity
in the condolences offered to her by most of her friends.
"You didn't know him, dear," she had said to Joan. "All his faults
were on the outside."
She did not want to talk about the war.
"Perhaps it's wrong of me," she said. "But it makes me so sad.
And I can do nothing."
She had been busy at her machine when Joan had entered; and a pile
of delicate white work lay folded on a chair beside her.
"What are you making?" asked Joan.
The little withered face lighted up. "Guess," she said, as she
unfolded and displayed a tiny garment.
"I so love making them," she said. "I say to myself, 'It will all
come right. God will send more and more of His Christ babies; till
at last there will be thousands and thousands of them everywhere;
and their love will change the world!'"
Her bright eyes had caught sight of the ring upon Joan's hand. She
touched it with her little fragile fingers.
"You will let me make one for you, dearie, won't you?" she said.
"I feel sure it will be a little Christ baby."
Arthur was still away when she arrived home. He had gone to Norway
on business. Her father was afraid he would find it difficult to
get back. Telegraphic communication had been stopped, and they had
had no news of him. Her father was worried. A big Government
contract had come in, while many of his best men had left to
"I've fixed you up all right at the hospital," he said. "It was
good of you to think of coming home. Don't go away, for a bit."
It was the first time he had asked anything of her.
Another fortnight passed before they heard from Arthur, and then he
wrote them both from Hull. He would be somewhere in the North Sea,
mine sweeping, when they read his letters. He had hoped to get a
day or two to run across and say good-bye; but the need for men was
pressing and he had not liked to plead excuses. The boat by which
he had managed to leave Bergen had gone down. He and a few others
had been picked up, but the sights that he had seen were haunting
him. He felt sure his uncle would agree that he ought to be
helping, and this was work for England he could do with all his
heart. He hoped he was not leaving his uncle in the lurch; but he
did not think the war would last long, and he would soon be back.
"Dear lad," said her father, "he would take the most dangerous work
that he could find. But I wish he hadn't been quite so impulsive.
He could have been of more use helping me with this War Office
contract. I suppose he never got my letter, telling him about it."
In his letter to Joan he went further. He had received his uncle's
letter, so he confided to her. Perhaps she would think him a
crank, but he couldn't help it. He hated this killing business,
this making of machinery for slaughtering men in bulk, like they
killed pigs in Chicago. Out on the free, sweet sea, helping to
keep it clean from man's abominations, he would be away from it
She saw the vision of him that night, as, leaning from her window,
she looked out beyond the pines: the little lonely ship amid the
waste of waters; his beautiful, almost womanish, face, and the
gentle dreamy eyes with their haunting suggestion of a shadow.
Her little drummer played less and less frequently to her as the
months passed by. It didn't seem to be the war he had looked
forward to. The illustrated papers continued to picture it as a
sort of glorified picnic where smiling young men lolled luxuriously
in cosy dug-outs, reading their favourite paper. By curious
coincidence, it generally happened to be the journal publishing the
photograph. Occasionally, it appeared, they came across the enemy,
who then put up both hands and shouted "Kamerad." But the weary,
wounded men she talked to told another story.
She grew impatient of the fighters with their mouths; the savage
old baldheads heroically prepared to sacrifice the last young man;
the sleek, purring women who talked childish nonsense about killing
every man, woman and child in Germany, but quite meant it; the
shrieking journalists who had decided that their place was the home
front; the press-spurred mobs, the spy hunters, chasing terrified
old men and sobbing children through the streets. It was a relief
to enter the quiet ward and close the door behind her. The camp-
followers: the traders and pedlars, the balladmongers, and the
mountebanks, the ghoulish sightseers! War brought out all that was
worst in them. But the givers of their blood, the lads who
suffered, who had made the sacrifice: war had taught them
chivalry, manhood. She heard no revilings of hatred and revenge
from those drawn lips. Patience, humour, forgiveness, they had
learnt from war. They told her kindly stories even of Hans and
The little drummer in her brain would creep out of his corner, play
to her softly while she moved about among them.
One day she received a letter from Folk. He had come to London at
the request of the French Government to consult with English
artists on a matter he must not mention. He would not have the
time, he told her, to run down to Liverpool. Could she get a
couple of days' leave and dine with him in London.
She found him in the uniform of a French Colonel. He had quite a
military bearing and seemed pleased with himself. He kissed her
hand, and then held her out at arms' length.
"It's wonderful how like you are to your mother," he said, "I wish
I were as young as I feel."
She had written him at the beginning of the war, telling him of her
wish to get out to the front, and he thought that now he might be
able to help her.
"But perhaps you've changed your mind," he said. "It isn't quite
as pretty as it's painted."
"I want to," she answered. "It isn't all curiosity. I think it's
time for women to insist on seeing war with their own eyes, not
trust any longer to the pictures you men paint." She smiled.
"But I've got to give it up," she added. "I can't leave Dad."
They were sitting in the hall of the hotel. It was the dressing
hour and the place was almost empty. He shot a swift glance at
"Arthur is still away," she explained, "and I feel that he wants
me. I should be worrying myself, thinking of him all alone with no
one to look after him. It's the mother instinct I suppose. It
always has hampered woman." She laughed.
