His brows were puckered up. “What is it you are saying?”
“I’m simply saying that, behaving like that, it’s not quite fair to pretend that I’m not enthusiastic enough for you about this Lord Derby thing. It isn’t as if you were really in the Army—”
He wished not to speak, but he could not let this go. “But I am in.”
“Yes, but not properly in—yet. And perhaps you won’t ever be. It doesn’t seem like being in to me. That’s all I’m saying. Surely there’s no harm in that?”
He was at the window staring out into the garden. “No, there’s no harm in it.”
“Well, then. What are we arguing about it for?”
He turned towards her. “Well, but do understand, Mabel. If you think I was a fool rushing in like that, as you call it. Do understand. It’s a Government scheme. It’s binding. It isn’t a joke.”
“No, but I think they make it a joke, and I can’t think why you can’t see the funny side of it. I think giving you two and eightpence like that—a man in your position—is too lovely for words.”
He took the coins from his pocket, and jerked them on the table before her. “Here, pay the butcher with it.”
But as he reached the door, his face working, the tremendous and magnificent thought struck into his realisation again. “I’m in the Army! By gad, I’m in the Army. I don’t care what happens now.” He strode back, smiling, and took up the money. “No, I’m dashed if I can let it go!” He went out jingling it and turned into the kitchen. “I say, High, Low, I’m in the Army! I’ve got in. I’ll be off soon. Look at my badge!”
They chorused, “Well, there now!”
He said delightedly, “Pretty good, eh? Isn’t it fine! Look at this—that’s my pay. Two and eightpence!”
The chorus, “Oh, if ever!”
High Jinks said, “That armlet, sir, that’s too loose. It don’t half show down on your elbow, sir. You want it up here.”
“Yes, that’s the place. Won’t it stay?”
“I’ll put a safety pin in, sir; and then to-night shift the buttons. That’s what it wants.”
“Yes, do, High. That’s fine.”
He held out his arm and the two girls pinned to advantage the splendid sign of his splendid triumph.
“There, sir. Now it shows. And won’t we be proud of you, just, in khaki and all!”
He laughed delightedly. “I’m jolly proud of myself, I tell you! Now, then, Thumbs, I don’t want bayonets in me yet!”
Glorious! Glorious! And what would not Nona say!
Life, when it takes so giant a hand in its puppet show as to upturn a cauldron of world war upon the puppets, may be imagined biting its fingers in some chagrin at the little result in particular instances. As vegetation beneath snow, so individual development beneath universal calamity. Nature persists; individual life persists. The snow melts, the calamity passes; the green things spring again, the individual lives are but approached more nearly to their several destinations.