And Sabre agreed that it really was wonderful: and agreed too with Mabel’s further opinion that he really ought not to get so fearfully depressed.
But he remained fearfully depressed. The abundance of food, and such manifestations of plenty as the bowls and bags of bright new pennies meant nothing to him. He knew nothing about war. Very possibly the prophecies of shortage and restrictions and starvation were, in the proof, to be refuted as a thousand other prophecies of the early days, optimistic and pessimistic, were being refuted. What had that to do with it? Remained the frightful facts that were going on out there in Belgium and in Gallipoli and in Russia. Remained the increasing revelation of Germany’s enormous might in war and the revelation of what war was as she conducted it. Remained the sinister revelation that we were not winning as in the past we had “always won.” Remained his envisagement of England—England!—standing four-square to her enemies, but standing as some huge and splendid animal something bewildered by the fury of the onset upon it. Shaking her head whereon had fallen stunning and unexpected blows, as it might be a lion enormously smashed across the face; roaring her defiance; baring her fangs; tearing up the ground before her; dreadful and undaunted and tremendous; but stricken; in sore agony; in heavy amazement; her pride thrust through with swords; her glory answered by another’s glory; her dominion challenged; shaken, bleeding.
England.... This frightful war!
Remained also, blowing about the streets, in the newspapers and at meetings, in the mouths of many, and in the eyes of most, the new popular question, “Why aren’t you in khaki?” The subject of age, always shrouded in a seemly and decorous modesty in England, and especially since, a few years previously, an eminent professor of medicine had unloosed the alarming theory of “Too old at forty”, was suddenly ripped out of its prudish coverings. One generation of men began to talk with thoroughly engaging frankness and largeness about their age. They would even announce it in a loud voice in crowded public conveyances. It was nothing, in those days, to hear a man suddenly declare in an omnibus or tramway car, “Well, I’m thirty-eight and I only wish to heaven I was a few years younger.” Other men would heartfully chime in, “Ah, same thing with me. It’s hard.” And all these men, thus cruelly burdened with a few more years than the age limit, would look with great intensity at other men, apparently not thus burdened, who for their part would assume attitudes of physical unfitness or gaze very sternly out of the window.