"Dear old boy," he said. He was watching her with a little smile.
"I'm glad he's got some luck at last."
They dined in the great restaurant belonging to the hotel. He was
still vastly pleased with himself as he marched up the crowded room
with Joan upon his arm. He held himself upright and talked and
laughed perhaps louder than an elderly gentleman should.
"Swaggering old beggar," he must have overheard a young sub. mutter
as they passed. But he did not seem to mind it.
They lingered over the meal. Folk was a brilliant talker. Most of
the men whose names were filling the newspapers had sat to him at
one time or another. He made them seem quite human. Joan was
surprised at the time.
"Come up to my rooms, will you?" he asked. "There's something I
want to say to you. And then I'll walk back with you." She was
staying at a small hotel off Jermyn Street.
He sat her down by the fire and went into the next room. He had a
letter in his hand when he returned. Joan noticed that the
envelope was written upon across the corner, but she was not near
enough to distinguish the handwriting. He placed it on the
mantelpiece and sat down opposite her.
"So you have come to love the dear old chap," he said.
"I have always loved him," Joan answered. "It was he didn't love
me, for a time, as I thought. But I know now that he does."
He was silent for a few moments, and then he leant across and took
her hands in his.
"I am going," he said, "where there is just the possibility of an
accident: one never knows. I wanted to be sure that all was well
He was looking at the ring upon her hand.
"A soldier boy?" he asked.
"Yes," she answered. "If he comes back." There was a little catch
in her voice.
"I know he'll come back," he said. "I won't tell you why I am so
sure. Perhaps you wouldn't believe." He was still holding her
hands, looking into her eyes.
"Tell me," he said, "did you see your mother before she died. Did
she speak to you?"
"No," Joan answered. "I was too late. She had died the night
before. I hardly recognized her when I saw her. She looked so
sweet and young."
"She loved you very dearly," he said. "Better than herself. All
those years of sorrow: they came to her because of that. I
thought it foolish of her at the time, but now I know she was wise.
I want you always to love and honour her. I wouldn't ask you if it
She looked at him and smiled. "It's quite easy," she answered. "I
always see her as she lay there with all the sorrow gone from her.
She looked so beautiful and kind."
He rose and took the letter from where he had placed it on the
mantelpiece. He stooped and held it out above the fire and a
little flame leaped up and seemed to take it from his hand.
They neither spoke during the short walk between the two hotels.
But at the door she turned and held out her hands to him.
"Thank you," she said, "for being so kind--and wise. I shall
always love and honour her."
He kissed her, promising to take care of himself.
She ran against Phillips, the next day, at one of the big stores
where she was shopping. He had obtained a commission early in the
war and was now a captain. He had just come back from the front on
leave. The alternative had not appealed to him, of being one of
those responsible for sending other men to death while remaining
himself in security and comfort.
"It's a matter of temperament," he said. "Somebody's got to stop
behind and do the patriotic speechifying. I'm glad I didn't.
Especially after what I've seen."
He had lost interest in politics.
"There's something bigger coming," he said. "Here everything seems
to be going on much the same, but over there you feel it.
Something growing silently out of all this blood and mud. I find
myself wondering what the men are staring at, but when I look
there's nothing as far as my field-glasses will reach but waste and
desolation. And it isn't only on the faces of our own men. It's
in the eyes of the prisoners too. As if they saw something. A
funny ending to the war, if the people began to think."
Mrs. Phillips was running a Convalescent Home in Folkestone, he
told her; and had even made a speech. Hilda was doing relief work
among the ruined villages of France.
"It's a new world we shall be called upon to build," he said. "We
must pay more heed to the foundation this time."
She seldom discussed the war with her father. At the beginning, he
had dreamed with Greyson of a short and glorious campaign that
should weld all classes together, and after which we should forgive
our enemies and shape with them a better world. But as the months
went by, he appeared to grow indifferent; and Joan, who got about
twelve hours a day of it outside, welcomed other subjects.
It surprised her when one evening after dinner he introduced it
"What are you going to do when it's over?" he asked her. "You
won't give up the fight, will you, whatever happens?" She had not
known till then that he had been taking any interest in her work.
"No," she answered with a laugh, "no matter what happens, I shall
always want to be in it."
"Good lad," he said, patting her on the shoulder. "It will be an
ugly world that will come out of all this hate and anger. The Lord
will want all the help that He can get."
"And you don't forget our compact, do you?" he continued, "that I
am to be your backer. I want to be in it too."
She shot a glance at him. He was looking at the portrait of that
old Ironside Allway who had fought and died to make a nobler
England, as he had dreamed. A grim, unprepossessing gentleman,
unless the artist had done him much injustice, with high, narrow
forehead, and puzzled, staring eyes.
She took the cigarette from her lips and her voice trembled a
"I want you to be something more to me than that, sir," she said.
"I want to feel that I'm an Allway, fighting for the things we've
always had at heart. I'll try and be worthy of the name."
