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Eighteen

Intermittently chaos descends upon our earth; the second cousin of a third rate king is snubbed at a garden party; a Georgian peasant reads Karl Marx and the New Testament; the King of Sardinia is not seated on the right of the hostess; Tolstoy, Dostoyevsky, Gorky and Turgenieff write novels; an American president dies sick at heart with the death of the League of Nations; an Emperor with a withered arm believes himself a God; America proclaims the doctrine of isolation; a wild-eyed student shoots a grand duke; an Austrian house-painter believes himself Napoleon; the Mikado is as well a major diety; the roots of war are grounded in the soil of ancient grudges and past defeats; the mob roars as their betters mutter; man is a pugnacious animal; only a little while ago he fought in the jungle; it is good to be away from home for a while on any pretext, to get drunk in the Savoy bar and pick up a pretty girl on Regent Street; the noble English rush out to bear the white man’s burden and secure the available oil leases; God Almighty groans on his golden throne and is either indifferent or impotent; His under-study, the Holy Ghost, sulks somewhere behind a thick black curtain; the loving Jesus and
the tender-hearted Virgin weep but have no control; the crowd roars:

 

We don’t want to fight,

But, by jingos, if we do,

We’ve got the men,

We’ve got the ships,

And we’ve got the money too.

or, It’s the Soldiers of the Queen, my lads.

or, It’s a long way to Tipperary.

or, Roll Out the Barrel.

or, There’ll Always be an England.

 

The black lowering clouds at last are lighted up with jagged flashes of lightning; off they go, foot, horse, and artillery; chaos is come upon the world again.

Rosalie, at first, was not greatly moved by this earth-shaking chaos, for she had daily duties to perform that were close to life and death. But when an urgent call came for trained and competent nurses, she, on the advice of her superintendent, gave up her position in the operating room and enlisted with the rest. Truly war reaches far down, and disturbs the peace of quiet lives.

Rosalie was twenty-seven now, and her eyes were calm and steady. She was more beautiful than she had been at twenty, for she had lost none of her freshness and laughter, and had added to these maturity and knowledge.

She, one of fifty nurses, went aboard the Olympic on the afternoon of Friday the thirteenth of the month. One bad luck date, it is said, offsets the other.

An infantry brigade from Nova Scotia was going aboard, and four battalions from the west, eight thousand men in all. What a coil, as these half-disciplined troops crowded up the gang plank of the great steamer. Off to adventure they were going, going in turmoil and confusion. Some had lost their kit-bags, some their great-coats, mothers had lost their sons, sisters their brothers, and girls their sweet­hearts; one regiment had left its colours aboard the troop train, a score of men had been lost altogether between Edmonton and Halifax, so that nominal rolls were wrong and a correct count impossible; on the wharf-head the agent of a commercial printing company was making a fruitless effort to get aboard boxes of illustrated books that they had printed at the order of the battalions. Men in forage caps and caps comforter, with rifles slung over their shoulders milled about the decks, thronged the rails, or slung their hammocks above the dining room tables; some that were tired and a little drunk bedded down under the tables themselves; the ship was soon a litter of papers, broken meat and cheese, peanut shells and pop bottles; far forward a hundred brown men crept aboard.

Rosalie got her contingent of forty-nine nurses aboard, led them to the little hospital, and assigned them to the cabins—three to a cabin—that were almost amidships on the boat deck. Rosalie was the senior nurse; she was only twenty-seven, but she felt at least a hundred.

“Don’t go wandering about the ship,” she said to them. “Stay where you are; there are some eight thousand men aboard and fifty women; one hundred and sixty officers and men to every single woman; don’t let anybody push you into dark corners.”

