“Ah, but that was just what we were afraid of,” she said quickly. “We were afraid you would go away and have a lonely leave somewhere. And in these days a boy’s leave is so precious a thing that nothing must spoil it—nothing,” she reiterated; and her tears fell upon his hands like a benediction. “But we didn’t do it very well, I’m afraid,” she went on presently, with gentle contrition. “You were too quick and understanding; you guessed there was something wrong. We were sorry not to manage better,” she apologized.
“Oh, you wonderful, wonderful people!” he gasped. “Doing everything for my happiness, when all the time—all the time—”
His voice went out sharply, as his mind flashed back to scene after scene: to Gerald’s long body lying quivering on the grass; to Sybil Gaylord wishing Sally Berkeley happiness out of her own tragedy; and to the high look on Lady Sherwood’s face. They seemed to him themselves, and yet more than themselves—shining bits in the mosaic of a great nation. Disjointedly there passed through his mind familiar words—“these are they who have washed their garments—having come out of great tribulation.” No wonder they seemed older.
“We—we couldn’t have done it in America,” he said humbly.
He had a desperate desire to get away to himself; to hide his face in his arms, and give vent to the tears that were stifling him; to weep for his lost friend, and for this great heartbreaking heroism of theirs.
“But why did you do it?” he persisted. “Was it because I was his friend?”
“Oh, it was much more than that,” Gerald said quickly. “It was a matter of the two countries. Of course, we jolly well knew you didn’t belong to us, and didn’t want to, but for the life of us we couldn’t help a sort of feeling that you did. And when America was in at last, and you fellows began to come, you seemed like our very own come back after many years, and,” he added a throb in his voice, “we were most awfully glad to see you—we wanted a chance to show you how England felt.”
Skipworth Cary rose to his feet. The tears for his friend were still wet upon his lashes. Stooping, he took Lady Sherwood’s hands in his and raised them to his lips. “As long as I live, I shall never forget,” he said. “And others of us have seen it too in other ways—be sure America will never forget, either.”
She looked up at his untouched youth out of her beautiful sad eyes, the exalted light still shining through her tears. “Yes,” she said, “you see it was—I don’t know exactly how to put it—but it was England to America.”
“FOR THEY KNOW NOT WHAT THEY DO”
BY WILBUR DANIEL STEELE
From Pictorial Review