Her hand stole out to him across the table, but she kept her face
away from him. Until she felt his grasp grow tight, and then she
turned and their eyes met.
"You'll be the last of the name," he said. "Something tells me
that. I'm glad you're a fighter. I always prayed my child might
be a fighter."
Arthur had not been home since the beginning of the war. Twice he
had written them to expect him, but the little fleet of mine
sweepers had been hard pressed, and on both occasions his leave had
been stopped at the last moment. One afternoon he turned up
unexpectedly at the hospital. It was a few weeks after the
Conscription Act had been passed.
Joan took him into her room at the end of the ward, from where,
through the open door, she could still keep watch. They spoke in
"It's done you good," said Joan. "You look every inch the jolly
Jack Tar." He was hard and tanned, and his eyes were marvellously
"Yes," he said, "I love the sea. It's clean and strong."
A fear was creeping over her. "Why have you come back?" she asked.
He hesitated, keeping his eyes upon the ground.
"I don't suppose you will agree with me," he said. "Somehow I felt
I had to."
A Conscientious Objector. She might have guessed it. A "Conchy,"
as they would call him in the Press: all the spiteful screamers
who had never risked a scratch, themselves, denouncing him as a
coward. The local Dogberrys of the tribunals would fire off their
little stock of gibes and platitudes upon him, propound with owlish
solemnity the new Christianity, abuse him and condemn him, without
listening to him. Jeering mobs would follow him through the
streets. More than once, of late, she had encountered such crowds
made up of shrieking girls and foul-mouthed men, surging round some
white-faced youngster while the well-dressed passers-by looked on
She came to him and stood over him with her hands upon his
"Must you, dear?" she said. "Can't you reconcile it to yourself--
to go on with your work of mercy, of saving poor folks' lives?"
He raised his eyes to hers. The shadow that, to her fancy, had
always rested there seemed to have departed. A light had come to
"There are more important things than saving men's bodies. You
think that, don't you?" he asked.
"Yes," she answered. "I won't try to hold you back, dear, if you
think you can do that."
He caught her hands and held them.
"I wanted to be a coward," he said, "to keep out of the fight. I
thought of the shame, of the petty persecutions--that even you
might despise me. But I couldn't. I was always seeing His face
before me with His beautiful tender eyes, and the blood drops on
His brow. It is He alone can save the world. It is perishing for
want of love; and by a little suffering I might be able to help
Him. And then one night--I suppose it was a piece of driftwood--
there rose up out of the sea a little cross that seemed to call to
me to stretch out my hand and grasp it, and gird it to my side."
He had risen. "Don't you see," he said. "It is only by suffering
that one can help Him. It is the sword that He has chosen--by
which one day He will conquer the world. And this is such a
splendid opportunity to fight for Him. It would be like deserting
Him on the eve of a great battle."
She looked into his eager, hopeful eyes. Yes, it had always been
so--it always would be, to the end. Not priests and prophets, but
ever that little scattered band of glad sufferers for His sake
would be His army. His weapon still the cross, till the victory
should be won.
She glanced through the open door to where the poor, broken fellows
she always thought of as "her boys" lay so patient, and then held
out her hand to him with a smile, though the tears were in her
"So you're like all the rest of them, lad," she said. "It's for
King and country. Good luck to you."
After the war was over and the men, released from their long terms
of solitary confinement, came back to life injured in mind and
body, she was almost glad he had escaped. But at the time it
filled her soul with darkness.
It was one noonday. He had been down to the tribunal and his case
had been again adjourned. She was returning from a lecture, and,
crossing a street in the neighbourhood of the docks, found herself
suddenly faced by an oncoming crowd. It was yelping and snarling,
curiously suggestive of a pack of hungry wolves. A couple of young
soldiers were standing back against a wall.
"Better not go on, nurse," said one of them. "It's some poor devil
of a Conchy, I expect. Must have a damned sight more pluck than I
It was the fear that had been haunting her. She did not know how
white she had turned.
"I think it is someone I know," she said. "Won't you help me?"
The crowd gave way to them, and they had all but reached him. He
was hatless and bespattered, but his tender eyes had neither fear
nor anger in them. She reached out her arms and called to him.
Another step and she would have been beside him, but at the moment
a slim, laughing girl darted in front of him and slipped her foot
between his legs and he went down.
She heard the joyous yell and the shrill laughter as she struggled
wildly to force her way to him. And then for a moment there was a
space and a man with bent body and clenched hands was rushing
forward as if upon a football field, and there came a little
sickening thud and then the crowd closed in again.
Her strength was gone and she could only wait. More soldiers had
come up and were using their fists freely, and gradually the crowd
retired, still snarling; and they lifted him up and brought him to
"There's a chemist's shop in the next street. We'd better take him
there," suggested the one who had first spoken to her. And she
thanked them and followed them.
They made a bed for him with their coats upon the floor, and some
of them kept guard outside the shop, while one, putting aside the
frightened, useless little chemist, waited upon her, bringing
things needful, while she cleansed the foulness from his smooth
young face, and washed the matted blood from his fair hair, and
closed the lids upon his tender eyes, and, stooping, kissed the
cold, quiet lips.