Presently in the early evening, they felt the big ship throb and tremble as she edged away from the pier; a band began to play, what is perhaps the most tragic of all common songs, ‘The Girl I left Behind Me.’ There were yells and hoots of good-bye, a great trampling about the decks; a town in five layers, a sadly disorganized town of people who had to have food and beds, a town without Mayor or Town Council has grown up in four hours, and was moving out to sea. Silently, save for the throb of her dynamos and diesel engines, the great black ship moved slowly down the harbour with her ‘freight of human courage till she felt again the heave of the sea.’ The turmoil, the shouting, and trampling, ceased about midnight and save for the men on the bridge, the look-outs on mast or foc’s’le head, everyone slept.

The thirty beds were filled quickly in the morning and stretchers were laid on the floor; men with broken heads; drunks recuperating but very ill; men with incipient pneumonia; men who seemed to be dying of sea-sickness. And besides this, dozens of out-patients were waiting in the sick-bay. Rosalie demanded and got two orderlies from each battalion. Rosalie’s nurses were new to her, but they recognized a leader and her hospital was the one clean place on that crowded ship.

On the third night out, a night clear but black, Rosalie was coming back late from the sick-bay; a man had jammed his hand in a rack and it had to be dressed; Rosalie did not send one of her young nurses but went and did the job herself. The decks were still partially thronged but the men made way for her. She passed close to the officers’ lounge, and paused and glanced in through an open window. Some of the officers were drinking at the bar, but about a hundred of them were seated on the floor in a semi-circle, before a standing officer already flushed with drink. In defiance of all military regulations his tunic was unbuttoned, he wore a green tie, and his feet were thrust into slippers without socks. But he had a fine eye and a mobile mouth, and he kept his audience eager and spell-bound ready to laugh at his lightest word or gesture. Rosalie recognized in him a natural raconteur; he held them with the lightest story in the palm of his hand.

“Once,” he said, “there was a lazy bee, just like you and me perhaps even lazier. He was so lazy that he could hardly fly from flower to flower. He would suck what honey he could, and then drowse and drowse till he got hungry again. He never carried any honey back to the hive. One day he was sitting on a daisy; the wind swayed the daisy to and fro and rocked him into a gentle sleep.

“But along came a hungry bull, and nipped off the daisy stem and flower, and swallowed the bee. When the bee woke up, he was in the vast cavern of the bull’s stomach. He was a bit frightened at first, but it was so warm and comfortable and the lining of the bull’s stomach was so soft, that he settled back and went to sleep again. When he woke up the bull was gone.”

There was a roar of applause, laughter and cries of ‘More, more.’

“Once,” said the drunken raconteur with the silver tongue, “there was …”

Rosalie moved along, she could not be seen loitering or peeking into the officers’ lounge. “Men going to war,” she thought. “Children most of them, reckless, good-natured children, that’s what they are. Instead of studying their military books, they are listening to silly stories. Poor courageous, reckless children.”

She hurried along, anxious to reach her cabin for she was tired after a long day of tending the sick. But she was destined to have a strange encounter that night.

When she had almost reached the hospital, she saw a young officer in a colonel’s uniform standing in the open doorway of what had been in time of peace a millionaire’s suite. He hailed her.

“Sister,” he said. “I’m sick.”

“What’s the matter,” said Rosalie.

“I’m worn out,” said he, “and I’ve got a splitting headache, a real splitter.”

“I’ll run along to the drug room and fetch you some aspirins; perhaps you need a stimulant, a drop of whiskey.”

“I don’t take whiskey,” he said, “I reckon I’m the only total abstainer on this ship.”

“You’ll have to take it, if I say so,” said Rosalie rather pertly.

She returned with the aspirin and whiskey and entered his sitting room—he had a sitting room that would seat twenty, and a bed-room and bath beside—leaving the door ajar. “He must be quite a swell”, thought Rosalie, “to have quarters like this.”

He took the three aspirins and made a wry face as he gulped down the whiskey at Rosalie’s direction.

“Maybe you need a number nine,” said Rosalie directly.

“No,” said he. “I’m all right that way; I’m only worn out and my head is splitting.”

“You’ll feel better in a few minutes, when the aspirin and whiskey get working,” said Rosalie.

