“Knighthood is a fair and noble thing, but its vows have no magic—no more than the oaths of the guilds, or the monastic orders, or the allegiance of the vassal to his lord. It is the living spirit that keeps the vows—and when that is gone their power is less than nothing. Once I could not see how it was possible for a man to renounce his knighthood and his Lord. I have lived with such a man, and I know that it came of his losing faith. He lost the power to believe in good. I think that he hated me because I reminded him of his own land and all that he no longer wished to remember.
“Now having known the scourge and the fetters, I may speak to the bondman as a brother. I am alone, with none to need me. Therefore I go hence to join the brethren who are giving their lives to this ministry.”
The Palmer rose to his feet as if in haste to be gone. “I weary you perchance with talk too serious for holiday-time,” he said with that quick smile of his, “but when you come to your own work you will know how close to the heart that lies. Now be glad and make others glad—it was never God’s will, I am right sure, that this world should be a doleful place for the young.”
The piercing silvery notes of the trumpets in the chill air, the trampling of horses in the bailey, gave notice of the arrival of guests. There was no more leisure that day.
In the glitter and glow and splendor of the banquet hall, with its music and gayety, the tall gray figure of the Palmer moved like a spirit. As the guests came one after another to speak with him of his experiences and his plans, their kindling faces proved his rare power of making them see what he saw. To Stephen Giffard the presence of God was as real as the sunrise. In the light of his utter self-sacrifice the loyalty, sweetness and courage of other lives seemed to shine out more brightly. It was all one with the immortal world of Christendom—ruled by the living spirit of the child cradled in Bethlehem centuries ago.
Daily we waited word or sign—
They were our children, these
Who held the unsleeping battle-line
Beyond the haunted seas,
Who gave their golden unlived years
And that clear pathway trod
Lifting through sunset gates of fire
To the far tents of God.
Through trackless realms of unknown space
They wander, unafraid,
For nothing do they fear to face
In worlds that God has made.
Freed from the shattered bonds of earth
They meet their comrades free,
To share the service of the Lord
In truth and loyalty.
Elizabeth’s wise admirals guard
Their dear-loved England’s coast.
From Somme and Meuse no cannon barred
The Maid’s undaunted host.
And still the Foreign Legion hears
In every desperate chance
Her children’s crashing battle-cry—
“For France! For France! For France!”