There had been whispered talk among the men, and when she rose the
one who had first spoken to her came forward. He was nervous and
"Beg pardon, nurse," he said, "but we've sent for a stretcher, as
the police don't seem in any hurry. Would you like us to take him.
Or would it upset him, do you think, if he knew?"
"Thank you," she answered. "He would think it kind of you, I
She had the feeling that he was being borne by comrades.
It was from a small operating hospital in a village of the Argonne
that she first saw the war with her own eyes.
Her father had wished her to go. Arthur's death had stirred in him
the old Puritan blood with its record of long battle for liberty of
conscience. If war claimed to be master of a man's soul, then the
new warfare must be against war. He remembered the saying of a
Frenchwoman who had been through the Franco-Prussian war. Joan, on
her return from Paris some years before, had told him of her,
repeating her words: "But, of course, it would not do to tell the
truth," the old lady had said, "or we should have our children
growing up to hate war."
"I'll be lonely and anxious till you come back," he said. "But
that will have to be my part of the fight."
She had written to Folk. No female nurses were supposed to be
allowed within the battle zone; but under pressure of shortage the
French staff were relaxing the rule, and Folk had pledged himself
to her discretion. "I am not doing you any kindness," he had
written. "You will have to share the common hardships and
privations, and the danger is real. If I didn't feel instinctively
that underneath your mask of sweet reasonableness you are one of
the most obstinate young women God ever made, and that without me
you would probably get yourself into a still worse hole, I'd have
refused." And then followed a list of the things she was to be
sure to take with her, including a pound or two of Keating's insect
powder, and a hint that it might save her trouble, if she had her
hair cut short.
There was but one other woman at the hospital. It had been a
farmhouse. The man and both sons had been killed during the first
year of the war, and the woman had asked to be allowed to stay on.
Her name was Madame Lelanne. She was useful by reason of her great
physical strength. She could take up a man as he lay and carry him
on her outstretched arms. It was an expressionless face, with
dull, slow-moving eyes that never changed. She and Joan shared a
small grenier in one of the barns. Joan had brought with her a
camp bedstead; but the woman, wrapping a blanket round her, would
creep into a hole she had made for herself among the hay. She
never took off her clothes, except the great wooden-soled boots, so
far as Joan could discover.
The medical staff consisted of a Dr. Poujoulet and two assistants.
The authorities were always promising to send him more help, but it
never arrived. One of the assistants, a Monsieur Dubos, a little
man with a remarkably big beard, was a chemist, who, at the
outbreak of the war, had been on the verge, as he made sure, of an
important discovery in connection with colour photography. Almost
the first question he asked Joan was could she speak German.
Finding that she could, he had hurried her across the yard into a
small hut where patients who had borne their operation successfully
awaited their turn to be moved down to one of the convalescent
hospitals at the base. Among them was a German prisoner, an
elderly man, belonging to the Landwehr; in private life a
photographer. He also had been making experiments in the direction
of colour photography. Chance had revealed to the two men their
common interest, and they had been exchanging notes. The German
talked a little French, but not sufficient; and on the day of
Joan's arrival they had reached an impasse that was maddening to
both of them. Joan found herself up against technical terms that
rendered her task difficult, but fortunately had brought a
dictionary with her, and was able to make them understand one
another. But she had to be firm with both of them, allowing them
only ten minutes together at a time. The little Frenchman would
kneel by the bedside, holding the German at an angle where he could
talk with least danger to his wound. It seemed that each was the
very man the other had been waiting all his life to meet. They
shed tears on one another's neck when they parted, making all
arrangements to write to one another.
"And you will come and stay with me," persisted the little
Frenchman, "when this affair is finished"--he made an impatient
gesture with his hands. "My wife takes much interest. She will be
And the big German, again embracing the little Frenchman, had
promised, and had sent his compliments to Madame.
The other was a young priest. He wore the regulation Red Cross
uniform, but kept his cassock hanging on a peg behind his bed. He
had pretty frequent occasion to take it down. These small
emergency hospitals, within range of the guns, were reserved for
only dangerous cases: men whose wounds would not permit of their
being carried further; and there never was much more than a
sporting chance of saving them. They were always glad to find
there was a priest among the staff. Often it was the first
question they would ask on being lifted out of the ambulance. Even
those who professed to no religion seemed comforted by the idea.
He went by the title of "Monsieur le Pretre:" Joan never learned
his name. It was he who had laid out the little cemetery on the
opposite side of the village street. It had once been an orchard,
and some of the trees were still standing. In the centre, rising
out of a pile of rockwork, he had placed a crucifix that had been
found upon the roadside and had surrounded it with flowers. It
formed the one bright spot of colour in the village; and at night
time, when all other sounds were hushed, the iron wreaths upon its
little crosses, swaying against one another in the wind, would make
a low, clear, tinkling music. Joan would sometimes lie awake
listening to it. In some way she could not explain it always
brought the thought of children to her mind.
