Part 3 out of 8
with a full appreciation of its solemn reality, but without fear,
and with a quiet determination to make whatever sacrifice might be
demanded of them. The perfect understanding that had always marked
their intercourse with each other was restored. The intolerable
burden of mutual uncertainty in regard to each other's attitude
toward the war was lifted. All shadows that lay between them were
gone. Nothing else really mattered.
The day following, Barry received a rude shock. The M. O., after
an examination, to his amazement and dismay, pronounced him
physically unfit for service.
"And why, pray?" cried his father indignantly, when Barry announced
the astounding report. "Is the man a fool? I understood that he
was strict. But you! unfit! It is preposterous. Unfit! how?"
"Heart murmur," said Barry. "Sets it down to asthma. You remember
I told you I had a rotten attack after my experience last week in
the river. He suggested that I apply for a position in an
ambulance corps, and he is giving me a letter to Colonel Sidleigh
at Edmonton. I am going to-morrow to Edmonton to see Sidleigh, and
besides I have some church business to attend to. I must call upon
my superintendent. You remember I made an application to him for
another mission field."
He found Colonel Sidleigh courteously willing to accept his
application, the answer to which, he was informed, he might expect
in a fortnight; and so went with a comparatively light heart to his
interview with his superintendent.
The interview, however, turned out not entirely as he had expected.
He went with an idea of surrendering his appointment. His
superintendent made him an offer of another and greater.
"So they turned you down," said the superintendent. "Well, I
consider it most providential. You have applied for a position on
the ambulance corps. As fine as is that service, and as splendid
as are its possibilities, I offer you something much finer, and I
will even say much more important to our army and to our cause. We
are in need of men for the Chaplain Service, and for this service
we demand the picked men of our church. The appointments that have
been made already are some of them most unsuitable, some, I regret
to say, scandalous. Let me tell you, sir, of an experience in
Winnipeg only last week. It was, my fortune to fall in with the
commanding officer of a Saskatchewan unit. I found him in a rage
against the church and all its officials. His chaplain had become
so hilarious at the mess that he was quite unable to carry on."
"Hilarious?" inquired Barry.
"Hilarious, sir. Yes, plain drunk. Think of it. Think of the
crime! the shame of it! A man charged with the responsibility of
the souls of these men going to war--possibly to their death--
drunk, in their presence! A man standing for God and the great
eternal verities, incapacitated before them! I took the matter up
with Ottawa, and I have this satisfaction at least, that I believe
that no such appointment will ever be made again. That chaplain, I
may say too, has been dismissed. I have here, sir, a mission field
suitable to your ability and experience. I shall not offer it to
you. I am offering you the position of chaplain in one of our
Barry stood before him, dumb with dismay.
"Of course, I want to go to the war," he said at length, "but I am
sure, sir, I am not the man for the position you offer me."
"Sir," said the superintendent, "I have taken the liberty of
sending in your name. Time was an element. Appointments were
being rapidly made, and I was extremely anxious that you should go
with this battalion. I confess to a selfish interest. My own boy,
Duncan, has enlisted in that unit, and many of our finest young men
with him. I assumed the responsibility of asking for your
appointment. I must urge you solemnly to consider the matter
before you decline."
Eloquently Barry pleaded his unfitness, instancing his failure as a
preacher in his last field.
"I am not a preacher," he protested. "I am not a 'mixer.' They
all say so. I shall be impossible as a chaplain."
"Young man," said the superintendent, a note of sternness in his
voice, "you know not what transformations in character this war
will work. Would I were twenty years younger," he added
passionately, "twenty years sounder. Think of the opportunity to
stand for God among your men, to point them the way of duty, and
fit them for it, to bring them comfort, when they need comfort
sorely, to bring them peace, when they most need peace."
Barry came away from the interview more disturbed than he had ever
been in his life. After he had returned to his hotel, a message
from his superintendent recalled him.
"I have a bit of work to do," he said, "in which I need your help.
I wish you to join me in a visitation of some of the military camps
in this district. We start this evening."
There was nothing for it but to obey his superintendent's orders.
The two weeks' experience with his chief gave Barry a new view and
a new estimate of the chaplain's work. As he came into closer
touch with camp life and its conditions, he began to see how great
was the soldier's need of such moral and spiritual support as a
chaplain might be able to render. He was exposed to subtle and
powerful temptations. He was deprived of the wonted restraints
imposed by convention, by environment, by family ties. The
reactions from the exhaustion of physical training, from the
monotonous routine of military discipline, from loneliness and
homesickness were such as to call for that warm, sympathetic,
brotherly aid, and for the uplifting spiritual inspiration that it
is a chaplain's privilege to offer. But in proportion as the
service took on a nobler and loftier aspect, was Barry conscious
to a corresponding degree of his own unfitness for the work.
When he returned to the city, he found no definite information
awaiting him in regard to a place in the ambulance corps. He
returned home in an unhappy and uncertain frame of mind.
But under the drive of war, events were moving rapidly in Barry's
life. He arrived late in the afternoon, and proceeding to the
military H.Q., he found neither his father nor Captain Neil Fraser
in the office.
"Gone out for the afternoon, sir," was the word from the orderly in
Wandering about the village, he saw in a field at its outskirts, a
squad of recruits doing military evolutions and physical drill. As
he drew near he was arrested by the short, snappy tones of the
N. C. O. in charge.
"That chap knows his job," he said to himself, "and looks like his
job, too," he added, as his eyes rested upon the neat, upright,
Captain Neil he found observing the drill from a distance.
"What do you think of that?" he called out to Barry, as the latter
came within hailing distance. "What do you think of my sergeant?"
"Fine," replied Barry. "Where did you get him?"
"What? Look at him!"
"I am. Pretty natty sergeant he makes, too."
"Let's go out there, and I'll introduce him."
As they crossed the parade ground, the sergeant dropped his
military tone and proceeded to explain in his ordinary voice some
details in connection with the drill. Barry, catching the sound of
his voice, stopped short.
"You don't mean it, Captain Neil! Not dad, is it?"
"Nobody else," said Captain Neil. "Wait a minute. Wait and let's
watch him at his work."
For some time they stood observing the work of the new sergeant.
Barry was filled with amazement and delight.
"What do you think of him?" inquired Captain Neil.
But Barry made no reply.
"My company sergeant major got drunk," continued Captain Neil. "I
had no one to take the drill. I asked your father to take it. He
nearly swept us off our feet. In consequence, there he stands, my
company sergeant major, and let me tell you, he will be the
regimental sergeant major before many weeks have passed, or I'm a
"But his age," inquired Barry, still in a maze of astonishment.
"Oh, that's all right. You don't want them too young. I assured
the authorities that he was of proper military age, telling them,
at the same time, that I must have him. He's a wonder, and the men
just adore him."
"I don't wonder at that," said Barry.
Together they moved over to the squad. The sergeant, observing his
officer, called his men smartly to attention, and greeted the
captain with a very snappy salute.
"Sergeant major, let me introduce you to my friend, Mr. Barry
Dunbar," said Captain Neil with a grin.
"I say, dad," said Barry, still unable to associate his father with
this N. C. O. in uniform who stood before him. "I say, dad, where
did you get all that military stuff?"
"I'm very rusty, my boy, very rusty! I hope to brush up, though.
The men are improving, I think, sir."
"I'm sure of it," said Captain Neil. "How is that wild man from
"He is finding it hard work, sir, I'm afraid. He finds it
difficult to connect up this drill business with the business of
war. He wants to go right off and kill Germans. But he is making
an effort to put up with me."
"And you, with him, eh, sergeant major? But turn them loose. They
have done enough for to-day, and I know your son wants to take you
off with him, and get you to explain how you go into the army."
The explanation came as they were walking home together.
"You see, boy, I felt keenly your disappointment in being rejected
from the fighting forces of the country. I felt too that our
family ought to be represented in the fighting line, so when
Captain Fraser found himself in need of a drill sergeant, I could
hardly refuse. I would have liked to have consulted you, my boy,
"Not at all, dad; you did perfectly right. It was just fine of
you. I'm as proud as Punch. I only wish I could go with you. I'd
like to be in your squad. But never mind, I've two jobs open to me
now, and I sorely need your advice."
Together they talked over the superintendent's offer of the
position of chaplain.
"I can't see myself a chaplain, dad. The position calls for an
older man, a man of wider experience. Many of these men would be
almost twice my age. Now the superintendent himself would be the
man for the job. You ought to see him at his work with the
soldiers. I really can't think I'm fit."
In this opinion his father rather concurred.
"An older man would be better, Barry--a man of more experience
would be of more service, and, yet I don't know. One thing I am
sure of, if you accept the position, I believe you will fill it
worthily. After all, in every department, this war is a young
"Of course," said Barry. "If I went as chaplain, it would be in
your unit, dad, and that would be altogether glorious."
"I do hope so. But we must not allow that, however, to influence
our decision," replied his father.
"I know, I know!" hurriedly agreed Barry. "I trust I would not be
unduly influenced by personal considerations."
