We cannot at this time disengage our thoughts from the war; we cannot, and we ought not. Still less can we take refuge from it in idle dreams of peace and security; but at a time when every paper and book that we see is full of the war and its sufferings, there must be men and women who would do well to turn their hearts and minds for a little away from it. If we brood over it, if we feed our minds upon it, especially if we are by necessity non-combatants, it is all apt to turn to a festering horror which makes us useless and miserable. Whatever happens, we must try not to be simply the worse for the war—morbid, hysterical, beggared of faith and hope, horrified with life. That is the worst of evils; and I believe that it is wholesome to put as far as we can our cramped minds in easier postures, and to let our spirits have a wider range. We know how a dog who is perpetually chained becomes fierce and furious, and thinks of nothing but imaginary foes, so that the most peaceful passer-by becomes an enemy. I have felt, since the war began, a certain poison in the air, a tendency towards suspicion and contentiousness and vague hostility. We must exorcise that evil spirit if we can; and I believe it is best laid by letting our minds go back to the old peace for a little, and resolving that the new peace which we believe is coming shall be of a larger and nobler quality; we may thus come to appreciate the happiness which we enjoyed but had not earned; and lay our plans for earning a new kind of happiness, the essence of which shall be a mutual trust, that desires to give and share whatever it enjoys, instead of hoarding it and guarding it.
A wise and unselfish woman wrote to me the other day in words which will long live in my mind; she had sent out one whom she dearly loved to the front, and she was fighting her fears as gallantly as she could. “Whatever happens, we must not give way to dread,” she wrote. “It does not do to dread anything for our own treasures.”
That is the secret! What we must not do, in the time of war, is to indicate to everyone else what their sacrifices ought to be; we must just make our own sacrifices; and perhaps the man who loves and values peace most highly does not sacrifice the least. But even he may try to realise that life does not contradict itself; but that the parts of it, whether they be delightful or dreadful, do work into each other in a marvellous way.
All the best stories in the world are but one story in reality—the story of an escape. It is the only thing which interests us all and at all times—how to escape. The stories of Joseph, of Odysseus, of the prodigal son, of the Pilgrim’s Progress, of the “Ugly Duckling,” of Sintram, to name only a few out of a great number, they are all stories of escapes. It is the same with all love-stories. “The course of true love never can run smooth,” says the old