The doctor himself was a broad-shouldered, bullet-headed man, clean
shaven, with close-cropped, bristly hair. He had curiously square
hands, with short, squat fingers. He had been head surgeon in one
of the Paris hospitals, and had been assigned his present post
because of his marvellous quickness with the knife. The hospital
was the nearest to a hill of great strategical importance, and the
fighting in the neighbourhood was almost continuous. Often a
single ambulance would bring in three or four cases, each one
demanding instant attention. Dr. Poujoulet, with his hairy arms
bare to the shoulder, would polish them off one after another, with
hardly a moment's rest between, not allowing time even for the
washing of the table. Joan would have to summon all her nerve to
keep herself from collapsing. At times the need for haste was such
that it was impossible to wait for the anaesthetic to take effect.
The one redeeming feature was the extraordinary heroism of the men,
though occasionally there was nothing for it but to call in the
orderlies to hold some poor fellow down, and to deafen one's ears.
One day, after a successful operation, she was tending a young
sergeant. He was a well-built, handsome man, with skin as white as
a woman's. He watched her with curious indifference in his eyes as
she busied herself, trying to make him comfortable, and did nothing
to help her.
"Has Mam'selle ever seen a bull fight?" he asked her.
"No," she answered. "I've seen all the horror and cruelty I want
to for the rest of my life."
"Ah," he said, "you would understand if you had. When one of the
horses goes down gored, his entrails lying out upon the sand, you
know what they do, don't you? They put a rope round him, and drag
him, groaning, into the shambles behind. And once there, kind
people like you and Monsieur le Medecin tend him and wash him, and
put his entrails back, and sew him up again. He thinks it so kind
of them--the first time. But the second! He understands. He will
be sent back into the arena to be ripped up again, and again after
that. This is the third time I have been wounded, and as soon as
you've all patched me up and I've got my breath again, they'll send
me back into it. Mam'selle will forgive my not feeling grateful to
her." He gave a short laugh that brought the blood into his mouth.
The village consisted of one long straggling street, following the
course of a small stream between two lines of hills. It was on one
of the great lines of communication: and troops and war material
passed through it, going and coming, in almost endless procession.
It served also as a camp of rest. Companies from the trenches
would arrive there, generally towards the evening, weary, listless,
dull-eyed, many of them staggering like over-driven cattle beneath
their mass of burdens. They would fling their accoutrements from
them and stand in silent groups till the sergeants and corporals
returned to lead them to the barns and out-houses that had been
assigned to them, the houses still habitable being mostly reserved
for the officers. Like those of most French villages, they were
drab, plaster-covered buildings without gardens; but some of them
were covered with vines, hiding their ugliness; and the village as
a whole, with its groups, here and there, of fine sycamore trees
and its great stone fountain in the centre, was picturesque enough.
It had twice changed hands, and a part of it was in ruins. From
one or two of the more solidly built houses merely the front had
fallen, leaving the rooms just as they had always been: the
furniture in its accustomed place, the pictures on the walls. They
suggested doll's houses standing open. One wondered when the giant
child would come along and close them up. The iron spire of the
little church had been hit twice. It stood above the village,
twisted into the form of a note of interrogation. In the
churchyard many of the graves had been ripped open. Bones and
skulls lay scattered about among the shattered tombstones. But,
save for a couple of holes in the roof, the body was still intact,
and every afternoon a faint, timid-sounding bell called a few
villagers and a sprinkling of soldiers to Mass. Most of the
inhabitants had fled, but the farmers and shopkeepers had remained.
At intervals, the German batteries, searching round with apparent
aimlessness, would drop a score or so of shells about the
neighbourhood; but the peasant, with an indifference that was
almost animal, would still follow his ox-drawn plough; the old,
bent crone, muttering curses, still ply the hoe. The proprietors
of the tiny epiceries must have been rapidly making their fortunes,
considering the prices that they charged the unfortunate poilu,
dreaming of some small luxury out of his five sous a day. But as
one of them, a stout, smiling lady, explained to Joan, with a
gesture: "It is not often that one has a war."
Joan had gone out in September, and for a while the weather was
pleasant. The men, wrapped up in their great-coats, would sleep
for preference under the great sycamore trees. Through open
doorways she would catch glimpses of picturesque groups of eager
card-players, crowded round a flickering candle. From the darkness
there would steal the sound of flute or zither, of voices singing.
Occasionally it would be some strident ditty of the Paris music-
halls, but more often it was sad and plaintive. But early in
October the rains commenced and the stream became a roaring
torrent, and a clammy mist lay like a white river between the
Mud! that seemed to be the one word with which to describe modern
war. Mud everywhere! Mud ankle-deep upon the roads; mud into
which you sank up to your knees the moment you stepped off it;
tents and huts to which you waded through the mud, avoiding the
slimy gangways on which you slipped and fell; mud-bespattered men,
mud-bespattered horses, little donkeys, looking as if they had been
sculptured out of mud, struggling up and down the light railways
that every now and then would disappear and be lost beneath the
mud; guns and wagons groaning through the mud; lorries and
ambulances, that in the darkness had swerved from the straight
course, overturned and lying abandoned in the mud, motor-cyclists
ploughing swift furrows through the mud, rolling it back in liquid
streams each side of them; staff cars rushing screaming through the
mud, followed by a rushing fountain of mud; serried ranks of muddy
men stamping through the mud with steady rhythm, moving through a
rain of mud, rising upward from the ground; long lines of motor-
buses filled with a mass of muddy humanity packed shoulder to
shoulder, rumbling ever through the endless mud.
