A pause, and then—so faintly breathed as to be scarcely audible, and yet in ecstasy—’England!—England!’
His joy was wonderful—heart-breaking—while all those around him wept.
He lay murmuring to himself a little while, his hand in Pamela’s. Then for a last time he looked at his father, but was now too weak to speak. His eyes, intently fixed on the Squire, kept their marvellous brightness—no one knew how long. Then gently, as though an unseen hand put out a light, the brilliance died away—the lids fell—and with a few breaths Desmond’s young life was past.
It was three weeks after Desmond’s death. Pamela was sitting in the ‘den’ writing a letter to Arthur Chicksands at Versailles. The first onslaught on Amiens was over. The struggle between Bethune and Ypres was in full swing.
’DEAREST—This house is so strange—the world is so strange! Oh, if I hadn’t my work to do!—how could one bear it? It seems wrong and hateful even, to let one’s mind dwell on the wonderful, wonderful thing, that you love me! The British Army retreating—retreating—after these glorious years—that is what burns into me hour after hour! Thank God Desmond didn’t know! And if I feel like this, who am just an ignorant, inexperienced girl, what must it be for you who are working there, at the very centre, the news streaming in on you all the time?—you who know how much there is to fear—but also how much there is to be certain of—to be confident of—that we can’t know. Our splendid, splendid men! Every day I watch for the names I know in the death list—and some of them seem to be always there. The boy—the other sub-lieutenant—who was with Desmond when he was wounded, was in the list yesterday. Forest’s boy is badly wounded. The old gardener has lost another son. Perley’s boy is “missing,” and so is the poor Pennington boy. They are heroic—the Penningtons—but whenever I see them I want to cry.... Oh, I can’t write this any more. I have been writing letters of sympathy all day.
’Dearest, you would be astonished if you could see me at this moment. I am to-day a full blown group leader. Do you know what that means? I have had a long round among some of our farms to-day—bargaining with the farmers for the land-girls in my group, and looking after their billets. Yesterday I spent half the day in “docking” with six or eight village women to give them a “send off.” I don’t believe you know what docking means. It is pretty hard work, and at night I have a nightmare—of roots that never come to an end, and won’t pull out!
’You were quite right—it is my work. I was born in the country. I know and love it. The farmers are very nice to me. They see I don’t try to boss them as the Squire’s daughter—that I’m just working as they are. And I can say a good deal to them about the war, because