[Footnote 1: The Dark Forest.]
They had been travelling for a week, and had quite definitely decided that they had nothing whatever in common. As they stood there, lost and desolate on the grimy platform of the Finland station, this same thought must have been paramount in their minds: “Thank God we shan’t have to talk to one another any longer. Whatever else may happen in this strange place that at least we’re spared.” They were probably quite unconscious of the contrast they presented, unconscious because, at this time, young Bohun never, I should imagine, visualised himself as anything more definite than absolutely “right,” and Lawrence simply never thought about himself at all. But they were perfectly aware of their mutual dissatisfaction, although they were of course absolutely polite. I heard of it afterwards from both sides, and I will say quite frankly that my sympathy was all with Lawrence. Young Bohun can have been no fun as a travelling companion at that time. If you had looked at him there standing on the Finland station platform and staring haughtily about for porters you must have thought him the most self-satisfied of mortals. “That fellow wants kicking,” you would have said. Good-looking, thin, tall, large black eyes, black eyelashes, clean and neat and “right” at the end of his journey as he had been at the beginning of it, just foreign-looking enough with his black hair and pallor to make him interesting—he was certainly arresting. But it was the self-satisfaction that would have struck any one. And he had reason; he was at that very moment experiencing the most triumphant moment of his life.
He was only twenty-three, and was already as it seemed to the youthfully limited circle of his vision, famous. Before the war he had been, as he quite frankly admitted to myself and all his friends, nothing but ambitious. “Of course I edited the Granta for a year,” he would say, “and I don’t think I did it badly.... But that wasn’t very much.”
No, it really wasn’t a great deal, and we couldn’t tell him that it was. He had always intended, however, to be a great man; the Granta was simply a stepping-stone. He was already, during his second year at Cambridge, casting about as to the best way to penetrate, swiftly and securely, the fastnesses of London journalism. Then the war came, and he had an impulse of perfectly honest and selfless patriotism..., not quite selfless perhaps, because he certainly saw himself as a mighty hero, winning V.C.’s and saving forlorn hopes, finally received by his native village under an archway of flags and mottoes (the local postmaster, who had never treated him very properly, would make the speech of welcome). The reality did him some good, but not very much, because when he had been in France only a fortnight he was gassed and sent home with a weak heart. His heart remained weak, which made him