This hope, however, was rudely dashed by an unexpected call for a
draft of recruits from Captain Neil's company that came through
from Colonel Kavanagh to replace a draft suddenly dispatched to
make up to strength another western regiment. Attached to the call
there was a specific request, which amounted to a demand for the
sergeant major, for whose special qualifications as physical and
military instructor there was apparently serious need in Colonel
With great reluctance, and with the expenditure of considerable
profanity, Captain Neil Fraser dispatched his draft and agreed to
the surrender of his sergeant major.
The change came as a shock to both Barry and his father. For some
days they had indulged the hope that they would both be attached to
the same military unit, and unconsciously this had been weighing
with Barry in his consideration of his probable appointment as
The disappointment of their hope was the more bitter when it was
announced that Colonel Kavanagh's battalion was warned for
immediate service overseas, and the further announcement that in
all probability the new battalion, to which the Wapiti company
would be attached, might not be dispatched until some time in the
"But you may catch us up in England, Barry," said his father, when
Barry was deploring their ill luck. "No one knows what our
movements will be. I do wish, however, that your position were
The decision in this matter came quickly, and was, without his will
or desire, materially hastened by Barry himself.
Colonel Kavanagh's battalion being under orders to depart within
ten days, a final Church Parade was ordered, at which only soldiers
and their kin were permitted to be present. The preacher for the
day falling ill from an overweight of war work, and Barry being in
the city with nothing to do, the duty of preaching at this Parade
Service was suddenly thrust upon him.
To his own amazement and to that of his father, Barry accepted
without any fear or hesitation this duty which in other circumstances
would have overwhelmed him with dismay. But to Barry the occasion
was of such surpassing magnitude and importance that all personal
considerations were obliterated.
The war, with its horrors, its losses, its overwhelming sacrifice,
its vast and eternal issues, was the single fact that filled his
mind. It was this that delivered him from that nervous self-
consciousness, the preacher's curse, that paralyses the mental
activities, chills the passions, and cloggs the imagination, so
that his sermon becomes a lifeless repetition of words, previously
prepared, correct, even beautiful, it may be in form, logical in
argument, sound in philosophy, but dead, dull and impotent, bereft
of the fire that kindles the powers of the soul, the emotion that
urges to action, the imagination that lures to high endeavour.
"I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye
present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God,
which is your reasonable service."
The voice, clear, vibrant, melodious, arrested with its first word
the eyes and hearts of his hearers, and so held them to the end.
With the earnest voice there was the fascination of a face alight
with a noble beauty, eyes glowing as with lambent flame.
A second time he read the appealing words, then paused and allowed
his eyes to wander quietly over the congregation. They represented
to him in that hour the manhood and womanhood of his country.
Sincerely, with no attempt at rhetoric and with no employment of
any of its tricks, he began his sermon.
"This war," he said, "is a conflict of ideals eternally opposed.
Our ambitious and ruthless enemy has made the issue and has
determined the method of settlement. It is a war of souls, but the
method of settlement is not that of reason but that of force--a
force that finds expression through your bodies. Therefore the
appeal of the Apostle Paul, this old-world hero, to the men of his
time reaches down to us in this day, and at this crisis of the
world's history. Offer your bodies--these living bodies--these
sacred bodies--offer them in sacrifice to God."
There was little discussion of the causes of the war. What need?
They knew that this war was neither of their desiring nor of their
making. There was no attempt to incite hatred or revenge. There
was little reference to the horrors of war, to its griefs, its
dreadful agonies, its irreparable losses.
From the first word he lifted his audience to the high plane of
sacrament and sacrifice. They were called upon to offer upon the
altar of the world's freedom all that they held dear in life--yea,
life itself! It was the ancient sacrifice that the noblest of the
race had always been called upon to make. In giving themselves to
this cause they were giving themselves to their country. They were
offering themselves to God. In simple diction, and in clear
flowing speech, the sermon proceeded without pause or stumbling
to the end. The preacher closed with an appeal to the soldiers
present to make this sacrifice of theirs at once worthy and
complete. These bodies of theirs were sacred and were devoted
to this cause. It was their duty to keep them clean and fit.
For a few brief moments, he turned to the others present at the
service--the fathers, mothers, wives and sweethearts of the
soldiers, and reminded them in tones thrilling with tenderness and
sympathy that though not privileged to share in the soldiers'
service in the front lines, none the less might they share in this
sacrifice, by patient endurance of the separation and loss, by a
cheerful submission to trial, and by continual remembrance in
prayer to Almighty God of the sacred cause and its defenders they
might help to bring this cause to victory.
In the brief prayer that followed the sermon, in words tender,
simple, heart-moving, he led the people in solemn dedication of
themselves, soul and body, to their country, to their cause, to
The effect of the sermon and prayer was overpowering. There were
no tears, but men walked out with heads more erect, because of the
exaltation of spirit which was theirs. And women, fearful of the
coming hour of parting, felt their hearts grow strong within them
with the thought that they were voluntarily sending their men away.
Upon the whole congregation lay a new and solemn sense of duty, a
new and uplifting sense of privilege in making the sacrifice of all
that they counted precious for this holy cause.
It was the sermon that brought the decision in the matter of
"What do you think of that, Colonel Kavanagh?" asked Captain Neil
Fraser, who came in for the service.
"A very fine sermon! A very notable sermon!" said the colonel.
"Who is he?"
"He is my own minister," said Captain Neil, "and he gave me, to-
day, the surprise of my life. I didn't know it was in him. I
understand there is a chance of his being our chaplain. He is
Sergeant Dunbar's son."
"I wish to Heaven we could take him with us! What about it,
Fraser? We've got the father, why not the son, too? They'd both
"I say, Colonel, for Heaven's sake, have a heart. I hated to
surrender my company sergeant major. I don't think I ought to be
asked to surrender our chaplain."
"All right, Fraser, so be it. But you have got a wonderful
chaplain in that boy. What a face! What a voice! And that's the
kind of a spirit we want in our men."
That very afternoon, Captain Neil went straight away to Colonel
Leighton, the officer commanding the new regiment to which Captain
Neil's company belonged. To the colonel he gave an enthusiastic
report of the sermon, with Colonel Kavanagh's judgment thereon.
"I would suggest, sir, that you wire Ottawa on the matter," he
urged. "If Colonel Kavanagh thought he had a chance, he would not
hesitate. We really ought to get this fixed. I assure you he's a
"Go to it, then, Fraser. I'm rather interested to see your earnest
desire for a chaplain. The Lord knows you need one! Go up to
Headquarters and use my name. Say what you like."
Thus it came that the following day Barry was informed by wire of
his appointment as chaplain of the new regiment of Alberta rangers.
"It's at least a relief to have the matter settled," said his
father, to whom Barry brought his wire. "Barry, I'm glad of the
opportunity to tell you that since yesterday, my mind has undergone
considerable change. I am not sure but that you have found your
place and your work in the war."
"No, dad," answered Barry, "I wasn't responsible for that sermon
yesterday. The war was very near and very real to me. Those boys
were looking up at me, and you were there, dad. You drew that
sermon stuff out of me."
"If once, why not again? At any rate, it greatly rejoiced me to
know that it was there in you. I don't say I was proud of you, my
boy. I was proud of you, but that is not the word that I should
like to use. I was profoundly grateful that I was privileged to
hear a sermon like that from a son of mine. Now, Barry," continued
his father, "this is our last day together for some months, perhaps
forever," he added in a low tone.
"Don't, daddy, don't," cried Barry, "I can't bear to think of that
"All right, Barry, but why not? It is really far better that we
should face all the possibilities. But now that we have this day--
and what a perfect day it is--for our last day together, what shall
we do with it?"
"I know, dad--I think you would wish that we take our ride into the
"It was in my mind, my boy. I hesitated to suggest it. So let us
It was one of those rare November days that only Alberta knows,
mellow with the warm sun, and yet with a nip in it that suggested
the coming frost, without a ripple of the wind that almost
constantly sweeps the Alberta ranges. In the blue sky hung
motionless, like white ships at sea, bits of cloud. The long
grass, brown, yellow and green in a hundred shades, lay like a
carpet over the rolling hills and wide spreading valleys, reaching
up on every side to the horizon, except toward the west, where it
faded into the blue of the foothills at the bases of the mighty
Up the long trail, resilient to their horses' feet, they cantered
where the going was good, or picked their way with slow and careful
tread where the rocky ridges jutted through the black soil.
They made no effort to repulse the thought that this was their last
day together, nor did they seek to banish the fact of the war.
With calm courage and hope they faced the facts of their environment,
seeking to aid each other in readjusting their lives to those facts.
They were resolutely cheerful. The day was not to be spoiled with
tears and lamentations. Already each in his own place and time had
made his sacrifice of a comradeship that was far dearer than life.
The agony of that hour, each had borne in silence and alone. No
shadow should fall across this sunny day.
By the side of the grave, in its little palisaded enclosure, they
lingered, the father recalling the days of his earlier manhood,
which had been brightened by a love whose fragrance he had
cherished and shared with his son through their years together,
Barry listening with reverent attention and tender sympathy.
"I had always planned that I too should be laid here, Barry," said
his father, as they prepared to take their departure, "but do you
know, boy, this war has made many changes in me and this is one.
It seems to me a very little thing where my body lies, if it be
offered, as you were saying so beautifully yesterday, in sacrifice
to our cause."
Barry could only nod his head in reply. He was deeply moved.