“What do you think,” said he. “I’m only thirty-three, and I’m the senior colonel aboard. The western fellows don’t pay any more attention to me than if I were a mosquito. The captain says I’ve got to keep this ship clean. Clean, Hell! My second-in-command and two of my company commanders are drunk, and my adjutant thinks he’s dying from having taken too much Mother Sills. Half the time I can’t even find my sergeant-major. Everybody is either drunk or sea-sick.”

“I suppose we’ll win the war,” said Rosalie laughing.

“Without a doubt,” said he, “we’re making a fine start. On, on, you noblest English, and all that sort of thing. But my worry is that the captain and first officer are forever ragging me about keeping the ship clean and clear; you can’t keep the men out of the hammocks above the tables in the day time; poor devils, they’re sick as dogs, I turn them out of hammocks on one deck, and they turn in again as soon as my back’s turned.”

“It’s very difficult,” said Rosalie.

“It came to a head this morning,” said the mournful officer. “The captain said to me ‘Why aren’t you looking after those Lascars up in the eyes.’ That word ‘Lascars’ was the last straw. I turned on him and gave him an earful that I’d picked up in the foc’s’le.”

“You know about ships, then.”

“Yes, but I don’t know what Lascars are; never heard of them; what do you think,  I threatened to put the old boy under arrest after he’d made a few rude remarks about colonial troops. You should have seen him turn purple or rather purpler. Do you know what Lascars are?”

“I think they’re East Indians,” said Rosalie. “I’ve read in some book that they’re often stokers. You’d better be careful with threats of arrest; I suppose you lost your temper. He might put you under arrest. The little old lady told me that a captain is almost a king on the high seas.”

“High seas or low seas, I don’t stand any more cheek from him; I’ve left a good job and my wife and family to fight a war. I’m not a slave. After all, I’ve got eight thousand men under me and he’s only got a couple of hundred.”

“You’d better pipe down,” said Rosalie, “you’d better cool off.”

“And now, on top of all he tells me I’ve got to decode all the military messages that come to the ship. I never decoded a message in my life; thank God I’ve got a code-book. Here’s one I’ve just done three times over, “Goshawk to Olympic.” There’s no sense in that, that’s what made my head split.”

“Let’s see,” said Rosalie. “Goshawk, Goshawk; that’s the name of a bird they used to hunt with long ago. I’ve seen that name in books. Maybe now it’s the name of a ship, perhaps the name of a destroyer that’s coming to guard us.”

“God, you’re right,” said the mournful officer, “I’ll rush it straight up to the bridge. I was afraid of being wrong.”

He started from his chair,

“Just a minute,” said Rosalie. “Have you any prisoners locked in the brig? I’ve been thinking of the sick and prisoners. We’re coming into the submarine zone aren’t we? Everyone should have a chance with open doors; no one should go to the bottom locked up in the brig.”

“Good God,” said he. “I forgot all about them. You’re right; no one should be locked up in the danger zone. I’ve got at least twenty toughs in the brig.” He rose, paper in hand. “I’ll attend to both these things at once. Say,” he said, “there’s something very odd about you. Were you sent along here to me?”

“I don’t know,” said Rosalie. “Perhaps. People have been sent to me when I needed them. Good-night.”

Rosalie did not again speak to the mournful and earnest young officer who was labouring to keep the ship clean, but she thought of him and contrasted him with the laughing crowd and the raconteur in the officers’ lounge. Doubtless both types would die bravely.

The voyage was happily over in five and a half days; the Goshawk, looking like an impudent terrier, met the great liner as scheduled, and circled around her as if proud of her speed.

When Rosalie and her detachment disembarked, he was standing at the head of the gangway as battalion after battalion filed ashore. Somehow they had got sorted out and were herded into appropriate trains by English staff-officers. He looked at her closely.

“You did me a good turn,” said he. “The headache never came back. I slept like a log.”

“That’s good,” said Rosalie. “Bonne Chance.”

“Bonne Chance to you,” he replied. He did not ask her name and address. Rosalie liked that; since he was the senior officer onboard, she knew his name and regiment, and it was with sincere sorrow that a year later she saw his name in the casualty list.

