Captain Jones had come down from Fort Sheridan late that afternoon. He had been in Chicago for several days, as a member of a board assembled up at Fort Sheridan. The work was over and he would return to the Arsenal that night.
But he was not to go until midnight. He would have dinner and go to the theater with some of the friends with whom he had been in those last few days.
He wished it were otherwise. He was in no mood for them. He would far rather have been alone.
He had a little time alone in his room before dinner and sat there smoking, thinking, looking at the specks of men and women moving about in the streets way down there below.
He was in no humor that night to keep to the everlasting talk about army affairs, army grievances and schemes, all those things of a world within a world treated as if larger than the whole of the world. The last few days had shown him anew how their hold on him was loosening.
There seemed such a thing as the army habit of mind. Within their own domain was orderliness, discipline, efficiency, subservience to the collectivity, pride in it, devotion to it—many things of mind and character sadly needed in the chaotic world without. But army men lacked perspective; in isolation they had lost their sense of proportion, of relationships. They had not a true vision of themselves as part of a whole. They had, on the other hand, unconsciously fallen into the way of assuming the whole existed for the part, that they were larger than the thing they were meant to serve. Their whole scale was so proportioned; their whole sense of adjustment so perverted.
They lacked flexibility—openness—all-sides-aroundness.
Life in the army disciplined one in many things valuable in life. It failed in giving a true sense of the values of life.
He could not have said why it was those inflated proportions irritated him so. They lent an unreality to everything. They made for false standards. And more and more the thing which mattered to him was reality.
He tried to pull away from the things that thought would lure him into. He had not the courage to let himself think of her tonight.
He feared he had not increased his popularity in the last few days. At a dinner the night before a colonel had put an end to a discussion on war, in which several of the younger officers showed dangerous symptoms of hospitality to the civilian point of view, with the pious pronouncement: “War was ordained by God.”
“But man pays the war tax,” he had not been able to resist adding, and the Colonel had not joined in the laugh.
He found it wearisome the way the army remained so smug in its assumption that God stood right behind it. When worsted on economic grounds—and perhaps driven also from “survival of the fittest” shelter—a pompous retreat could always be effected to divinity.