"You are young, Barry," said his father, noting his emotion, "and
life is very dear to you, my boy."
"No, dad, no! Not life," said Barry brokenly. "Not life, only
you, dad. I just want you, and, oh dad!" continued the boy, losing
hold of himself and making no effort to check or hide the tears
that ran down his face, "if one of us is to go in this war,--as is
likely enough,--I only want that the other should be there at the
time. It would be--terribly--lonely--dad--to go out myself--
without you. Or to have you go out--alone.--We have always been
together--and you have been--so very good to me, dad. I can't help
this, dad,--I try--but I am not strong enough--I'm not holding back
from the sacrifice, dad," hurrying his words,--"No, no, not that,
but perhaps you understand."
For answer, his father put both his arms around his son, drew his
head down to his breast, as if he had been a child.
"There, there, laddie," he said, patting him on the shoulder, "I
know, I know! Oh God, how I know. We have lived together very
closely, without a shadow ever between us, and my prayer, since
this war began, has been that in death, if it had to be, we might
be together, and, Barry, somehow I believe God will give us that."
"Good old dad, good old boy! What a brick you are! I couldn't
help that, dad. Forgive me for being a baby, and spoiling the day--"
"Forgive you, boy," still with his arms around his son, "Barry, I
love you for it. You've never brought me one sorrow nor will you.
To-day and every day I thank God for you, my son."
They rode back through the evening toward the camp. By the time
they arrived there, the sun had sunk behind the mountains, and the
quiet stars were riding serenely above the broken, floating clouds,
and in their hearts was peace.
A QUESTION OF NERVE
"Gentlemen, may I introduce Captain Dunbar, your sky-pilot, padre,
chaplain, anything you like? They say he's a devil of a good
preacher. The Lord knows you need one."
So Barry's commanding officer introduced him to the mess.
He bowed in different directions to the group of officers who, in
the ante-room of the mess, were having a pre-prandial cocktail.
Barry found a place near the foot of the table and for a few
minutes sat silent, getting his bearings.
Some of the officers were known to him. He had met the commanding
officer, Colonel Leighton, a typical, burly Englishman, the owner
of an Alberta horse ranch, who, well to do to begin with, had made
money during his five years in the country. He had the reputation
of being a sporting man, of easy morality, fond of his glass and of
good living. He owed his present position, partly to political
influence, and partly to his previous military experience in the
South African war. His popularity with his officers was due
largely to his easy discipline, and to the absence of that rigidity
of manner which is supposed to go with high military command, and
which civilians are wont to find so irksome.
Barry had also met Major Bustead, the Senior Major of the Battalion,
and President of the mess, an eastern Canadian, with no military
experience whatever, but with abounding energy and ambition; the
close friend and boon companion of Colonel Leighton, he naturally
had become his second in command. Barry was especially delighted to
observe Major Bayne, whom he had not seen since his first meeting
with him some months ago on the Red Pine Trail. Captain Neil Fraser
and Lieutenant Stewart Duff were the only officers about the table
whom he recognised, except that, among the junior lieutenants, he
caught the face of young Duncan Cameron, the oldest son of his
superintendent, and a fine, clean-looking young fellow he appeared.
Altogether Barry was strongly attracted by the clean, strong faces
about him. He would surely soon find good friends among them, and
he only hoped he might be able to be of some service to them.
The young fellow on his right introduced himself as Captain
Hopeton. He was a young English public school boy, who, though a
failure as a rancher, had proved an immense success in the social
circles of the city. Because of this, and also of his family
connections "at home," he had been appointed to a Civil Service
position. A rather bored manner and a supercilious air spoiled
what would otherwise have been a handsome and attractive face.
After a single remark about the "beastly bore" of military duty,
Hopeton ignored Barry, giving such attention as he had to spare
from his dinner to a man across the table, with whom, apparently,
he had shared some rather exciting social experiences in the city.
For the first half hour of the meal, the conversation was of the
most trivial nature, and was to Barry supremely uninteresting.
"Shop talk" was strictly taboo, and also all reference to the war.
The thin stream of conversation that trickled from lip to lip ran
the gamut of sport, spiced somewhat highly with society scandal
which, even in that little city, appeared to flourish.
To Barry it was as if he were in a strange land and among people of
a strange tongue. Of sport, as understood by these young chaps, he
knew little, and of scandal he was entirely innocent; so much so
that many of the references that excited the most merriment were to
him utterly obscure. After some attempts to introduce topics of
conversation which he thought might be of mutual interest, but
which had fallen quite flat, Barry gave up, and sat silent with a
desolating sense of loneliness growing upon his spirit.
"After the port," when smoking was permitted, he was offered a
cigarette by Hopeton, and surprised that young man mightily by
saying that he never smoked. This surprise, it is to be feared,
deepened into disgust when, a few moments later, he declined a
drink from Hopeton's whisky bottle, which a servant brought him.
Liquors were not provided at the mess, but officers were permitted
to order what they desired.
As the bottles circulated, tongues were loosened. There was nothing
foul in the talk, but more and more profanity, with frequent apology
to the chaplain, began to decorate the conversation. Conscious of a
deepening disgust with his environment, and of an overwhelming sense
of isolation, Barry cast vainly about for a means of escape. Of
military etiquette he was ignorant; hence he could only wait in
deepening disgust for the O. C. to give the signal to rise. How
long he could have endured is doubtful, but release came in a
startling, and, to most of the members of the mess, a truly
In one of those strange silences that fall upon even the noisiest
of companies, Colonel Leighton, under the influence of a somewhat
liberal indulgence in his whisky bottle, began the relation of a
tale of very doubtful flavour. In the midst of the laughter that
followed the tale, Barry rose to his feet, his face white and his
eyes aflame, and in a voice vibrating with passion, said:
"May I be excused, sir?"
"Why, certainly," said the colonel pleasantly, adding after a
moment's hesitation, "is there anything wrong, Dunbar? Are you
"No, sir." Barry's voice had the resonant quality of a cello
string. "I mean, yes, sir," he corrected. "I am ill. The
atmosphere surrounding such a tale is nauseating to me."
In the horrified silence that followed his remark, he walked out
from the room. Upon his ears, as he stood in the ante-room,
trembling with the violence of his passion, a burst of laughter
fell. A sudden wrath like a hot flame swept his body. He wheeled
in his tracks, tore open the door, and with head high and face set,
strode to his place at the table and sat down.
Astonishment beyond all words held the company in tense stillness.
From Barry's face they looked toward the colonel, who, too
dumfounded for speech or action, sat gazing at his chaplain. Then
from the end of the table a few places down from Barry, a voice was
"Feel better, Dunbar?" The cool, clear voice cut through the tense
silence like the zip of a sword.
"I do, thank you, sir," looking him straight in the eye.
"The fresh air, doubtless," continued the cool voice. "I always
find myself that even a whiff of fresh air is a very effective
antidote for threatening vertigo. I remember once--" continued the
speaker, dropping into a conversational tone, and leaning across
the table slightly toward Barry, "I was in the room with a company
of men--" And the speaker entered upon a long and none too
interesting relation of an experience of his, the point of which no
one grasped, but the effect of which every one welcomed with the
profoundest relief. He was the regimental medical officer, a tall,
slight man, with a keen eye, a pleasant face crowned by a topknot
of flaming hair, and with a little dab of hair of like colour upon
his upper lip, which he fondly cherished, as an important item in
his military equipment.
"Say, the old doc is a lifesaver, sure enough," said a young
subaltern, answering to the name of "Sally," colloquial for
Salford, as he stood amid a circle of officers gathered in the
smoking room a few minutes later. "A lifesaver," repeated Sally,
with emphasis. "He can have me for his laboratory collection after
"He is one sure singing bird," said another sub, a stout, overgrown
boy by the name of Booth. "The nerve of him," added Booth in
"Nerve!" echoed a young captain, "but what about the pilot's nerve?"
"Sui generis, Train, I should say," drawled Hopeton.
"Suey, who did you say?" inquired Sally. "What's her second name?
But let me tell you I could have fallen on his neck and burst into
tears of gratitude. For me," continued Sally, glancing about the
room, "I don't hold with that dirt stuff at mess. It isn't
"Beastly bad form," said Hopeton, "but, good Lord! Your Commanding
Officer, Sally! There's such a thing as discipline, you know."
"What extraordinary thing is it that Sally knows?" inquired Major
Bustead, who lounged up to the group.
"We were discussing the padre's break, Major, which for my part,"
drawled Hopeton, "I consider rotten discipline."
"Discipline!" snorted the major. "By Gad, it was a piece of the
most damnable cheek I have ever heard at a mess table. He ought to
be sent to Coventry. I only hope the O. C. will get him exchanged."
The major made no effort to subdue his voice, which was plainly
audible throughout the room.
"Hush, for God's sake," warned Captain Train, as Barry entered the
door. "Here he is."
But Barry had caught the major's words. For a moment he stood
irresolute; then walked quietly toward the group.
"I couldn't help hearing you, Major Bustead," he said, in a voice
pleasant and under perfect control. "I gather you were referring
"I was, sir," said the major defiantly.
"And why should I be sent to Coventry, or exchanged, may I ask?"
Barry's voice was that of an interested outsider.