Eventually she and ten of the nurses assigned to her, arrived at the little hospital that stood on the sandy hills, and among the pine trees, near the village of Whitley. There was a whole reserve division stationed there, so that there was plenty of work to do. Rosalie and her nurses—for she was the senior—were housed in a little white hut near the hospital. It was early English autumn, and while there was not the bright colouring of the similar Canadian season, there was a quiet charm to the landscape, that brought peace to the spirit. The only draw­back was that they were near the great Portsmouth road and that often at nights, long convoys of lorries rumbled by.

She assigned the tours of duty to her subordinates in firm, distinct terms. She informed them—most of them were in their early twenties—that unless special leave was granted, they were all to be in by last post, that they were not in camp to be cuddled by junior officers, but to tend the sick, and as a last warning note, that there was probably plenty of V.D. in the division. Rosalie never had any trouble with discipline, because she was now herself well disciplined.

Now that they were settled down, she began in her off-times to look about her. She missed her Ford, but she was a good walker and often there were buses. She explored the near-by village of Whitley, looked through the White Horse Inn, a remnant of the Middle Ages now conducted with a minimum of food and guests by a portly but friendly old man, who had been somebody’s butler. She visited the ancient village church, where the battalions had hung their colours—only a detrimental piece of impedimenta in actual fighting—and there found a friendly vicar, who seemed to have plenty of time on his hands, and was only too glad to explain the difference between Norman and early English architecture to an intelligent colonial visitor. She returned to this old church many times and when she found it empty sometimes knelt at the altar and prayed there. She prayed for Mat in the depths of the ocean, for the little old lady, for Johnny Allen and Mice; she prayed for the general peace and happiness of all men, but she asked no favours for herself. She felt that so many prayers had floated up to heaven through the centuries from this little church, that somehow the road might be clear and hers more easy of access.

One day as she entered the church, she saw the vicar in conversation with a handsome red-faced man well over sixty; Rosalie imagined that this must be the typical English Gentleman. The vicar introduced him as Mr. Maitland, Lord of the Manor. Mr. Maitland was gentle and polite and asked her to come and have tea with them one day. Rosalie, curious to see the inside of an English country-house, accepted the invitation.

To her astonishment, on the day of her first visit she found the Lord of the Manor in a very rough and shaggy suit of tweeds, sawing up a log.

“Goodness,” said Rosalie frankly,” I thought that English gentlemen never worked with their hands.”

The Lord of the Manor laughed; he liked Rosalie as did everyone who met her.

“We’ve been a lazy lot, it’s true,” said he, “but we must work now when our men are off at the wars.”

“Necessity drives us, doesn’t it,” said Rosalie.

“I saw wood every day,” said he, “it’s good for me, and I carry the wounded three nights a week at Waterloo when the hospital trains come in.”

She passed the manor house many times thereafter, and nearly always saw the old man at his woodpile. He used to wave his hand and she gave a friendly wave in return. He and his wife had made her feel a helpful comrade who had come to their aid.

“No wonder,” said Rosalie to herself, “that the English always win.”

She explored the nearby market towns of Godalming and Guilford, looked in the shop windows and tried to appraise the faces of ordinary English people and the life of these little market towns. She took tea one afternoon at a little shop run by a woman who, by a sign, advertised Spirella corsets for sale. Rosalie came away from that visit a little unhappy; the woman had given her short change, and Rosalie set her right though she was sorry for her. “There are honest and dishonest everywhere,” Rosalie decided, “even among the English.” She wandered out over the sandy plains, where hillocks were clad in purple heather, out as far as the Lion’s Mouth and even to Frensham Pond and looked in wonder at ancient burial mounds heaped up by early men on the flat lands. These gave her the first impression of the antiquity of England as compared with the land of her birth. She turned southward and went as far as the Devil’s Punch Bowl. Had she had her Ford she could have covered a much greater area.

