Dear earth, I do salute thee
with my hand....
Mock not my senseless conjuration, lords,
This earth shall have a feeling....
Stooping and touching the soil of England as one might bend and touch a beloved face. That was what England for years had meant to him. And now.... It was upon these emotions, vaguely, “in case”, that he had gone to Doctor Anderson on the morning of the frightful news. Anderson had told him he couldn’t possibly be passed for the Army, but at the moment the idea of ever wanting to go into the Army had only been an almost ridiculously remote contingency, and what did Anderson know about the Army standard, anyway?
He said nothing to Mabel of his intention. It was just precisely the sort of thing he could not possibly discuss with Mabel. Mabel would say, “Whyever should you?” and of all imaginable ordeals the idea of exposing before Mabel his feeling about England ... he would tell her when it was done, if it came off. He could say then, in what he knew to be the clumsy way in which he had learnt to hide his ideas from her, he could say, “Well, I had to.”
And his thought was, when a few hours later he was walking slowly away from his interview with Major Earnshaw, the doctor at the barracks, “Thank God, I never said anything to Mabel about it.”
The very few officers left behind at the depot were at breakfast when he arrived to keep Colonel Rattray to his word. Major Earnshaw had very pleasantly got up from the table to “put him out of his misery” there and then without formality and had “had a go at this heart of yours” in the billiard room. Withdrawn his stethoscope and shaken his head. It was “no go; absolutely none, Sabre.”
“Well, but that’s for a commission. I’ll go into the ranks. Isn’t that any different?”
No different. “You can’t possibly go in as you are—now. In time, if this thing goes on, the standards will probably be reduced. But they’ll have to be reduced a goodish long way before you’ll get in, I don’t mind telling you.”
Sabre wheeled his bicycle slowly away across the barrack square. “Thank goodness, I never said anything to Mabel about it.” A cluster of young men of various degrees of life were waiting outside the door of the recruiting office. The rush of the first few days was thinning down but recruits were still pouring in. They were all laughing and talking noisily. He had the wish that he could take the thing in that spirit. Why couldn’t he? After all, what did it really matter that he was not able to get “in it”? Even if he had been accepted it would only have been pretending. He never would have got really “in it”; none of those chaps would; every one knew the war couldn’t last long; it would be over long before any of these recruits could be trained.