“Do you realize that the only way we can stop the Germans from ruling the world in their own brutal way is for the free men of all good nations to fight? Do you fully understand that we cannot fight such a beastly enemy in any other way than by killing him? Do you so thoroughly object to fighting that you would see a free world ground under the heel of the despotic Kaiser sooner than help kill his soldiers and thus prevent such a world-wide tragedy? Are you men, or are you dish-rags? Are your consciences so important that you would put the world in cruel bondage rather than violate your own little personal ideas of what is moral? Are you men so sure you’re right that you’d dodge a slight wrong—–if wrong it be—–and allow the greatest wrong ever attempted to triumph? Do your moral principles tell you that it is better to let Shame rule the world instead of Justice?”
Ellis and Rindle were plainly non-plussed by Dick’s passionate appeal to their broader sense of right and truth.
“I’m afraid you two have been patting yourselves on the back in the idea that you stood out for a great moral principle,” Captain Prescott resumed. “Don’t you begin to see that the fact is that, instead, you’re really moral slackers who’d let the world go into the devil’s keeping provided you didn’t have to be made to do something that you don’t want to do? I won’t say you’re physical cowards, for honestly I hardly think you are, but aren’t you at least moral slackers?”
Private Ellis swallowed hard before he replied:
“No, sir; I’m not a moral slacker, for I’ve changed my mind. I’m going to fight if I’m told to. I’m going to do whatever Uncle Sam wants me to do. You’ve put the matter in a different light to me, Captain Prescott.”
“And you, Rindle?”
“I’m going to do myself the honor of asking permission to remain in your company, sir,” replied the second man, his mouth twitching. “I’m a bit of a fool, sir. But I don’t believe that I’m a fool all the way through. I believe that I can see at least part of a truth when it’s put to me fairly, and now I believe that it’s right to fight for truth and justice as against black tyranny—–and I’m ready to do it.”
“Good enough!” cried Dick, his face lighting up, as he held out his hand. “If you have any further doubts, later, come to me. I don’t know everything, but we can get together and perhaps between us we can get close to the truth.”
Shaking hands with the soldiers who had found themselves, and dismissing them, Dick added:
“Sergeant Kelly, find out what non-combatant branch that fellow Pitson would prefer to serve in, see what unit will have him, and then bring the transfer papers to me to sign.”
Passing into the corridor, and hearing the piano’s notes in the mess-room he glanced inside. It was a rest period between drills, and a soldier seated at the instrument strummed his way through the air of a mournful ditty. It’s an odd thing that when the average soldier is wholly cheerful he prefers the “sobful” melodies.