"Because," stuttered the Major, "I consider, sir, that--that--you
have been guilty of a piece of damnable impertinence toward your
Commanding Officer. I never heard anything like it in my life.
Infernal cheek, I call it, sir."
While the major was speaking, Barry stood listening with an air of
"I wonder!" he said, after a moment's thought. "If I thought I had
been impertinent, I should at once apologise. But, sir, do you
think it is part of my duty to allow any man, even my Commanding
Officer, to--pardon the disgusting metaphor, it is not so
disgusting as the action complained of--to spit in my soup, and
take it without protest? Do you, sir?"
"I--you--" The major grew very red in the face. "You need to
learn your place in this battalion, sir."
"I do," said Barry, still preserving his quiet voice and manner.
"I want to learn--I am really anxious to learn it. Do you mind
answering my question?" His tone was that of a man who is
earnestly but quite respectfully seeking information from a
"Your question, sir?" stuttered the major, "your--your--question.
Damn your question, and yourself too."
The major turned abruptly away. Barry heard him quite unmoved,
stood looking after him in silence a moment or two, then, shaking
his head, with a puzzled expression on his face, moved slowly away
from the group.
"Oh, my aunt Caroline," breathed Sally into his friend Hopeton's
ear, resting heavily meanwhile against his shoulder. "What a
score! What a score!"
"A bull, begad! a clean bull!" murmured Hopeton, supporting his
friend out of the room as he added, "A little fresh air, as a
preventative of vertigo, as the old doc says, eh, Sally."
"Good Lord, is he just a plain ass, or what?" inquired young Booth,
his eye following Barry down the room.
"Ass! A mule, I should say. And one with a good lot of kick in
him," replied Captain Train. "I don't know that I care for that
kind of an animal, though."
Before many hours had passed, the whole battalion had received with
undiluted joy an account of the incident, for though the Commanding
Officer was popular with his men, to have him called down at his
own mess by one of his own officers was an event too thrilling to
give anything but unalloyed delight to those who had to suffer in
silence similar indignities at the hands of their officers.
A notable exception in the battalion, however, was Sergeant Major
McFetteridge, who, because of his military experience, and of his
reputation as a disciplinarian, had been recently transferred to
the battalion. To the sergeant major this act of Barry's was but
another and more flagrant example of his fondness for "buttin' in,"
and the sergeant major let it be known that he strongly condemned
the chaplain for what he declared was an unheard of breach of
Of course there were others who openly approved, and who admired
the chaplain's "nerve in standing up to the old man." In their
opinion he was entirely justified in what he had said. The O. C.
had insulted him, and every officer at the mess, by his off-colour
story, but on the whole the general result of the incident was that
Barry's life became more and more one of isolation from both
officers and men. For this reason and because of a haunting sense
of failure the months of training preceding the battalion's departure
for England were for Barry one long and almost uninterrupted misery.
It seemed impossible to establish any point of contact with either
the officers or the men. In their athletics, in their social
gatherings, in their reading, he was quietly ignored and made to
feel that he was in no way necessary. An impalpable but very real
barrier prevented his near approach to those whom he was so eager
This unexpressed opposition was quickened into active hostility by
the chaplain's uncompromising attitude on the liquor question. By
the army regulations, the battalion canteen was dry, but in spite
of this many, both of the officers and the men, freely indulged in
the use of intoxicating drink. The effect upon discipline was, of
course, deplorable, and in his public addresses as well as private
conversation, Barry constantly denounced these demoralising habits,
winning thereby the violent dislike of those especially affected,
and the latent hostility of the majority of the men who agreed with
the sergeant major in resenting the chaplain's "buttin' in."
It was, therefore, with unspeakable joy that Barry learned that the
battalion was warned for overseas service. Any change in his lot
would be an improvement, for he was convinced that he had reached
the limit of wretchedness in the exercise of his duty as chaplain
of the battalion.
In this conviction, however, he was mistaken. On shipboard, he
discovered that there were still depths of misery which he was
called upon to plumb. Assigned to a miserable stateroom in an
uncomfortable part of the ship, he suffered horribly from
seasickness, and for the first half of the voyage lay foodless and
spiritless in his bunk, indifferent to his environment or to his
fate. His sole friend was his batman, Harry Hobbs, but, of course,
he could not confide to Harry the misery of his body, or the deeper
misery of his soul.
It was Harry, however, that brought relief, for it was he that
called the M. O. to his officer's bedside. The M. O. was shocked
to find the chaplain in a state of extreme physical weakness, and
mental depression. At once, he gave orders that Barry should be
removed to his own stateroom, which was large and airy and open to
the sea breezes. The effect was immediately apparent, for the
change of room, and more especially the touch of human sympathy,
did much to restore Barry to his normal health and spirits. A
friendship sprang up between the M. O. and the chaplain. With
this friendship a new interest came into Barry's life, and with
surprising rapidity he regained both his physical and mental tone.
The doctor took him resolutely in hand, pressed him to take his
part in the daily physical drill, induced him to share the daily
programme of sports, and, best of all, discovering a violin on
board, insisted on his taking a place on the musical programme
rendered nightly in the salon. As might be expected, his violin
won him friends among all of the music lovers on board ship, and
life for Barry began once more to be bearable.
Returning strength, however, recalled him to the performance of his
duties as chaplain, and straightway in the exercise of what he
considered his duty, he came into conflict with no less a personage
than the sergeant major himself. The trouble arose over his
batman, Harry Hobbs.
Harry was a man who, in his youthful days, had been a diligent
patron of the London music halls, and in consequence had become
himself an amateur entertainer of very considerable ability. His
sailor's hornpipes, Irish jigs, his old English North-country
ballads and his coster songs were an unending joy to his comrades.
Their gratitude and admiration took forms that proved poor Harry's
undoing, and besides some of them took an unholy joy in sending the
chaplain's batman to his officer incapable of service.
Barry's indignation and grief were beyond words. He dealt
faithfully with the erring Hobbs, as his minister, as his officer,
as chaplain, but the downward drag of his environment proved too
great for his batman's powers of resistance. Once and again Barry
sought the aid of the sergeant major to rescue Harry from his
downward course, but the old sergeant major was unimpressed with
the account of Harry's lapses.
"Is your batman unfit for duty, sir?" he inquired.
"Yes, he is, often," said Barry indignantly.
"Did you report him, sir?" inquired the sergeant major.
"No, I did not."
"Then, sir, I am afraid that until you do your duty I can do
nothing," answered the sergeant major, with suave respect.
"If you did your duty," Barry was moved to say, "then Hobbs would
not need to be reported. The regulations governing that canteen
should prevent these frequent examples of drunkenness, which are a
disgrace to the battalion."
"Do I understand, sir," inquired the sergeant major, with quiet
respect, "that you are accusing me of a failure in duty?"
"I am saying that if the regulations were observed my batman and
others would not be so frequently drunk, and the enforcing of these
regulations, I understand, is a part of your duty."
"Then, sir," replied the sergeant major, "perhaps I had better
report myself to the Commanding Officer."
"You can please yourself," said Barry, shortly, as he turned away.
"Very good, sir," replied the sergeant major. "I shall report
myself at once."
The day following, the chaplain received an order to appear before
the O. C. in the orderly room.
"Captain Dunbar, I understand that you are making a charge against
Sergeant Major McFetteridge," was Colonel Leighton's greeting.
"I am making no charge against any one, sir," replied Barry
"What do you say to that, Sergeant Major McFetteridge?"
In reply, the sergeant major gave a full and fair statement of the
passage between the chaplain and himself the day before.
"Is this correct, Captain Dunbar?" asked the O. C.
"Substantially correct, sir, except that the sergeant major is here
on his own suggestion, and on no order of mine."
"Then I understand that you withdraw your charge against the
"I withdraw nothing, sir. I had no intention of laying a charge,
and I have laid no charge against the sergeant major; but at the
same time I have no hesitation in saying that the regulations
governing the canteen are not observed, and, as I understand that
the responsibility for enforcing these regulations is in the
sergeant major's hands, in that sense I consider that he has failed
in his duty."
But the sergeant major was too old a soldier to be caught napping.
He had his witnesses ready at hand to testify that the canteen was
conducted according to regulations, and that if the chaplain's
batman or any others took more liquor than they should, neither the
corporal in charge of the canteen nor the sergeant major was to be
"All I can say, sir," replied Barry, "is that soldiers are
frequently drunk on this ship, and I myself have seen them when the
worse for liquor going into the canteen."
"And did you report these men to their officers or to me, Captain
Dunbar, or did you report the corporal in charge of the canteen?"
"No, sir, I did not."
"Then sir, do you know that you have been guilty of serious neglect
of duty?" said the colonel sternly.
"Do I understand, sir, that it is my duty to report to you every
man I see the worse for liquor on this ship?"
"Most certainly," replied the colonel, emphatically. "Every breach
of discipline must be reported."
"I understood, sir, that an officer had a certain amount of
discretion in a matter of this kind."
"Where did you get that notion?" inquired the colonel. "Let me
tell you that you are wrong. Discretionary powers lie solely with
"Then, sir, I am to understand that I must report every man whom I
see the worse for liquor?"
"And every officer, as well, sir?"
