Now that at last it has come—this privileged moment for which I have worked and waited—my heart is very quiet. It’s the test of a character which I have often doubted. I shall be glad not to have to doubt it again. Whatever happens, I know you will be glad to remember that at a great crisis I tried to play the man, however small my qualifications. We have always lived so near to one another’s affections that this going out alone is more lonely to me than to most men. I have always had some one near at hand with love-blinded eyes to see my faults as springing from higher motives. Now I reach out my hands across six thousand miles and only touch yours with my imagination to say good-bye. What queer sights these eyes, which have been almost your eyes, will witness! If my hands do anything respectable, remember that it is your hands that are doing it. It is your influence as a family that has made me ready for the part I have to play, and where I go, you follow me.
Poor little circle of three loving persons, please be tremendously brave. Don’t let anything turn you into cowards—we’ve all got to be worthy of each other’s sacrifice; the greater the sacrifice may prove to be for the one the greater the nobility demanded of the remainder. How idle the words sound, and yet they will take deep meanings when time has given them graver sanctions. I think gallant is the word I’ve been trying to find—we must be gallant English women and gentlemen.
It’s been raining all day and I got very wet this morning. Don’t you wish I had caught some quite harmless sickness? When I didn’t want to go back to school, I used to wet my socks purposely in order to catch cold, but the cold always avoided me when I wanted it badly. How far away the childish past seems—almost as though it never happened. And was I really the budding novelist in New York? Life has become so stern and scarlet—and so brave. From my window I look out on the English Channel, a cold, grey-green sea, with rain driving across it and a fleet of small craft taking shelter. Over there beyond the curtain of mist lies France—and everything that awaits me.
News has just come that I have to start. Will continue from France.
Yours ever lovingly,
Friday, September 1st, 1916, 11 am.
Dearest father and mother:
I embark at 12.30—so this is the last line before I reach France. I expect the boys are now within sight of English shores—I wish I could have had an hour with them.
I’m going to do my best to bring you honour—remember that—I shall do things for your sake out there, living up to the standards you have taught me.
Yours with a heart full of
France, September 1st, 1916.