Page images

people's minds, with the more in them, that made us feel it obvious sorts of good work- must only be in some incomfront-line stunts and so on, plete, unreal sense that we lived the only things, I suppose, there at all; whereas in a that the man in the street can spiritually higher and more understand about soldiering." valid sense he, the authentic

I tried to work this clear ally rugged soldier, abode there in my mind, assisted by the himself, so that, in the sight illuminating radiance of the of Heaven, his were war's H.A.C. band, the foaming grape thorns, and ours her roses. of Eastern France, and the “Nor I,” said I, “really," beautiful W.A.A.O. waitresses somewhat discomfited. I dressed as comic-opera gitanas scarcely ever touch irony with-all rendered curiously in- out getting into some mess toxicant by the sound of the and showing up badly. rain on the roof and the immi- Claude, still severe, said, nence of my return to a little “ And I wouldn't exactly call wet home in the earth of the the Staff children." Salient. “So the bread of “Nor I,” said I, feeling I the children,” I construed, must have been rude. thinking aloud, “ought to be “Then I don't see your sometimes — rather often – point," Claude austerely given to dogs, because some- pursued. how its being half - eaten by “No?” said I, still believdogs makes it still more nice ing that somewhere or other I for the children?”

had one, but not feeling quite “I don't call those brave sure. And how could one fellows in the trenches dogs," waste in ill-humour the last said Claude somewhat distantly. night of music and light, and He had a way of talking about the shine of clean glasses and the trenches, to us who lived white tablecloths ?

Salienthildren, a, " ous often no



I next heard of Claude from entered into his kingdom. Colin, in London. A portion Claude has done the imposof me had gone the way of all sible, the unthinkable-found flesh in the Salient, and Colin a new seam, a very Bonanza, came to liven me up in a deso- where the most piercing eyes late Mayfair palace used as a in the Army had only seen hospital. Colin never grudged level sand. You know how the War Office's time to any all the princes and counsellors work of good-nature. Some of the earth go out to visit men took it all for themselves. Douglas Haig. D. H. believes

“You've not heard about they must all be longing to Claude ?” he answered my get sniped and bombarded, question. “Why, Claude has just because he likes it himself. So, in pure kindness of serpent, you don't want any heart, he puts them into a car Infant Hercules kicking about. and packs them off for long And yet Blunt was a fool. days at the front. But Claude Claude had got him on the really knoweth man's heart. ground hop, just as he'd He has found them a way of planned. For then he was able escape-some sort of safety to go right on with his plan first' apparatus, no one quite of the funk-hole. He did, and knows what-whether it's a now this contraption of his is quiet shebeen in the wilds of the envy of all G.H.Q. They the Somme where they can lie say the proud and the great perdus all day, till it's time to of this world are tumbling go home, or a whole dummy over each other to get in at battlefield, well out of harm's the door. I hear that unless way, with old German helmets you're of royal blood, or a and rifles lying about for the Premier, Claude becomes quite visitors to absorb as war sou- short and dry with you. Once venirs. Some brain-wave like he had two live Kings and two that.”

Queens in the place, all at Perhaps I looked puzzled. once all the court cards in How could a mere Acting one hand—the sort of thing Major have so happy a thought, people write to the 'Field' and no Colonel or General about. When he comes home knock him down and take it from the wars he'll sell his away and use it himself? visitors' book and buy land

“Oh, Claude worked the and live on his rents. When flotation all right," Colin as the august go away they alsured me. “ Claude knew his ways give him an Order apiece chief, Blunt, was a fool with before stepping into the car. a temper. So he unfolded his His Legion of Honour is said little idea at nine on a morning to be lost in the crush. It's when old Blunt was looking thought the ribbons will soon his cheapest and blackest. go all round his back, like a

" Think it a good idea, do gym. belt, in a broad band. I you?' said Blunt. 'Well, I fear it can't last, though." think it a damn bad idea, so “Why?” said I. “Are you shall work it out your there not enough Kings in the self, and don't come whining world ?to me when you've failed. “When a rather small hen," Can't you imagine him saying said Colin, “finds a large it?

hunch of bread in the run, is Yes, I knew that dodge of a welter-weight cock to look drowning new-born reformers on unmoved? Is Blunt, belike kittens, in bucketfuls of cause he has been a fool once, detail.

to be a fool always! Believe “Of course," Colin said me, he suffers remorse for his sagely, “Blunt was right, in harshness to Claude. He will a way. If you're a downy old say, 'I have sinned.' He will undo the past. He will re- darkness, and Blunt will feed organise the establishment. all the auriferous geese out of Claude will be in the outer his own lily hand.”