The colonel hesitated a moment, fumbled with his papers, and then
"Certainly, sir. And let me say, Captain Dunbar, that an officer,
especially an officer in your position, ought to be very careful in
making a charge against a N. C. O., more particularly the sergeant
major of his battalion. Nothing is more calculated to drag down
discipline. The case is dismissed."
"Sir," said Barry, maintaining his place before the table. "May I
ask one question?"
"The case is dismissed, Captain Dunbar. What do you want?" asked
the colonel brusquely.
"I want to be quite clear as to my duty, in the future, sir. Do I
understand that if any man or officer is found under the influence
of liquor, anywhere in this ship, and at any hour of the day or
night, he is to be reported at once to the orderly room, even
though that officer should be, say, even the adjutant or yourself?"
Barry said, gazing up at the colonel with a face in which
earnestness and candour were equally blended.
The colonel gazed back at him with a face in which rage and
perplexity were equally apparent. For some moments, he was
speechless, while the whole orderly room held its breath.
"I mean--that you--you understand--of course," stuttered the
colonel, "that an officer must use common sense. He must be damned
sure of what he says, in other words," said the colonel, rushing
"But, sir," continued Barry.
"Oh, go to the devil, sir," roared the colonel. "The case is
Barry saluted and left the room.
"Is the man an infernal and condemned fool, or what is the matter
with him?" exclaimed the colonel, turning to his adjutant in a
helpless appeal, while the orderly room struggled with its grins.
"The devil only knows," said Major Bustead. "He beats me. He is
an interfering and impertinent ass, in my opinion, but what else he
is, I don't know."
It is fair to say that the sergeant major bore the chaplain no
grudge for his part in the affair. The whole battalion, however,
soon became possessed of the tale, adorned and expanded to an
unrecognisable extent, and revelled in ecstasy over the discomfort
of the C. O. The consensus of opinion was that on the whole the
sergeant major had come off with premier honours, and as between
the "old man" and the "Sky Pilot," as Barry was coming to be
called, it was about an even break. As for the Pilot, he remained
more than ever a mystery, and on the whole, the battalion was
inclined to leave him alone.
The chaplain, however, had partially, at least, achieved his aim,
in that the regulations governing the canteen were more strictly
enforced, to the vast improvement of discipline generally, and to
the immense advantage of Harry Hobbs in particular.
Soon after this, another event occurred which aided materially in
bringing about this same result, and which also led to a modification
of opinion in the battalion in regard to their chaplain.
To the civilian soldier the punctilio of military etiquette is
frequently not only a bore, but at times takes on the appearance of
wilful insult which no grown man should be expected to tolerate.
To the civilian soldier born and brought up in wide spaces of the
far Northwest this is especially the case.
It is not surprising, therefore, that McCuaig, fresh from his
thirty-five years of life in the Athabasca wilds, should find the
routine of military discipline extremely irksome and the niceties
of military etiquette as from a private to an officer not only
foolish but degrading both to officer and man. Under the patient
shepherding of Barry's father, he had endured much without protest
or complaint, but, with the advent of Sergeant Major McFetteridge,
with his rigid military discipline and his strict insistence upon
etiquette, McCuaig passed into a new atmosphere. To the freeborn
and freebred recruit from the Athabasca plains, the stiff and
somewhat exaggerated military bearing of the sergeant major was at
first a source of quiet amusement, later of perplexity, and finally
of annoyance. For McFetteridge and his minutiae of military
discipline McCuaig held only contempt. To him, the whole business
was a piece of silly nonsense unworthy of serious men.
It was inevitable that the sergeant major should sooner or later
discover this opinion in Private McCuaig, and that he should
consider the holding of this opinion as a tendency toward
insubordination. It was also inevitable that the sergeant major
should order a course of special fatigues calculated to subdue the
spirit of the insubordinate private.
It took McCuaig some days to discover that in these frequent
fatigues and special duties, he was undergoing punishment, but once
made, the discovery wrought in him a cold and silent rage, which
drove him to an undue and quite unwonted devotion to the canteen,
which in turn transformed the reserved, self-controlled man of the
wilds into a demonstrative, disorderly and quarrelsome "rookie"
aching for trouble.
Under these circumstances, an outburst was inevitable. Corporal
Ferry, in charge of the canteen, furnished the occasion.
"No more for you, McCuaig. You've got more aboard now than you can
To the injury of being denied another beer was added the insult of
suggesting his inability to carry what he had. This to a man of
McCuaig's experience in every bar and camp and roadhouse from
Edmonton to the Arctic circle, was not to be endured.
He leaned over the improvised bar, until his face almost touched
"What?" he ejaculated, but in the single expletive there darted out
such concentrated fury, that the little corporal sprang back as
from a striking snake.
"You can't have any more beer, McCuaig," said the corporal, from a
"Watch me, sonny!" replied McCuaig.
With a single sweep of his hand, he snatched two bottles from the
ledge behind the corporal's head. Holding one aloft, he knocked
the top off the other, drank its contents slowly and smashed the
empty bottle at the spot where the corporal's head had been;
knocked the top off the second bottle and was proceeding to drink
it, in a more or less leisurely fashion.
"Private Timms! Private Mulligan!" shouted Corporal Ferry,
reappearing from beneath the counter. "Arrest that man!"
"Wait, sonny; give me a chance," cried McCuaig, in a wild, high,
singsong voice. Lifting his bottle to his lips, he continued to
drink slowly, keeping his eye upon the two privates, who were
considering the best method of carrying out their orders.
"There, sonny, fill that up again," cried McCuaig, good-naturedly,
when he had finished his drink, tossing the second bottle at the
head of the corporal, who, being on the alert, again made a
"Now, then, boys, come on," said McCuaig, backing toward the wall,
and dropping his hands to his hips. With a curse of disappointment
that he found himself without his usual weapons of defence, McCuaig
raised a shout, sprang into the air, cracked his heels together in
a double rap, and swinging his arms around his head, yelled:
"Come on, my boys! I'm hungry, I am! Meat! Meat! Meat!"
With each "meat," his white teeth came together with a snap like
that of a hungry wolf. Such was the beastly ferocity in his face
and posture that both Private Timms and Private Mulligan,
themselves men of more than average strength, paused and looked at
the corporal for further orders.
"Arrest that man," said the corporal again, preserving at the same
time an attitude that revealed a complete readiness for swift
disappearance. "Private McTavish," he added, calling upon a tall
Highlander who was gazing with admiring eyes upon the raging
McCuaig, "assist Private Timms and Private Mulligan in arresting
"Why don't you come yourself, sonny?" inquired McCuaig. With a
swift sidestep and a swifter swoop of his long arm, he reached for
the corporal, who once more found safety in swift disappearance.
At that instant, the Highlander, seeing his opportunity, flung
himself upon McCuaig, and winding his arms around him, hung to him
grimly, crying out:
"Get hold of his legs! Queeck! Will you?"
When the sergeant major, attracted by the unwonted uproar, appeared
upon the scene, there was a man on every one of McQuaig's limbs,
and another one astride his stomach. "Heavin' like sawlogs
shootin' a rapid," as Private Corbin, a lumberjack from the Eau
Claire, was later heard to remark.
"What is he like now?" inquired the colonel, after listening to the
sergeant major's report of the Homeric combat.
"He is in a compartment in the hold, sir, and raging like one
demented. He very nearly did for Major Bustead, smashing at him
with a scantling that he ripped from the ship's timbers, sir. He
still has the scantling, sir."
"Let him cool off all night," said the Commanding Officer, after
consultation with the adjutant.
Barry, who with difficulty had restrained himself during the
sergeant major's report, slipped from the room, found the M. O., to
whom he detailed the story and dragged him off to visit the raging
They found a corporal on guard outside.
"I would not open the door, sir. He is really dangerous."
"Oh, rot!" replied the M. O. "Open up the door!"
"Excuse me, sir," said the corporal, "it is not safe. At present,
he is clean crazy. He is off his nut entirely."
The M. O. stood listening at the door. From within came moaning
sounds as from a suffering beast.
"That man is suffering. Open the door!" ordered the M. O.
The corporal, with great reluctance, unlocked the padlock, shot
back the bolt, and then stood away from the door.
"It is the medical officer, McCuaig," said the doctor, opening the
Bang! Crash! came the scantling upon the door jamb, shattering it
to pieces. The whole guard flung themselves against the door,
shoved it shut, and shot the bolt.
"I warned you, sir," said the panting corporal. "Better leave him
until morning. He's a regular devil!"
"He is no more a devil than you are, corporal," said Barry, in a
loud, clear voice. "He is one of the best men in the battalion.
More than that, he is my friend, and if he spends the night there,
I spend it with him."
So saying, and before any one could stop him, Barry shot back the
bolt, opened the door, and with his torchlight flashing before him,
"Hello, McCuaig," he called, in a quiet, clear voice, "where are
you? It's Dunbar, you know."
He drew the door shut after him. The corporal was for following
him, but the M. O. interposed.
"Stop out!" he ordered. "Stay where you are! You have done enough
"But, sir, he'll kill him!"
"This is my case," said the M. O. sharply. "Fall back all of you,
out of sight!"
