’All the same I don’t hear any gossip as to what you and I were afraid of. I wonder if I was a brute to answer her as I did—and after her nice letter to me? Anyway, it’s no wonder she doesn’t write to me any more. And she did tell me such a lot of news.
Your writing-pad is really ripping. Likewise pen.
Hullo, there go some more shells. I really must get back and
see what’s up.—Your loving
Meanwhile in the seething world of London, where the war-effort of an Empire was gathered up into one mighty organism, the hush of expectancy grew ever deeper. Only a few weeks or days could now divide us from the German rush on Paris and the coast. Behind the German lines all was movement and vast preparation. Any day England might rise to find the last fight begun.
Yet morning after morning all the news that came was of raids, endless raids, on both sides—a perpetual mosquito fight, buzzing now here, now there, as information was wanted by the different Commands. Many lives were lost day by day, many deeds of battle done. But it all seemed as nothing—less than nothing—to those whose minds were fixed on the clash to come.
Then one evening, early in the second week in March, a telegram reached Aubrey Mannering at Aldershot. He rushed up to town, and went first to the War Office, where Chicksands was at work.
Chicksands sprang up to meet him.
’You’ve heard? I’ve just got this. I made his Colonel promise to wire me if—’
He pointed to an open telegram on his table:
“Desmond badly hit in raid last night. Tell his people. Authorities will probably give permission to come. Well looked after.”
The two men stared at each other.
‘I have wired to my father,’ said Mannering, ’and am now going to meet him at King’s Cross. Can you go and tell Pamela to get ready—or Margaret? But he’ll want Pamela!’
Neither was able to speak for a moment, till Mannering said, ’I’ll bring my father to Margaret’s, and then I’ll go and see after the permits.’
He lingered a moment.
‘I—I think it means the worst.’
Chicksands’ gesture was one of despair.
Then they hurried away from the War Office together.
It was afternoon at Mannering.