Gradually he emerged from the misty regions of anaesthesia, and realized that he was on a stretcher, and being carried. He moaned for water, but no one would give it to him. He pleaded that there was something dreadful wrong with him, he was going to burst inside; but they told him that was only ether gas, and not to worry, he would soon be all right. They laid him on a cot in a room, one of a long row, and left him to wrestle with demons all alone. This was war, and a man who had only a shattered arm might count himself among the lucky.
So through a night and a day Jimmie lay and made the best of a bad situation. There were two nurses in this tent, and Jimmie, having nothing to do but watch them, conceived a bitter rage at them both. One was lean and angular and sallow; she went about her duties grimly, with no nonsense, and Jimmie did not realize that she was ready to drop with exhaustion. The other was pretty, with fluffy yellow hair, and was flirting shamelessly with a young doctor. Perhaps Jimmy should have reflected that men were being killed rapidly these days, and it was necessary that some should concern themselves with supplying the future generations; but Jimmie was in no mood to probe the philosophy of flirtation—he remembered the Honourable Beatrice Clendenning, and wished he was back in Merrie England. Also he remembered his pacifist principles, and wished he had kept out of this hellish war!
But his pain became somewhat less, and they loaded him into an ambulance and took him farther back, to a big base hospital. Here, before long, he was able to sit up, and to be wheeled out into the sunshine, and to discover the unguessed raptures of convalescence—the amazing continuous appetite, the amazing continuous supply of good things to eat and drink; the bliss of looking at trees and flowers, and listening to the singing of birds, and telling other people how you rode out on a motor-cycle to look for “Botteree Normb Cott”—what the hell was that, anyhow?—and ran into the whole Hun army, and held it up for a couple of hours, and won the battle of Chatty Terry all alone!
One of the first persons Jimmie saw was Lacey Granitch, and Lacey took him off to a corner of the park and said, “You haven’t told anyone?”
“No, Mr. Granitch,” said Jimmie.
“My name is Peterson,” said Lacey.
“Yes, Mr. Peterson,” said Jimmie.
It was a strange acquaintance between these two, chosen from the opposite poles of social life, and brought together in the democracy of pain. Jimmie had the young lord of Leesville down, and might have walked on his face; but strange as it might seem, Jimmie took towards him an attitude of timid humility. Jimmie felt that he had betrayed him to a cruel and hideous vengeance; moreover, in spite of all his revolutionary fervours, Jimmie could not forget that he was talking to one of the masters of the world. You might hate with all your soul the prestige and power that went with the Granitch millions, but you couldn’t be indifferent to it, you could never feel natural in the presence of it.