And yet, so strange a havoc does this war work that, if I have to “Go West,” I shall go proudly and quietly. I have seen too many men die bravely to make a fuss if my turn comes. A mixed passenger list old Father Charon must have each night—Englishmen, Frenchmen, and Huns. To-morrow I shall have another sight of the greenness and then—the guns.
I don’t know whether I have been able to make any of my emotions clear to you in my letters. Terror has a terrible fascination. Up to now I have always been afraid—afraid of small fears. At last I meet fear itself and it stings my pride into an unpremeditated courage.
I’ve just had a pile of letters from you all. How ripping it is to be remembered! Letters keep one civilised.
It’s late and I’m very tired. God bless you each and all.
November 15th, 1916.
I’ve owed you a letter for some time, but I’ve been getting very little leisure. You can’t send steel messages to the Kaiser and love-notes to your family in the same breath.
I am amazed at the spirit you three are showing and almighty proud that you can muster such courage. I suppose none of us quite realised our strength till it came to the test. There was a time when we all doubted our own heroism. I think we were typical of our age. Every novel of the past ten years has been more or less a study in sentiment and self-distrust. We used to wonder what kind of stuff Drake’s men were made of that they could jest while they died. We used to contrast ourselves with them to our own disfavour. Well, we know now that when there’s a New World to be discovered we can still rise up reincarnated into spiritual pirates. It wasn’t the men of our age who were at fault, but the New World that was lacking. Our New World is the Kingdom of Heroism, the doors of which are flung so wide that the meanest of us may enter. I know men out here who are the dependable daredevils of their brigades, who in peace times were nuisances and as soon as peace is declared will become nuisances again. At the moment they’re fine, laughing at Death and smiling at the chance of agony. There’s a man I know of who had a record sheet of crimes. When he was out of action he was always drunk and up for office. To get rid of him, they put him into the trench mortars and within a month he had won his D.C.M. He came out and went on the spree—this particular spree consisted in stripping a Highland officer of his kilts on a moonlight night. For this he was sentenced to several months in a military prison, but asked to be allowed to serve his sentence in the trenches. He came out from his punishment a King’s sergeant—which means that whatever he did nobody could degrade him. He got this for lifting his trench mortar over the parapet when all the detachment were killed. Carrying it out into a shell-hole, he held back the Hun attack