Observations of an Orderly eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 129 pages of information about Observations of an Orderly.
have adopted a certain garb for the performance of a certain job—­and, be it remarked, a temporary job.  That garb has not reduced the citizens, who have the honour to wear it, to a monotonous level either of intelligence or of conduct:  nor even of opinions about the war itself.  I have had fire-eaters in my ward who breathed the sentiments of John Bull and the Evening News, and I have had pacifists (they seemed to have fought no less bravely) who, week by week, read and approved Mr. Snowden in the Labour Leader; I have had Radicals and Tories, and patients who cared for neither party, but whose passion was cage-birds or boxing or amateur photography; I have had patients who were sulky and patients who were bright, patients who were unlettered and patients who were educated, patients who could hardly express themselves without the use of an ensanguined vocabulary and patients who were gently spoken and fastidious.  Each of them was Tommy Atkins—­the inanely smirking hero of the picture-paper and the funny paragraph.  Neither his picture nor the paragraph may be positively a lie, and yet, when the arm-chair dweller chucklingly draws attention to them, I am tempted to relapse into irreverence and utter one or other (or perhaps both) of two phrases which T. Atkins is himself credited with using ad nauseam—­“Na-poo” and “I don’t think.”

When I assert—­as I do unhesitatingly assert—­that no one could work in a war-hospital ward for any length of time without an ever-deepening respect and fondness for Tommy Atkins, it is the same thing as asserting that the respect and fondness are evoked by close contact with one’s countrymen:  nothing more nor less.  A hospital ward is a haphazard selection of one’s fellow-Britons:  the most wildly haphazard it is possible to conceive.  And the pessimistic cynic who, after a sojourn in that changing company for a month or two can still either generalise about them or (if he does) can still not acknowledge that in the mass they are amazingly lovable, is beyond hope.  The war has taught its lessons to us all, and none more important than this.  For myself I confess that I never knew before how nice were nine out of ten of the individuals with whom I sat silent in trains, whom I glanced at in business offices or behind counters, whom I saw in workshops or in the field or who were my neighbours in music-halls.  They were strangers.  In the years to come I hope they will be strangers no longer.  For they and I have dressed alike and borne the same surname—­Atkins.

Of course, there remain a few generalisations which can safely be risked about even so nondescript a person as the new Tommy Atkins.  As practically all the Tommy Atkinses are, at this moment, concentrated on the prosecution of one great job, it is natural that their main interests should revolve round that job.  They all (for instance) want the job to be finished.  They all (within my experience) want

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Observations of an Orderly from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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