A SUNDAY MORNING IN TOWN
“You ought not to leave the house—not this morning,” protested Mrs. Galland when Marta was putting on her hat to start for the regular Sunday service of her school.
“The children expect me,” Marta explained.
“Hardly, hardly this morning. They will take it for granted that you will not come.”
But Marta thrust her hatpin home decisively.
“Jacky Werther will certainly be there. Though he were the only one to come, I would not disappoint him!” she said. “Heaven knows, mother, if there were ever a time for teaching peace it is to-day! And I can’t remain inactive. Just to sit still and wait in a time like this—that is too terrible!”
“As you will!” Mrs. Galland responded with gentle resignation.
Garden and veranda were as peaceful as on any other Sunday morning, but it was a different kind of peace—a peace mocked by sounds beyond its boundaries which were to her like the rattling of the steel scales of a demon licking its jaws with its red tongue in voracious anticipation of a gorge and stretching out great steel claws in readiness to sink them into the flesh of its victims when Partow and Westerling gave the word. As Lanstron had said, this demon would feed on every resource and energy of the nation. It had no voice and no thought except kill, kill, kill! And man called this demon patriotism and love of country. Those who risked death in the demon’s honor got iron crosses and bronze crosses, but any one who dared to call it by its true name, if a man, received the decoration of the white feather; if a woman, was regarded as a sentimentalist and merely a woman, and told that she did not understand practical human nature.
Choosing to go to town by the castle road rather than down the terrace to the main pass road, Marta, as she emerged from the grounds, saw Feller, garden-shears in hand and in his workman’s clothes instead of his Sunday black, a figure of stone watching the approach of some field-batteries. In the week of distracting and cumulative suspense that had elapsed since his secret had been revealed to her, their relations had continued as before. She studiously kept up the fiction of his deafness by writing her orders. The question of allowing him to undertake his part as a spy had drifted into the background of her mind under the distressing and ever-present pressure of the crisis. He was to remain until there was war, and thought about anything that implied that war was coming was the more hideous to her the nearer war approached.
“It will be averted! It cannot be!” she was thinking. Her glimpse of him had no more interest for her at this moment of preoccupation than any other familiar object of the landscape.
“The guns! The guns! How I love the guns!” he was thinking.