Then Colin talked about him. thistle and poppies where the self. He always had frankshell-fire began you would selness, almost to the point of dom see a decorated man. disease. He was, he said, eaten He thought, aloud, of that by care, because he had never Brigade H.Q. where he had yet failed to overtrump little slept for a resonant fortnight Claude, and now little Claude -his nearest point of approach had played such a whacking to the firing line. That thricebig trump. Colin said he had wounded Major there had not known an old woman once, in had a ribbon at all. None of the country, who died of lying the officers and men who had awake at night, fearing the come in to that place from the patchwork quilt of the old actual front had had any. woman next door was getting Colour had only begun to on faster than hers. Colin break forth again where, on avowed he was hag-ridden too, Colin's way back to the sea, with the thought of that tex. he had passed a Divisional tile mosaic on Claude's bosom H.Q. five miles farther westexpanding swiftly and inex- “ first streaks of auroral rose orably. Things, he said, must breaking," Colin said, “only be thought out, lest he should not in the East. No stars die.

in the East; precious little With Colin, to think was to dayspring to visit it, talk ; his thought worked best along a kind of paper-chase “In front the sun climbs slow, how track of vivid words laid for


But westward, look, the land is the pursuing intellect by the

bright.' forerunning tongue. So there he sat, by my bed, and made “And then it was only at more picturesquely clear, to Corps Headquarters, twenty himself as well as to me, the miles farther away from the thing that had struck him fight, that the real noon came, most in all his war travels all the flora of valour well out, across Northern France, be the high midsummer pomp,' tween the coast and our front and so forth, fully on. The -how, as he went east, the Army H.Q. again, when I got ribbons on passing men's there, seemed like the Tropics. breasts seemed always to die I've worked it out that on the down and wither just as the average the number of ribbons corn and the roses did, by the a British officer gets in this road, till on the wastes of war varies in direct propor

e of his dis- from the properas. I fancy,

ation of A.D.C., to assing throper front.

tion to the square of his dis- this new inspiration, sought tance from the front. It's a from the proper person, and ‘law,' like the laws about presently got, was, I fancy, heat and the conservation of that of a kind of occasional energy."

A.D.C., to be lent to august I knew he hadn't worked it foreigners passing through town out before ; he was only doing on their way to visit our front. it now, led on by his own talk, Princes and Premiers, Marthat wildly intuitive advance- shals and Admirals, Colin saw guard of his marching mind. them safe through the great And then, from ascertained wicked city. Claude might facts, unquestionable laws, he draw on them later, but Colin went on visibly to speculate. tapped the stream nearer its Why should the working of source. He had his reward. any such law of nature as this When I caught sight of him

-a law of the nature of man- next the thin red lines across be interrupted by any mere his tunic had been—well, reinphysical accident such as a forced. sea ? Was it not of the very This narrative has to end nature of things that the without any climax. If it London clays should be to the were fiction it might, no doubt, payable sands of Boulogne and culminate in some one superthe rich quartz rock of Mon- lative masterpiece of acquisitreuil as these soils were to tion by one or other of its the utter deserts of Ypres and heroes. But life does not La Bassée ! All civilisation, work in that way: we conthe great world movement, stantly have to put up with had always been westward. the ineffectiveness of truth. Was not human experience now The two seemed to pass out of confirming this scientific hypo- my sight like two racing yachts thesis I — rain ribbons as it on a day of light airs. First might in maritime France, it one of them would catch a poured in Whitehall. That was little local breeze and skim the centre of things; there all away with a lead, and then the fountains of honour played would run into some patch of most freshly and amply, un- dead air; while the other exhausted as yet with watering would pick up a puff and be the thirsty fields of France. carried ahead, to be then be

Colin left me in rather a calmed in his turn. I heard hurry at last. He had seen a they looked most beautiful, great light. Things had come with three full rows of ribbons clear. He had to be off and apiece, like commanders - in withdraw his application for chief, and that people turned fresh employment in France. round to look at them in the Not there, but on British soil, street, marvelling that men so must Claude be outshone. young should have had time

The job that Colin, under for so much valour.

[merged small][merged small][ocr errors]

“THE Land without a tend ?" I asked, curiously imClock," said the Lett philo- pressed. sopher, looking at me humor- He gave a wide and whimsical ously across the table.

gesture. We were dining at Otto “Everywhere eastward ... Schwarz's famous restaurant sunward ... of the machinein Riga, where the hearty souled German,” he said. A Baltic cookery which despises hard glint came into his blue kickshaws finds its best ex- Baltic eyes. pression. It was nearly ten He spoke of Time and Life. o'clock, and still people were Here on the Baltic seaboard, dropping in casually for dinner. for example, it matters not an I commented on this. The atom should you arrive at a Lett philosopher knows his given destination half a day philosophic world from Oxford late. Unhampered by the to Beyrout. The people of modern and upstart convention oppressed races have the knack of Time, no one displays anxiety of broad - mindedness; they concerning your absence, and escape from local tyranny when your welcome will be just as they can. People who spend hearty, however prolonged its their lives in being chivied postponement. You will not from pillar to post by domineer- be allowed to cut short your ing bullies end up by acquiring visit. That is ruled out. Only, a lot of information as to the instead of reaching home in nature of posts and pillars. good time for dinner as you When the little new countries had planned, your plans “go worked through to indepen- hang." Your hosts feed you dence, it was astonishing how enormously, until time and many travelled and worldly space become merely abstract wise Letts, Esths, and Lithu- conceptions. With childlike deanians came pouring back from light in an unexpected situaevery corner of the globe to tion, they will organise an give them a helping hand. impromptu “jamboree" for

“The Land without a Clock," you, summoning all the neighthe Lett philosopher repeated, bours. Right through the night smiling. “Why, even our will the fun be kept up and music-halls don't think of be- well into the following morning, ginning until nearly midnight!” regardless of everything except

“Where does your Land ex- the merriment of the hour.



« PreviousContinue »