Together they stood listening in awestruck silence, expecting every
moment to hear sounds of conflict, and cries for help, but all they
heard was the cool, even flow of a quiet voice, and after some
minutes had passed, the sound of moans, mingled with a terrible
The M. O., moving toward the corporal and his guard, said in a low
"Take your men down the passage and keep them there until I call
"Sir," began the corporal.
"Will you obey my orders?" said the M. O. "I'm in command here!
Without further words, the corporal moved his men away.
Half an hour later, the sergeant major, going his rounds, received
a rude shock. In the passage leading to McCuaig's compartment, he
met four men, bearing on a stretcher toward the sick bay a long
"Who have you got there, corporal?" he inquired in a tone of kindly
"McCuaig?" roared the sergeant major. "And who--"
"Medical officer's orders."
"Silence there," said a sharp voice in the rear. "Carry on, men."
And past the astonished sergeant major, the procession filed with
the medical officer and the chaplain at its tail end.
After the sergeant major had made his report to the O. C., as was
his duty, the M. O. was sent for. What took place at that
interview was never divulged to the mess, but it was known that
whereas the conversation began in very loud tones by the Officer
Commanding, it ended half an hour later with the M. O. being shown
out of the room by the colonel himself, who was heard to remark:
"A very fine bit of work. Tell him I want to see him when he has a
few minutes, and thank you, doctor, thank you!"
"Who does the old man want to see?" inquired Sally, who, with
Hopeton and Booth, happened to be passing.
"The chaplain," snapped the M. O., going on his way.
"The chaplain? By Jove, he's a queer one, eh?"
The M. O. turned sharply back, and coming very close to Sally, said
in a wrathful voice:
"A queer one? Yes, a queer one! But if some of you damned young
idiots that sniff at him had just half his guts, you'd be twice the
men you are.--Shut up, Hopeton! Listen to me--" and in words of
fiery rage that ran close to tears, he recounted his experience of
the last hour.
"By Jove! Doc, some guts, eh?" said Sally in a low tone, as he
SUBMARINES, BULLPUPS, AND OTHER THINGS
A long, weird blast from the fog horn, followed by two short, sharp
toots, recalled Barry from his morning dream.
"Fog," he grumbled, and turned over to re-capture the enchantment
of the Athabasca rapids, and his dancing canoe.
Overhead there sounded the trampling of feet.
"Submarines, doc," he shouted and leaped to the floor broad awake.
"What's the row?" murmured the M. O., who was a heavy sleeper.
For answer, Barry ripped the clothes from the doctor's bed.
"Submarines, doc," he shouted again, and buckling on his Sam Brown,
and seizing his lifebelt, he stood ready to go.
"What! your boots off, doc?"
In the orders of the day before had been an announcement that
officers and men were to sleep fully dressed.
"Oh, the devil!" exclaimed the doctor, hunting through his
bedclothes in desperation. "I can't sleep in my boots. Where's my
tunic? Go on, old fellow, I'll follow you."
Barry held his tunic for him.
"Here you are! Wake up, doc! And here's your Sam Brown."
Barry dropped to lace the doctor's boots, while the latter was
buckling on the rest of his equipment.
"All right," cried the doctor, rushing from the room and leaving
his lifebelt behind him.
Barry caught up the lifebelt and followed.
"Your lifebelt, doc," he said, as they passed up the companion way.
"Oh, I'm a peach of a soldier," said the doctor, struggling into
his lifebelt, and swearing deeply the while.
"Stop swearing, doc! It's a waste of energy."
"Oh, go to hell!"
"No, I prefer Heaven, if I must leave this ship, but for the
present, I believe I'm needed here, and so are you, doc. Look
The doctor glanced out upon the deck.
"By Jove! You're right, old man, we are needed and badly. I say,
old chap," he said, pausing for a moment to turn to Barry, "you are
a dear old thing, aren't you?"
The deck was a mass of soldiers struggling, swearing, fighting
their way to their various stations. Officers, half dressed and
half awake, were rushing hither and thither, seeking their units,
swearing at the men and shouting meaningless orders. Over all the
stentorian voice of the sergeant major was vainly trying to make
In the confusion the cry was raised: "We're torpedoed! We're
There was a great rush for the nearest boats. Men flung discipline
to the winds and began fighting for a chance of their lives. It
was a terrific and humiliating scene.
Suddenly, over the tumult, was heard a loud, ringing laugh.
"Oh, I say, Duff! Not that way! Not that way!"
Again came the ringing laugh.
Immediately a silence fell upon the struggling crowd, and for a
moment they stood looking inquiringly at each other. That moment
of silence was seized by the sergeant major. Like a trumpet his
sonorous voice rang out steady and clear.
"Fall in, men! Boat quarters! Silence there!"
He followed this with sharp, intelligible commands to his N. C. O.'s.
Like magic, order fell upon the turbulent, struggling crowd.
"Stand steady, you there!" roared the sergeant major, who having
got control of his men, began to indulge himself in a few telling
and descriptive adjectives.
In less than two minutes, the men were standing steady as a rock
and the panic was passed.
"Who was it that laughed up there in that stampede?" inquired the
O. C., when the officers were gathered about him in the orderly
"I think it was the Sky Pilot, sir--the chaplain, sir," said
Lieutenant Stewart Duff.
"Was it you that laughed, Captain Dunbar?" asked the colonel,
turning upon Barry.
"Perhaps I did, sir. I'm sorry if--"
"Sorry!" exclaimed the colonel. "Dammit, sir, you saved the
situation for us all. Who told you it was a false alarm?"
"No one, sir. I didn't know it was a false alarm. I was looking
at Lieutenant Duff--" He checked himself promptly. "I mean, sir--
well, it seemed a good place to laugh, so I just let it come."
The colonel's eyes rested with curious inquiry upon the serene face
of the chaplain, with its glowing eyes and candid expression. "A
good place for a laugh? It was a damned good place for a laugh,
and gentlemen, I thank God I have one officer who finds in the face
of sudden danger a good place for a laugh. And now I have something
to say to you."
The O. C.'s remarks did not improve the officers' opinion of
themselves, and they slunk out of the room--no other word properly
describes the cowed and shamed appearance of that company of men--
they slunk out of the room. They had failed to play the part of
British officers in the face of sudden peril.
In his speech to the men, the C. O. made only a single reference to
the incident, but that reference bit deep.
"Men, I am thoroughly ashamed and disappointed. You acted, not
like soldiers, but like a herd of steers. The difference between a
herd of steers and a battalion of soldiers, in the face of sudden
danger, is only this:--the steers break blindly for God knows
where, and end piled up over a cut bank; soldiers stand steady
listening for the word of command."
If the O. C. handled the men with a light hand, the sergeant major
did not. His tongue rasped them to the raw. No one knows a
soldier as does his N. C. O., and no N. C. O. is qualified to set
forth the soldier's characteristics with the intimate knowledge and
adequate fluency of the sergeant major. One by one he peeled from
their shivering souls the various layers of their moral cuticle,
until they stood, in their own and in each other's eyes, objects of
"There's just one thing more I wad like ta say to ye." The sergeant
major's tendency to Doric was more noticeable in his moments of
deeper feeling, "but it's something for you lads to give heed ta.
When ye were scrammlin' up yonder, like a lot o' mavericks at a
brandin', and yowlin' like a bunch o' coyotes, there was one man in
the regiment who could laugh. There's lots o' animals that the
Almighty made can yowl, but there's only one can laugh, and that's
a mon. For God's sake, men, when ye're in a tight place, try a
For some weeks after this event the chaplain was known throughout
the battalion as "the man that can laugh," and certain it is that
from that day there existed between the M. O. and the chaplain a
new bond of friendship.
As the ship advanced deeper into the submarine zone, the sole topic
of thought and of conversation came to be the convoy. Where was
that convoy anyway? While the daylight lasted, a thousand pairs of
eyes swept the horizon, and the intervening spaces of tossing,
blue-grey water, for the sight of a sinister periscope, or for the
smudge of a friendly cruiser, and when night fell, a thousand pairs
of ears listened with strained intentness for the impact of the
deadly torpedo or for the signal of the protecting convoy.
While still a day and a night out from land, Barry awoke in the
dim light of a misty morning, and proceeded to the deck for his
constitutional. There he fell in with Captain Neil Fraser and
Captain Hopeton pacing up and down.
"Come along, Pilot!" said Captain Neil, heartily, between whom and
the chaplain during the last few days a cordial friendship had
sprung up. "We're looking for submarines. This is the place and
the time for Fritz, if he is going to get us at all."
Arm in arm they made the circle of the deck. The mist, lying like
a bank upon the sea, shifted the horizon to within a thousand yards
of the ship.
"I wish I knew just what lies behind that bank there," said Captain
Hopeton, pointing over the bow.
For some moments they stood, peering idly into the mist.
"By Jove, there IS something there," said Barry, who had a hawk's
"You've got 'em too, eh," laughed Hopeton. "I've had 'em for the
last forty-eight hours. I've been 'seein' things' all night."
"But there is," insisted Barry, pointing over the port bow.
"What is it like?" asked Captain Neil, while Hopeton ran for his
"I'll tell you what it's like--exactly like the eye of an oyster in
its pulp. And, by Jove, there's another!" added Barry excitedly.
"I can't see anything," said Captain Neil.
