The Parts Men Play eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 299 pages of information about The Parts Men Play.

In its own way it was Britain’s mob saying to Britain’s Regulars that it was to be hoped no one would think they imagined themselves soldiers in the real sense of the word.

But to Selwyn the noise of their marching feet on the roadway had the ominous sound of the roll of the tumbrils, bearing their victims to the guillotine.

The procession was nearly ended and he was about to turn away, when his eye was attracted by a peculiar pair of knees encased in trousers that were much too tight, working jerkily from side to side as their owner marched.  Although his face was almost hidden by reason of his vagabond hat being completely on one side, it was not difficult to recognise the futurist, Johnston Smyth.  He appeared to be in rare form, as an admiring group of fellow-recruits in his immediate vicinity were almost doubled up with laughter, and even the grizzled Highland sergeant marching sternly in the rear had such difficulty in suppressing a loud guffaw that his face was a mottled purple.

And marching beside the humorist, with a slouch-cap low over his eyes, was the lad who was known as ‘Boy-blue.’

IV.

As this tale of the parts men play unfolds itself a passing thought comes.

From the standpoint of fairness, economics, and efficiency, conscription should have been Britain’s first move.  But nations, like individuals, have great moments that reveal the inner character and leave beacons blazing on the hills of history.

In a war in which every nation was the loser, Britain can at least reclaim from the wreckage the memory of that glorious hour when the Angelus of patriotism rang over the Empire, and men of every creed, pursuit, and condition dropped their tasks and sank themselves in the great consecration of service.

What is the paltry glory of a bloody victory or the passing sting of a defeat?

War is base, senseless, and degrading—­that was one truth that Selwyn did recognise; but what he failed to see was that in the midst of all the foulness there lay some glorious gems.  When battles are forgotten and war is remembered as a hideous anachronism of the past, our children and their children will bow in reverence to that stone set high in Britain’s diadem—­THEY SERVED.

CHAPTER XVI.

THE FEMININE TOUCH.

I.

In a small South Kensington flat a young woman was seated before a mirror, adding to her beauty with those artifices which are supposed to lure the male to helpless capitulation.  Two candles gave a shadowy, mysterious charm to the reflection—­a quality somewhat lacking in the original—­and it was impossible for its owner to look on the picture of pensive eyelashes, radiant eyes, and warm cheeks without a murmur of admiration.  She smiled once to estimate the exact amount of teeth that should be shown; she leaned forward and looked yearningly, soulfully, into the brown eyes in the glass.  With a sigh of satisfaction she lit a cigarette from one of the candles, and leaning back, watched the smoke passing across the face of the reflection.

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The Parts Men Play from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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