Then for a fortnight, she was transferred as a relief supervisor to the great military hospital in Bramshott. It was there that, on her second night of rounds, a patient spoke from a bed and said, “Hi, come here, Sister.”

It was not a very respectful summons but Rosalie answered it and stood by the sick man’s bedside.

“Aren’t you Rosalie?” said he.

Rosalie looked at him closely. It was Johnny Allen.

“What are you doing here, Johnny Allen, you’re far too old to be in a war?”

“I dyed my hair, what was left of it, and said I was thirty-five. I’m in the Army Service Corps; I can drive a truck with any man. I’ve got a son in the air-force.”

“Are you in bad shape, Johnny Allen” asked Rosalie.

“No,” said he. “I only got a busted leg; a shell detonated near my truck and turned me over in the ditch. They’re sendin’ me home when my leg knits. I’m all right.”

“Well,” said Rosalie. “I’m right glad to see you again. You were the first one to help me, you know.”

“Forget it,” said Johnny. “I only gave you a lift.”

“And ten dollars. I haven’t forgotten that I owe you ten dollars with about ten years interest.”

“I’m all set with money now,” said Johnny, “but you might try me once in a while on a package of cigarettes or an orange or banana or a bit of salt cod-fish.”

Rosalie laughed, “I don’t believe the English know about salt cod-fish.”

“No,” said Johnny. “They’re always a little behind the times like a dog’s tail. I like ’em though. I fought two wars for them.”

“How’s the family?” asked Rosalie.

“Good,” said Johnny. “Old MacDonald’s livin’ with us now. He’s come out from Scotland. What do you think, he’s a changed man, he laughs from his stomach now, smokes a pipe and goes with me to the races. He’s a holy Willy no longer.”

“And did you ever get a sleek race-horse, Johnny?”

“Say,” he said. “You won’t be mad at me will you. You’re so grown up now; I’m a little scared of you.”

“You couldn’t be scared of me, Johnny Allen.”

“‘Well, not exactly scared, but you’ve got to be quite a grand person and I’m still Johnny Allen, the truck-driver. Well, here goes off the deep end. I bought a horse two years before the war, and I trained her good and ran her in the free-for-all, and she won by two lengths. You should have heard the crowd roar, and old MacDonald, who was sitting next to me, bit through the stem of his pipe and said, ‘God Almighty’.”

“Wasn’t that fine,” said Rosalie. “What’s wrong about that?”

“What do you think I named that horse though, what do you think I gave her for a name?”

“What?”

“Rosalie,” said Johnny, pulling the cover up over his face.

“Oh, Johnny,” said Rosalie, as near crying as she had been in years.

Rosalie saw Johnny two or three times a day, during her tour of duty in Bramshott. He had always something to tell her; she kept him well supplied with smokes and all the delicacies she could collect. He was almost well enough to be shipped home when she had to return to her original post of duty.

“Good-bye, Johnny,” said she. “You’ll soon be seeing Margaret and the kids.”

“They’re kids no more,” grinned Johnny. “They’re grown.”

“That night of wetness in Scotland was a lucky night for you. Don’t you remember you told me you got married through wetness.”

Johnny nodded.

“By the way,” said Rosalie. “What did Margaret say about the name of your horse?”

“I never told her where I picked up that name,” said Johnny.

When Rosalie got back to her own little hospital in Whitley, she had an unexpected bit of good luck. One of her patients was the major who commanded the detachment of Army Service Corps attached to the Division. The Army Service Corps and the Quartermasters Department seem to get everything they want in the army. The major had had a bad case of pneumonia, and he was now gradually recuperating in the sunshine of English April. Rosalie had looked after him in his critical time; he liked Rosalie and he was in a generous mood. One day when she was telling him how she rambled about the countryside on her off-hours, he said “Look here, we’ve got a fat lazy piebald pony in our stables, that does nothing and is eating his head off. It is said that about the time of the Franco- Prussian war he was a polo pony. You can have him to ride whenever you like; then you could get further afield.”