"But I can," insisted Barry. "Look there, Hopeton!"
Hopeton fixed his glass upon the mist, where Barry pointed.
"You're right! There is something, and there are two of them."
"Give the Pilot the glass, Hopeton," said Neil. "He's got a good
"There are two ships, boys, as I'm a sinner, but what they are, I
don't know," cried Barry in a voice tense with excitement. "Here,
Neil, take the glass. You know about ships."
Long and earnestly, Captain Neil held the glass in the direction
"Boys, by all that's holy, they're destroyers," he said at length
in a low voice.
Even as they gazed, the two black dots rapidly took shape, growing
out of the mist into two sea monsters, all head and shoulders,
boring through the seas, each flinging high a huge comb of white
spray, and with an indescribable suggestion of arrogant, resistless
power, bearing down upon the ship at furious speed.
"Destroyers!" shouted Captain Neil, in a voice that rang through
the ship. "By gad, destroyers!"
There was no question of friend or foe; only Great Britain's navy
rode over those seas immune.
Upon every hand the word was caught up and passed along. In a
marvellously short space of time, the rails, the boats, the
rigging, all the points of vantage were thronged with men, roaring,
waving, cheering, like mad.
With undiminished speed, each enveloped in its cloud of spray, the
destroyers came, one on each side, rushed foaming past, swept in a
circle around the ship and took their stations alongside, riding
quietly at half speed like bulldogs tugging at a leash.
"Great heavens, what a sight!" At the croak in Hopeton's voice,
the others turned and looked at him.
"You've got it too, eh!" said Captain Neil, clearing his own
"I've got something, God knows!" answered Hopeton, wiping his eyes.
"I, too," said Barry, swallowing the proverbial lump. "Those
"Bulldogs," suggested Hopeton.
"Bulldog pups," said Captain Neil.
"That's it," said Barry. "That's what they are, little bulldog
pups, got me by the throat all right."
"Me, too, by gad!" said Captain Neil. "I should have howled out
loud in another minute."
"Listen to the boys!" cried Barry.
From end to end of the ship rose one continuous roar, "Good old
Navy! Good old John Bull!" while Hopeton, openly abandoning the
traditional reserve and self-control supposed to be a characteristic
of the English public school boy, climbed upon the rail and, hanging
by a stanchion with one hand, and with the other frantically waving
his cap over his head, continued to shout:
"England! England! England forever!"
Then above the cheering cries was heard the battalion band, and
from a thousand throats in solemn chant there rose the Empire's
national anthem, "God Save the King."
That night they steamed into old Plymouth town, and the following
morning were anchored safe at Devonport dock. Strict orders held
the officers and men on board ship until arrangements for debarkation
should be completed, but to Barry and the doctor, the Commanding
Officer gave shore leave for an hour.
"And I would suggest," he said, "that you go and have a talk with
that old boy walking up and down the dock there. Yarn to him about
Canada, he's wild to know about it."
The old naval officer was indeed "wild to know about Canada," so
that the greater part of their shore leave was spent in answering
his questions, and eager though he was to explore the old historic
town, before Barry knew it, he was in the full tide of a glowing
description of his own Province of Alberta, extolling its great
ranches, its sweeping valleys, its immense resources.
"And to think you are all British out there," exclaimed the old
"We're all British, of course," replied Barry, "but not all from
"I know, I know," said the officer, "but that only makes it more
"Wonderful! Why, why should it be wonderful?"
"Yes, wonderful. Oh, you Canadians," cried the old salt, impulsively
stretching out his hand to Barry. "You Canadians!"
Surprised, Barry glanced at his face. Those hard blue eyes were
brimming with tears; the leatherlike skin was working curiously
about the mouth.
"Why, sir, I don't quite understand what you mean," said Barry.
"No, and you never will. Think of it, rushing three thousand
"Five thousand for some of us," interrupted Barry.
"Fancy that! Rushing five thousand miles in this way, to help old
mother England, and all of your own free will. We didn't ask it
of you. Though, by heaven, we're grateful for it. I find it
difficult, sir, to speak quietly of this."
Not until that moment had Barry caught the British point of view.
To him, as to all Canadians, it had only been a perfectly
reasonable and natural thing that when the Empire was threatened,
they should spring into the fight. They saw nothing heroic in
that. They were doing their simple duty.
"But think of the wonder of it," said the naval officer again,
"that Canada should feel in that way its response to the call of
The old man's lips were still quivering.
"That is true, sir," said the M. O., joining in the talk, "but
there is something more. Frankly, my opinion is that the biggest
thing, sir, with some of us in Canada, is not that the motherland
was in need of help, though, of course, we all feel that, but that
the freedom of the world is threatened, and that Canada, as one of
the free nations of the world, must do her part in its defence."
"A fine spirit," said the old gentleman.
"This fight," continued the M. O., "is ours, you see, as well as
yours, and we hate a bully."
The old salt swore a great oath, and said:
"You are pups of the old breed, and you run true to type. I'm glad
to know you, gentlemen," he continued, shaking them warmly by the
After they had gone a few steps he called Barry back to him.
"That's my card, sir. I should like you to come to see me in
London sometime when you are on leave."
Barry glanced at the card and read, "Commander Howard Vincent,
R. N. R."
"It was very decent of the old boy," he said to the Commanding
Officer afterwards, when recounting the interview. "I don't
suppose I'll ever use the card, but I do think he really meant it."
"Meant it," exclaimed the Commanding Officer. "Why, Dunbar, I'm an
old country man, and I know. Make no mistake. These people, and
especially these naval people, do not throw their cards loosely
about. You will undoubtedly hear from him."
"It's not likely," replied Barry, "but the old gentleman is great
stuff, all right."
During the long, sunny spring day, their dinky little train whisked
them briskly through the sweet and restful beauty of the English
southern counties. To these men, however, from the wide sunbaked,
windswept plains of western Canada, the English landscape suggested
a dainty picture, done in soft greys and greens, with here and
there a vivid splash of colour, where the rich red soil broke
through the green. But its tiny fields set off with hedges, and
lines of trees, its little, clean-swept villages, with their
picturesque church spires, its parks with deer that actually stood
still to look at you, its splendid manor houses, and, at rare
intervals, its turreted castles, gave these men, fresh from the
raw, unmeasured and unmade west, a sense of unreality. To them it
seemed a toy landscape for children to play with, but, as they
passed through the big towns and cities with their tall, clustering
chimneys, their crowding populations, with unmistakable evidences
of great wealth, their shipping, where the harbours bit into the
red coast line, there began to waken in them the thought that this
tiny England, so beautifully finished, and so neatly adorned, was
something mightier than they had ever known.
In these tiny fields, in these clean swept villages, in these manor
houses, in these castles, in factory and in shipyard, were struck
deep the roots of an England whose greatness they had never yet
The next afternoon brought them to the great military camp at
Shorncliffe, in a misty rain, hungry, for their rations had been
exhausted early in the day, weary from ship and train travel, and
eager to get their feet once again on mother earth.
At the little station they were kept waiting in a pouring rain for
something to happen, they knew not what. The R. T. O., a young
Imperial officer, blase with his ten months of war in England, had
some occult reason for delaying their departure. So, while the
night grew every moment wetter and darker, the men sat on their
kit-bags or found such shelter as they could in the tiny station,
or in the lee of the "goods trains" blocking the railroad tracks,
growing more indignant and more disgusted with the British high
command, the war in general, and registering with increasing
intensity vows of vengeance against the Kaiser, who, in the last
analysis, they considered responsible for their misery.
At length the "brass hat" for whom they had been waiting appeared
upon the scene, not in the slightest degree apologetic, but very
businesslike, and with a highly emphasised military manner. After
a little conversation between the brass hat and their Commanding
Officer, the latter gave the command and off they set in the
darkness for their first route march on English soil.
Through muddy roads and lanes, over fields, slushy and sodden, up
hill and down dale, they plodded steadily along. At the rear of
the colunm marched Barry with the M. O.
Long before they reached their destination, their conversation had
given out, the M. O. sucking sullenly at his pipe, the bowl upside
down. The rear end of the column was very frayed and straggling.
Why it is that a perfectly fit company will invariably fray out if
placed at the rear of a marching column, no military expert has
quite succeeded in satisfactorily explaining.
As he tramped along in the dark by the side of the road, the M. O.
stumbled over a soldier sitting upon the soggy bank.
"Who are you?" he inquired shortly.
"Corporal Thom, sir."
"What's the matter with you?"
"I'm all in, sir. I've been sick all day, sir."
"Why didn't you report sick, then? Can't you get on?"
"I don't think so, sir. Not for a while, at least."
"Have you any pain, any nausea?"
"No, sir, I'm just all in."
"Do you know our route?"
"Yes, sir, I've got the turns down."
"Well, come along then when you can. I'll send back a waggon
later, but don't wait for that."
"Yes, sir," said Corporal Thom.
"Come on, Dunbar! We'll send a waggon back for these stragglers.
There will be a good many of them before long."
"You go on, doc. I'll come later," said Barry. "I'll catch up to
But the M. O., at the various halts, waited in vain for the
chaplain to appear.
