Monday always began as a full day, what with staff meeting and so on, and its being Bank Holiday did not make much difference to them. But in the afternoon he was free to read carefully the Sunday papers, and was appalled with the swiftness of the approach of the universal cataclysm. After Evensong and supper, then, he got out paper and pen and wrote, though it took much longer than he thought it would. In the end he begged the Bishop to remember him if it was really necessary to find more chaplains, and expressed his readiness to serve the Church and the country when he was wanted. When it was written, he sat long over the closed envelope and smoked a couple of pipes. He wondered if men were killing each other, even now, just over the water. He pictured a battle scene, drawing from imagination and what he remembered of field-days at Aldershot. He shuddered a little as he conceived himself crawling through heather to reach a man in the front line who had been hit, while the enemies’ guns on the crest opposite were firing as he had seen them fire in play. He tried to imagine what it would be like to be hit.
Then he got up and stretched himself. He looked round curiously at the bookcase, the Oxford group or two, the hockey cap that hung on the edge of one. He turned to the mantelpiece and glanced over the photos. Probably Bob Scarlett would be out at once; he was in some Irish regiment or other. Old Howson was in India; he wouldn’t hear or see much. Jimmy—what would Jimmy do, now? He picked up the photograph and looked at it—the clean-shaven, thoughtful, good-looking face of the best fellow in the world, who had got his fellowship almost at once after his brilliant degree, and was just now, he reflected, on holiday in the South of France. Jimmy, the idealist, what would Jimmy do? He reached for a hat and made for the door. He would post his letter that night under the stars.
Once outside, he walked on farther down Westminster way. At the Bridge he leaned for a while and watched the sullen, tireless river, and then turned to walk up past the House. It was a clear, still night, and the street was fairly empty. Big Ben boomed eleven, and as he crossed in front of the gates to reach St. Margaret’s he wondered what was doing in there. He had the vaguest notion where people like the Prime Minister and Sir Edward Grey would be that night. He thought possibly with the King, or in Downing Street. And then he heard his name being called, and turned to see Sir Robert Doyle coming towards him.
The other’s face arrested him. “Is there any news, Sir Robert?” he asked.
Sir Robert glanced up in his turn at the great shining dial above them. “Our ultimatum has gone or is just going to Germany, and in twenty-four hours we shall be at war,” he said tersely. “I’m just going home; I’ve been promised a job.”