Rosalie laughed; “I can’t ride; I’ve never been up on a horse; I’m a nurse not a jockey.” But all the same there flashed through her mind a distant memory of ‘Horses, fast running horses, horses with muscles quivering under their velvet skins, horses tossing their heads and blow­ing steam from their nostrils’.

“You don’t have to know how to ride to mount Musk-ox—that’s what the grooms call him, though I don’t know why—to ride him is just like sitting in a well-cushioned rocking chair by the fire-side.” said the major.

“I don’t know a thing about horses,” said Rosalie “but I once had a horse named for me, and he won the free-for-all.”

“Good,” said the major. “I suppose he was a ‘star’ horse.”

“There you’ve got another guess coming,” said Rosalie, “for he wasn’t named ‘Star’ at all.”

“Well, well,” said the officer, “If you’ve had a trotting horse named after you, you can certainly manage Musk-ox,”

The upshot of this trivial conversation was that Rosalie bought a riding habit and went out on Musk-ox whenever she had a half-day free. Musk-ox was very knowing and very lazy, and when Rosalie got a little confidence she found that she had either to apply a switch or kick him vigourously in the ribs to get even the gentlest amble out of him. She called him ‘Musk’ and used to feed him apples and lumps of sugar. ‘Musk’, the knowing one , who was quite aware that he had found a good thing, was very fond of his new mistress, and Rosalie would pull his ears and say, “Now Musk you must be a good boy today; you know you are very lazy, but you mustn’t try to turn around and make for the stable, when we are a mile or two from camp or pretend you are frightened by bits of paper that blow-up. I’m on to your tricks you old rascal, for you’re exactly like a fat old lazy nurse.”

As she rode about the English lanes when the Almond trees were blowing, she often wished she could meet Johnny Allen; how his eyes would crinkle up at the corners and twinkle; she must go and see her namesake Rosalie when she got home.

One sunshiny Saturday morning when she was free for the day, Rosalie rode Musk into the village of Shackelford where she had never been before. Musk was thirsty, Musk wanted a drink, and of his own accord he turned in through a stone gateway from which the roadway, led up to a fine grey stone country house. Virginia Creeper and a small leaved ivy clung close to the stone and softened any harsh angle. Garden and house were inviting and Rosalie felt that Musk had been right, and that she had something to do here. At any rate she could ask for a bucket of water; the English were horse lovers. A middle-aged gracious looking lady was digging weeds out of a flower border. Rosalie rode up to her and said; “Good morning, my pony is thirsty; could I get a drink for him here.”

“Of course,” said the lady standing up and looking full at Rosalie. “I’ll call a groom to water him—we only have one groom now and he’s lame; Phyllis, my daughter, does most of the stable work. Come in and rest a little while, while the man looks after your pony. You’re a Canadian aren’t you?”

“Yes,” said Rosalie. “I’m a nurse from Nova Scotia and I work in the divisional hospital in Whitley. You’re very kind I’d like to go in for a little while.”

The house was cool as they passed from the hall into the long drawing room, well furnished, hung with big pictures and with a fireplace at either end. Before the further fireplace stood a tall slim girl in riding clothes, one elbow leaning on the mantle-piece. She was dark, very handsome and obvious­ly a thoroughbred—in fact, Rosalie at first glance at her, thought of one of Johnny Allen’s trotting horses. But she had a rather sullen look in her face and a petulant twist to her mouth. “This is my daughter Phyllis,” said the gracious lady. “I have a few things to attend to and I’ll leave you two together; you are about of an age.”

“I’m twenty-eight” said Rosalie.

“Never admit it”, said the English girl “I’m twenty-seven myself.”

“I suppose now,” said Rosalie, “though I never thought of it before, that I’d be classed as an old maid.”

“There are twelve thousand officers and men in a division aren’t there.” said the English girl, “and you’re very good-looking.”

Rosalie laughed her merry laugh, “I know I am” she said. “I was born in a fisherman cottage, but centuries ago our ancestor was a count of France, and I’m quite fussy about men. I hold their hands when they’re very ill, but I never bend and kiss their fevered brow as devoted nurses do in novels. I’m very professional in the hospital.”