Men sitting by the roadside in the mud, gnawing at unsavoury food;
men squatting by the ditches, examining their sores, washing their
bleeding feet in the muddy water, replacing the muddy rags about
A world without colour. No other colour to be seen beneath the sky
but mud. The very buttons on the men's coats painted to make them
look like mud.
Mud and dirt! Dirty faces, dirty hands, dirty clothes, dirty food,
dirty beds; dirty interiors, from which there was never time to
wash the mud; dirty linen hanging up to dry, beneath which dirty
children played, while dirty women scolded. Filth and desolation
all around. Shattered farmsteads half buried in the mud; shattered
gardens trampled into mud. A weary land of foulness, breeding
foulness; tangled wire the only harvest of the fields; mile after
mile of gaping holes, filled with muddy water; stinking carcases of
dead horses; birds of prey clinging to broken fences, flapping
their great wings.
A land where man died, and vermin increased and multiplied. Vermin
on your body, vermin in your head, vermin in your food, vermin
waiting for you in your bed; vermin the only thing that throve, the
only thing that looked at you with bright eyes; vermin the only
thing to which the joy of life had still been left.
Joan had found a liking gradually growing up in her for the quick-
moving, curt-tongued doctor. She had dismissed him at first as a
mere butcher: his brutal haste, his indifference apparently to the
suffering he was causing, his great, strong, hairy hands, with
their squat fingers, his cold grey eyes. But she learnt as time
went by, that his callousness was a thing that he put on at the
same time that he tied his white apron round his waist, and rolled
up his sleeves.
She was resting, after a morning of grim work, on a bench outside
the hospital, struggling with clenched, quivering hands against a
craving to fling herself upon the ground and sob. And he had found
her there; and had sat down beside her.
"So you wanted to see it with your own eyes," he said. He laid his
hand upon her shoulder, and she had some difficulty in not catching
hold of him and clinging to him. She was feeling absurdly womanish
just at that moment.
"Yes," she answered. "And I'm glad that I did it," she added,
"So am I," he said. "Tell your children what you have seen. Tell
"It's you women that make war," he continued. "Oh, I don't mean
that you do it on purpose, but it's in your blood. It comes from
the days when to live it was needful to kill. When a man who was
swift and strong to kill was the only thing that could save a woman
and her brood. Every other man that crept towards them through the
grass was an enemy, and her only hope was that her man might kill
him, while she watched and waited. And later came the tribe; and
instead of the one man creeping through the grass, the everlasting
warfare was against all other tribes. So you loved only the men
ever ready and willing to fight, lest you and your children should
be carried into slavery: then it was the only way. You brought up
your boys to be fighters. You told them stories of their gallant
sires. You sang to them the songs of battle: the glory of killing
and of conquering. You have never unlearnt the lesson. Man has
learnt comradeship--would have travelled further but for you. But
woman is still primitive. She would still have her man the hater
and the killer. To the woman the world has never changed."
"Tell the other women," he said. "Open their eyes. Tell them of
their sons that you have seen dead and dying in the foolish quarrel
for which there was no need. Tell them of the foulness, of the
cruelty, of the senselessness of it all. Set the women against
War. That is the only way to end it."
It was a morning or two later that, knocking at the door of her
loft, he asked her if she would care to come with him to the
trenches. He had brought an outfit for her which he handed to her
with a grin. She had followed Folk's advice and had cut her hair;
and when she appeared before him for inspection in trousers and
overcoat, the collar turned up about her neck, and reaching to her
helmet, he had laughingly pronounced the experiment safe.
A motor carried them to where the road ended, and from there, a
little one-horse ambulance took them on to almost the last trees of
the forest. There was no life to be seen anywhere. During the
last mile, they had passed through a continuous double line of
graves; here and there a group of tiny crosses keeping one another
company; others standing singly, looking strangely lonesome amid
the torn-up earth and shattered trees. But even these had ceased.
Death itself seemed to have been frightened away from this terror-
Looking down, she could see thin wreaths of smoke, rising from the
ground. From underneath her feet there came a low, faint,
"Quick," said the doctor. He pushed her in front of him, and she
almost fell down a flight of mud-covered steps that led into the
earth. She found herself in a long, low gallery, lighted by a dim
oil lamp, suspended from the blackened roof. A shelf ran along one
side of it, covered with straw. Three men lay there. The straw
was soaked with their blood. They had been brought in the night
before by the stretcher-bearers. A young surgeon was rearranging
their splints and bandages, and redressing their wounds. They
would lie there for another hour or so, and then start for their
twenty kilometre drive over shell-ridden roads to one or another of
the great hospitals at the base. While she was there, two more
cases were brought in. The doctor gave but a glance at the first
one and then made a sign; and the bearers passed on with him to the
further end of the gallery. He seemed to understand, for he gave a
low, despairing cry and the tears sprang to his eyes. He was but a
boy. The other had a foot torn off. One of the orderlies gave him
two round pieces of wood to hold in his hands while the young
surgeon cut away the hanging flesh and bound up the stump.
