One day he looked up quickly and said, “I want to go—I want to help the British Empire—while there is a British Empire!”
And then I realized that my boy, my boy, had suddenly become a man and had put away childish things forever.
I shall always be glad that the call came to him, not in the intoxication of victory, but in the dark hour of apparent defeat.
Let’s pretend the skies are blue,
Let’s pretend the world is new,
And the birds of hope are singing
All the day!
Short of gladness—learn to
Long on sadness—go and shake it!
Life is only—what you make it,
There is wisdom without end
In the game of “Let’s pretend!”
We played it to-day. We had to, for the boys went away, and we had to send our boys away with a smile! They will have heartaches and homesickness a-plenty, without going away with their memories charged with a picture of their mothers in tears, for that’s what takes the heart out of a boy. They are so young, so brave, we felt that we must not fail them.
With such strong words as these did we admonish each other, when we met the last night, four of us, whose sons were among the boys who were going away. We talked hard and strong on this theme, not having a very good grip on it ourselves, I am afraid. We simply harangued each other on the idleness of tears at stations. Every one of us had something to say; and when we parted, it was with the tacit understanding that there was an Anti-Tear League formed—the boys were leaving on an early train in the morning!
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The morning is a dismal time anyway, and teeth will chatter, no matter how brave you feel! It is a squeamish, sickly, choky time,—a winter morning before the sun is up; and you simply cannot eat breakfast when you look round the table and see every chair filled,—even the five-year-old fellow is on hand,—and know that a long, weary time is ahead of the one who sits next you before he comes again to his father’s house. Even though the conversation is of the gayest, every one knows what every one else is thinking.
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There is no use trying—I cannot write the story of that morning.... I will tell you of other troop-trains I have seen go. I will tell you of another boy who carried off all the good-byes with a high hand and great spirits, and said something to every one of the girls who brought him candy, telling one that he would remember her in his will, promising another that he would marry her when he got to be Admiral of the Swiss Navy, but who, when he came to say good-bye to his father, suddenly grew very white and very limp, and could only say, “Oh, dad! Good old dad!”
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