The English girl’s face was lighted up for a moment with the shadow of a smile. “There’s something very refreshing about you colonials,” she said. “You’re so direct; you’re not afraid; you get acquainted at once.”

“Perhaps we’re neighborly; we’ve had to struggle and work hard and help one another. Necessity makes customs different. I’d never have got along if strangers hadn’t helped me; we’re not afraid of strangers, my first friend was a truck-driver who gave me a lift along the road.”

“And I was born in this house,” said the English girl, “and I’m tied by all the petty rules and regulations and conventions that go with it.”

“It’s a lovely country you live in,” said Rosalie, “now my home is mostly rocks and battered wind-blown spruce trees and little villages with little grey houses set down anywhere higgledy-pigglety, but here there are blossoming trees along the lanes, and the mowing fields are laid out in neat squares, and enclosed with hedges; it’s all finished and perfect.”

“That’s the trouble with it,” said the girl, “it’s too finished, it’s too perfect, too conventionalized; there’s no more adventure; I’d like to sail away and be a pirate woman on the Spanish Main.”

“Or go to sea with Mat on the “Arethusa”, said Rosalie.

“That’s right,” said the English girl, “I don’t know what that means exactly, but that’s what I want. You see I’m quite useless; oh, yes, I can ride a horse, and play the piano and sing a little and play tennis and make polite conversation, but I can’t bake or sew or wash or mend; in fact I’m a purely ornamental human unit.”

“It’s hard starting when you’re twenty-eight,” said Rosalie “It’s hard to begin a new way of life then, but maybe it can be done.”

“Come out into the stable and let me look at your pony, we can’t talk here; this stone house presses in on me.”

“What’s his name?” said the English girl.

“Musk” said Rosalie, “the groom’s named him Musk-ox, but I shortened it to Musk.”

“And a very good name too for a pony.”

“He played polo ages ago,” said Rosalie.

When they reached the paved stable yard that was full of sunshine and were quite alone, the English girl caught Rosalie by the arm and wheeled her about so that they looked straight into one another’s eyes. “Now,” she said eagerly, “tell me.”

“Well,” said Rosalie “you have to labour and sweat and get to know the inside of people before you can really get the feel of things.”

“They want me to be a V.A.D.” said the English girl, scornfully. “That’s all very well,” said Rosalie, “but you’d still be an amateur.” “That’s right,” said the girl “you’ve got to get it in your bones, you’ve got to be professional, go on.”

Then ‘Goodness Far Off,’ breathed an inspiration into Rosalie’s heart. “You’ve got to learn yourself in the hard way, you’ve got to learn self­-discipline before you can teach and control other people. I’ve only been to London twice and both times I went into the East End to see how poor people lived. They’re over-crowded there and the children haven’t any chance. You’re the best race in the world. Why doesn’t somebody teach these children and ship them out to Canada or Australia or Rhodesia where there’s plenty of room and sunshine?”

“Oh God,” said the English girl.

“I read a book once,” went on Rosalie “about a man named Fairbridge who tried to do this. He went to one of your great colleges and was the middle-weight boxer, why doesn’t somebody carry on his work?”

“God,” said the English girl “I’ve been dreaming of such a thing.”

They led Musk reluctantly away from some oats he was munching.

“Now” said the girl “I’m going to say an impossible thing for an English girl to say. I’d like to kiss you.”

“I’d like it too,” said Rosalie.

“And what name shall I remember you by?”

“Rosalie, and please thank your mother. And this perhaps is what the little old lady meant me to tell you; it isn’t enough to know the compass; you can’t be a real sailor-man or do a trick at the wheel with a yawing ship in a following wind and sea, until you’ve got the feel of the ship.”

Two days after this episode Rosalie was posted out to France, to a big hospital near the ever-changing front. She was busy in departure, and never saw the English girl or rode Musk again.

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Eighteen by Dalhousie University is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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