On arriving at the camp, after a long struggle, he succeeded in
sending back an Army Service waggon to bring in the stragglers, but
just as the waggon was about to leave, he heard coming up the road,
a party stepping out briskly to the music of their own whistling.
In the rear of the party marched the chaplain, laden down with one
man's rifle and another man's kit-bag.
"They're all here, sir," said Corporal Thom to the M. O., with a
distinct note of triumph in his voice. "All here, sir," he
repeated, as he observed the sergeant major standing at the
"Well done, corporal," said the sergeant major. "You brought 'em
all in? That means that no man has fallen out on our first march
in this country."
The corporal made no reply, but later on, he explained the matter
to the sergeant major.
"It's that Sky Pilot of ours, sir," he said. "Blowed if he'd let
us fall out."
"Kept you marching, eh?"
"No, it's his chocolate and his jaw, but more his jaw than his
chocolate. He's got lots of both. I was all in. I'd been sick
all day in the train. Couldn't eat a bite. Well, the first thing,
he gives me a cake of his chocolate. Then he sets himself down in
the mud beside me, and me wishin' all the time he'd go on and leave
me for the waggon to pick up. Then he gives me a cigarette, and
then he begins to talk."
"Talk, what about?"
"Damned if I know, but the first thing I knew I was tellin' him
about the broncho bustin',--that's my job, you know--and how I won
out from Nigger Jake in the Calgary Stampede, until I was that
stuck on myself that I said: 'Well, sir, we'd better get a move
on,' and up he gets with my kit-bag on his back. By and by, we
picks up another lame duck and then another, feedin' 'em with
chocolate and slingin' his jaw, and when we was at the limit, he
halts us outside one of them stone shacks and knocks at the door.
'No soldiers here,' snaps the red-headed angel, shuttin' the door
right in his face. Then he opens the door and steps right in where
she could see him, and starts to talk to her, and us listening out
in the rain. Say! In fifteen minutes we was all standin' up to a
feed of coffee and buns, and then he gets Harry Hobbs whistlin' and
singin', and derned if we couldn't have marched to Berlin. Say!
He's a good one, ain't no quitter, and he won't let nobody else be
And thus it came that with Corporal Thom and his derelicts the
chaplain marched into a new place in the esteem of the men of his
battalion, and of its sergeant major.
But of this, of course, Barry had no knowledge. He knew that he
had made some little progress into the confidence of both officers
and men in his battalion. He had made, too, some firm friendships
which had relieved, to a certain extent, the sense of isolation and
loneliness that had made his first months with the battalion so
appalling. But there still remained the sense of failure inasfar
as his specific duty as chaplain was concerned.
The experiences of the first weeks in England only served to deepen
in him the conviction that his influence on the men against the
evils which were their especial snare was as the wind against the
incoming tide, beating in from the North Sea. He could make a
ripple, a certain amount of fussy noise, but the tide of temptation
rolled steadily onward, unchecked in its flow.
The old temptations to profanity, drink and lust, that had haunted
the soldiers' steps at home, were found to be lying in wait for
them here and in aggravated form. True, in the mess and in his
presence among the men there was less profanity than there had been
at the first, but it filled him with a kind of rage to feel that
this change was due to no sense of the evil of the habit, but
solely to an unwillingness to give offence to one whom many of them
were coming to regard with respect and some even with affection.
"I hate that," he said to the M. O., to whom he would occasionally
unburden his soul. "You'd think I was a kind of policeman over
"Oh, I wouldn't worry about that," said the M. O., to whom the
habit of profanity was a very venial sin. "You ought to be mighty
glad that your presence does act as a kind of moral prophylactic.
And it does, I assure you. I confess that since I have come to be
associated with you, I am conscious of a very real, and at times,
distressing limitation of my vocabulary. I may not be more
virtuous, but certainly I am more respectable."
This sentiment, however, brought little comfort to the chaplain.
"I am not a policeman," he protested, "and I am not going to play
policeman to these men. I notice them shut up when I come around,
but I know quite well that they turn themselves loose when I pass
on, and that they feel much more comfortable. I am not and will
not be their policeman."
"What then would you be?" inquired the M. O.
Barry pondered this question for some time.
"To tell the truth," he said, at length, "I confess, I don't quite
know. I wish I did, doc, on my soul. One thing I do know, the men
are no better here in their morals than they were at home."
"Better? They are worse, by Jove!" exclaimed the M. O. "Look at
the daily crime-sheet! Look at that daily orderly room parade.
It's something fierce, and it's getting worse."
"The wet canteen?" inquired Barry, who had lost prestige with some
in the battalion by reason of the strenuous fight he had made
against its introduction since coming to England. Not that the men
cared so much for their liquor, but they resented the idea that
they were denied privileges enjoyed by other battalions.
"The wet canteen?" echoed the doctor. "No, you know I opposed, as
you did, the introduction of the wet canteen, although not upon the
same grounds. I regard it as a perfect nuisance in camp. It is
the centre of every disorder, it is subversive of discipline; it
materially increases my sick parade. But it is not the wet canteen
that is chiefly responsible for the growing crime-sheet and orderly
room parade. It is those damned--I don't apologise--"
"Please don't. Say it again!" exclaimed Barry fervently.
"Those damned pubs," continued the M. O., "stuck at every crossroads
in this country. They're the cause of ninety per cent. of the
drunkenness in our army, and more than that, I want to give you
another bit of information that came out at our M. O. conference
this week, namely that these pubs account for ninety per cent. of
our tent hospital cases."
"Ninety per cent., doctor? That's surely high."
"I would have said so, but I am giving you the unanimous verdict of
the twenty-six medical officers at the conference. Cut out the
damned beer--and you know I take my share of it--cut out the beer
and ninety per cent. of the venereal disease goes. With me it is
not a question of morality but of efficiency." Here the M. O.
sprang from his chair and began to pace the hut. "This is the one
thing in this army business that makes me wild. We come over here
to fight--these boys are willing to fight--and by gad they will
fight! They go out for a walk, they have a few beers together,
their inhibitory powers are paralysed, opportunity comes their way,
and they wake up a little later diseased. God in heaven! I love
this dear old England, and I would die for her if need be, but may
God Almighty damn her public houses, and all the infernal and
vicious customs which they nourish."
"Thank you, doctor, go right on," said Barry. "I was at the tent
hospital this week for the first time. Ever since, I have been
wanting to say what you have said just now. But what did your M. O.
conference do about it?"
"What could we do? The Home Office blocks the way. Well, I've got
that off my stomach, and I feel better," added the M. O., with a
"But, doc, I want to say this," said Barry. "I don't believe that
the percentage of men who go in for this sort of thing is large.
I've been making inquiries from our chaplains and they all agree
that we have a mighty fine and clean body of men in our Canadian
"Right you are! Of course, it is only a small percentage, a very
small percentage--a much smaller percentage than in our civilian
population at home. But small as it is, it is just that much too
many. Hell and blazes! These men are soldiers. They have left
their homes, and their folks, to fight. Their people--their people
are the best in our land. There's that young Pentland. A finer
young chap never threw a leg over a broncho. He's in that tent
hospital to-night. I know his mother. Three sons she has given.
Oh, damn it all," the doctor's voice broke at this point. "I can't
speak quietly. Their mothers have given them up, to death, if need
be, but not to this rotten, damnable disease. Look here, Pilot!"
The doctor pointed a shaking and accusing finger at Barry. "You
have often spoken against this thing, but next time you break
loose, give them merry hell over it. You can't make it too hot."
Long Barry sat silent overborne by the fury of the doctor's
"Cheer up, old chap!" said the doctor, when his wrath had somewhat
subsided. "We'll lick the Kaiser and beat the devil yet."
"But, doctor, what can I do?" implored Barry. "That's part of my
job, surely. Part of the job of the chaplain service, I mean. Oh,
that is the ghastly tragedy of this work of mine. Somehow I can't
get at it. These evils exist. I can speak against them and make
enemies, but the things go on just as before."
"Don't you believe it, Pilot, not quite as before. Behold how you
have already checked my profanity. Even the old man has pretty
much cut it out at mess. You don't know where they would have been
but for you. Cheer up! Our wings may not be visible but, on the
other hand, there are no signs of horns and hoofs."
"Doctor, one thing I'll do," cried Barry, with a sudden inspiration
"We've a meeting of the chaplains' corps to-morrow. I'll give them
"Expurgated edition, I hope," said the M. O.
"No, I'll put in every damn I can remember, and, if need be, a few
"Lord, I'd like to be there, old boy!" said the doctor, fervently.
Barry was as good as his word. At the meeting of the chaplains'
corps, the time was mainly taken up in routine business, dealing
with arrangements for religious services at the various camps
within the area.
At the close of the meeting, however, one of the chaplains rose and
announced that he had a matter to bring to the attention of the
corps--a matter of the highest importance, which demanded their
immediate and serious attention, and which they dared not any
longer ignore. It was the matter of venereal disease in our
His statistics and illustrative incidents gripped hard the hearts
of the men present. He closed with a demand that steps be taken
that day to deal with the situation. The Canadian people had
entrusted them with the care of their boys' souls. "Their souls,"
he cried. "I say our first duty is to their bodies. I am not
saying the percentage is large. It is not as large as in the
civilian population at home. But why any? We must care for these
men's bodies. They fight with their bodies."