The doctor had been whispering to one of the bearers. He had the
face of an old man, but his shoulders were broad and he looked
sturdy. He nodded, and beckoned Joan to follow him up the slippery
"It is breakfast time," he explained, as they emerged into the air.
"We leave each other alone for half an hour--even the snipers. But
we must be careful." She followed in his footsteps, stooping so
low that her hands could have touched the ground. They had to be
sure that they did not step off the narrow track marked with white
stones, lest they should be drowned in the mud. They passed the
head of a dead horse. It looked as if it had been cut off and laid
there; the body was below it in the mud.
They spoke in whispers, and Joan at first had made an effort to
disguise her voice. But her conductor had smiled. "They shall be
called the brothers and the sisters of the Lord," he had said.
"Mademoiselle is brave for her Brothers' sake." He was a priest.
There were many priests among the stretcher-bearers.
Crouching close to the ground, behind the spreading roots of a
giant oak, she raised her eyes. Before her lay a sea of smooth,
soft mud nearly a mile wide. From the centre rose a solitary tree,
from which all had been shot away but two bare branches like
outstretched arms above the silence. Beyond, the hills rose again.
There was something unearthly in the silence that seemed to brood
above that sea of mud. The old priest told her of the living men,
French and German, who had stood there day and night sunk in it up
to their waists, screaming hour after hour, and waving their arms,
sinking into it lower and lower, none able to help them: until at
last only their screaming heads were left, and after a time these,
too, would disappear: and the silence come again.
She saw the ditches, like long graves dug for the living, where the
weary, listless men stood knee-deep in mud, hoping for wounds that
would relieve them from the ghastly monotony of their existence;
the holes of muddy water where the dead things lay, to which they
crept out in the night to wash a little of the filth from their
clammy bodies and their stinking clothes; the holes dug out of the
mud in which they ate and slept and lived year after year: till
brain and heart and soul seemed to have died out of them, and they
remembered with an effort that they once were men.
After a time, the care of the convalescents passed almost entirely
into Joan's hands, Madame Lelanne being told off to assist her. By
dint of much persistence she had succeeded in getting the leaky
roof repaired, and in place of the smoky stove that had long been
her despair she had one night procured a fine calorifere by the
simple process of stealing it. Madame Lelanne had heard about it
from the gossips. It had been brought to a lonely house at the end
of the village by a major of engineers. He had returned to the
trenches the day before, and the place for the time being was
empty. The thieves were never discovered. The sentry was positive
that no one had passed him but two women, one of them carrying a
baby. Madame Lelanne had dressed it up in a child's cloak and
hood, and had carried it in her arms. As it must have weighed
nearly a couple of hundredweight suspicion had not attached to
Space did not allow of any separation; broken Frenchmen and broken
Germans would often lie side by side. Joan would wonder, with a
grim smile to herself, what the patriotic Press of the different
countries would have thought had they been there to have overheard
the conversations. Neither France nor Germany appeared to be the
enemy, but a thing called "They," a mysterious power that worked
its will upon them both from a place they always spoke of as "Back
there." One day the talk fell on courage. A young French soldier
was holding forth when Joan entered the hut.
"It makes me laugh," he was saying, "all this newspaper talk.
Every nation, properly led, fights bravely. It is the male
instinct. Women go into hysterics about it, because it has not
been given them. I have the Croix de Guerre with all three leaves,
and I haven't half the courage of my dog, who weighs twelve kilos,
and would face a regiment by himself. Why, a game cock has got
more than the best of us. It's the man who doesn't think, who
can't think, who has the most courage--who imagines nothing, but
just goes forward with his head down, like a bull. There is, of
course, a real courage. When you are by yourself, and have to do
something in cold blood. But the courage required for rushing
forward, shouting and yelling with a lot of other fellows--why, it
would take a hundred times more pluck to turn back."
"They know that," chimed in the man lying next to him; "or they
would not drug us. Why, when we stormed La Haye I knew nothing
until an ugly-looking German spat a pint of blood into my face and
woke me up."
A middle-aged sergeant, who had a wound in the stomach and was
sitting up in his bed, looked across. "There was a line of Germans
came upon us," he said, "at Bras. I thought I must be suffering
from a nightmare when I saw them. They had thrown away their
rifles and had all joined hands. They came dancing towards us just
like a row of ballet girls. They were shrieking and laughing, and
they never attempted to do anything. We just waited until they
were close up and then shot them down. It was like killing a lot
of kids who had come to have a game with us. The one I potted got
his arms round me before he coughed himself out, calling me his
'liebe Elsa,' and wanting to kiss me. Lord! You can guess how the
Boche ink-slingers spread themselves over that business:
'Sonderbar! Colossal! Unvergessliche Helden.' Poor devils!"
