“It interrupts everything,” said Hugh suddenly. “These Prussians are the biggest nuisance the world has ever seen.”
He considered. “It’s like every one having to run out because the house catches fire. But of course we have to beat them. It has to be done. And every one has to take a share.
“Then we can get on with our work again.”
Mr. Britling turned his eyes to his eldest son with a startled expression. He had been speaking—generally. For the moment he had forgotten Hugh.
CHAPTER THE SECOND
There were now two chief things in the mind of Mr. Britling. One was a large and valiant thing, a thing of heroic and processional quality, the idea of taking up one’s share in the great conflict, of leaving the Dower House and its circle of habits and activities and going out—. From that point he wasn’t quite sure where he was to go, nor exactly what he meant to do. His imagination inclined to the figure of a volunteer in an improvised uniform inflicting great damage upon a raiding invader from behind a hedge. The uniform, one presumes, would have been something in the vein of the costume in which he met Mr. Direck. With a “brassard.” Or he thought of himself as working at a telephone or in an office engaged upon any useful quasi-administrative work that called for intelligence rather than training. Still, of course, with a “brassard.” A month ago he would have had doubts about the meaning of “brassard”; now it seemed to be the very keyword for national organisation. He had started for London by the early train on Monday morning with the intention of immediate enrolment in any such service that offered; of getting, in fact, into his brassard at once. The morning papers he bought at the station dashed his conviction of the inevitable fall of Paris into hopeful doubts, but did not shake his resolution. The effect of rout and pursuit and retreat and retreat and retreat had disappeared from the news. The German right was being counter-attacked, and seemed in danger of getting pinched between Paris and Verdun with the British on its flank. This relieved his mind, but it did nothing to modify his new realisation of the tremendous gravity of the war. Even if the enemy were held and repulsed a little there was still work for every man in the task of forcing them back upon their own country. This war was an immense thing, it would touch everybody.... That meant that every man must give himself. That he had to give himself. He must let nothing stand between him and that clear understanding. It was utterly shameful now to hold back and not to do one’s utmost for civilisation, for England, for all the ease and safety one had been given—against these drilled, commanded, obsessed millions.