"They'll give us ginger before it is over," said another. He had
had both his lips torn away, and appeared to be always laughing.
"Stuff it into us as if we were horses at a fair. That will make
us run forward, right enough."
"Oh, come," struck in a youngster who was lying perfectly flat,
face downwards on his bed: it was the position in which he could
breathe easiest. He raised his head a couple of inches and twisted
it round so as to get his mouth free. "It isn't as bad as all
that. Why, the Thirty-third swarmed into Fort Malmaison of their
own accord, though 'twas like jumping into a boiling furnace, and
held it for three days against pretty nearly a division. There
weren't a dozen of them left when we relieved them. They had no
ammunition left. They'd just been filling up the gaps with their
bodies. And they wouldn't go back even then. We had to drag them
away. 'They shan't pass,' 'They shan't pass!'--that's all they
kept saying." His voice had sunk to a thin whisper.
A young officer was lying in a corner behind a screen. He leant
forward and pushed it aside.
"Oh, give the devil his due, you fellows," he said. "War isn't a
pretty game, but it does make for courage. We all know that. And
things even finer than mere fighting pluck. There was a man in my
company, a Jacques Decrusy. He was just a stupid peasant lad. We
were crowded into one end of the trench, about a score of us. The
rest of it had fallen in, and we couldn't move. And a bomb dropped
into the middle of us; and the same instant that it touched the
ground Decrusy threw himself flat down upon it and took the whole
of it into his body. There was nothing left of him but scraps.
But the rest of us got off. Nobody had drugged him to do that.
There isn't one of us who was in that trench that will not be a
better man to the end of his days, remembering how Jacques Decrusy
gave his life for ours."
"I'll grant you all that, sir," answered the young soldier who had
first spoken. He had long, delicate hands and eager, restless
eyes. "War does bring out heroism. So does pestilence and famine.
Read Defoe's account of the Plague of London. How men and women
left their safe homes, to serve in the pest-houses, knowing that
sooner or later they were doomed. Read of the mothers in India who
die of slow starvation, never allowing a morsel of food to pass
their lips so that they may save up their own small daily portion
to add it to their children's. Why don't we pray to God not to
withhold from us His precious medicine of pestilence and famine?
So is shipwreck a fine school for courage. Look at the chance it
gives the captain to set a fine example. And the engineers who
stick to their post with the water pouring in upon them. We don't
reconcile ourselves to shipwrecks as a necessary school for
sailors. We do our best to lessen them. So did persecution bring
out heroism. It made saints and martyrs. Why have we done away
with it? If this game of killing and being killed is the fine
school for virtue it is made out to be, then all our efforts
towards law and order have been a mistake. We never ought to have
emerged from the jungle."
He took a note-book from under his pillow and commenced to
An old-looking man spoke. He lay with his arms folded across his
breast, addressing apparently the smoky rafters. He was a Russian,
a teacher of languages in Paris at the outbreak of the war, and had
joined the French Army.
"It is not only courage," he said, "that War brings out. It brings
out vile things too. Oh, I'm not thinking merely of the Boches.
That's the cant of every nation: that all the heroism is on one
side and all the brutality on the other. Take men from anywhere
and some of them will be devils. War gives them their opportunity,
brings out the beast. Can you wonder at it? You teach a man to
plunge a bayonet into the writhing flesh of a fellow human being,
and twist it round and round and jamb it further in, while the
blood is spurting from him like a fountain. What are you making of
him but a beast? A man's got to be a beast before he can bring
himself to do it. I have seen things done by our own men in cold
blood, the horror of which will haunt my memory until I die. But
of course, we hush it up when it happens to be our own people."
He ceased speaking. No one seemed inclined to break the silence.
They remained confused in her memory, these talks among the wounded
men in the low, dimly lighted hut that had become her world. At
times it was but two men speaking to one another in whispers, at
others every creaking bed would be drawn into the argument.
One topic that never lost its interest was: Who made wars? Who
hounded the people into them, and kept them there, tearing at one
another's throats? They never settled it.
"God knows I didn't want it, speaking personally," said a German
prisoner one day, with a laugh. "I had been working at a printing
business sixteen hours a day for seven years. It was just
beginning to pay me, and now my wife writes me that she has had to
shut the place up and sell the machinery to keep them all from
"But couldn't you have done anything to stop it?" demanded a
Frenchman, lying next to him. "All your millions of Socialists,
what were they up to? What went wrong with the Internationale, the
Universal Brotherhood of Labour, and all that Tra-la-la?"
The German laughed again. "Oh, they know their business," he
answered. "You have your glass of beer and go to bed, and when you
wake up in the morning you find that war has been declared; and you
keep your mouth shut--unless you want to be shot for a traitor.
Not that it would have made much difference," he added. "I admit
that. The ground had been too well prepared. England was envious
of our trade. King Edward had been plotting our destruction. Our
papers were full of translations from yours, talking about 'La
Revanche!' We were told that you had been lending money to Russia
to enable her to build railways, and that when they were complete
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