Part 6 out of 8
"Oh, darn it, you know what I mean!"
"No, Fatty," said the sergeant solemnly. "I don't know what you
mean, but I'll suggest this to you, Fatty. You go down to that
Pete mule, down there at the end of the line and talk to him. I
guess he'll understand you. I'm busy just now."
"I don't see what you're so hot about," said the pioneer sergeant
in an aggravated voice, "but I'm going to see the boys come in
When the distant sound of the pipes coming from the direction of
the front line was heard in camp, men of the various transport
lines and base units lined up to watch the battalion come in. For
the rumour had run that they had had a bad go, that they had beaten
back no less than three rather formidable raids of the enemy and
had been badly cut up. More than that, by reason of the lack of
reinforcements, they had had to do a double tour, so that they were
returning from an experience of thirteen days, in what was indeed
the veritable mouth of hell.
"I guess they are all pretty well all in," said Sergeant Matthews,
who, standing with his pioneers, had been carefully avoided by his
friend Sergeant Mackay. That enthusiastic Scot had for the time
being abandoned his transport, and was fraternising with the
transport men of the Highlanders, with whom he was sure he would
feel himself in more complete accord.
"Here they come, boys," said a Scot, as the sound of the pipes grew
louder. "There's a drummer for ye. Listen 'til that double roll,
"Ay, Danny, the boys will be shovin' out their chests and hitchin'
their hips about something awful."
"Ye may say that, Hec. Will ye look at young Angus on the big
drum, man, but he has got the gr-rand style on him."
"Ay, boys, they are the la-ads," said Sergeant Mackay, yielding to
the influence of his environment and casually dropping into the
cadence of the Highlanders about him, which, during his ten years
in the west, his tongue had well-nigh lost. "It's a very fine
thing, your pipers are doing, playing our boys out in this way, and
we won't be forgetting that in a hurry."
"Why for no?" enquired Hec, in surprise. "It's the Highlanders
themselves that love a bonny fighter."
Down the road, between lines of silent men, came the pipers with
waving kilts and flying tartans, swinging along in their long
swaying stride, young Angus doing wonders on the big drum, with his
whirling sticks, and every piper blowing his loudest, and marching
his proudest. Behind them came the men of the battalion marching
at attention, their colonel at their head, grave of face and
steady. Behind the colonel marched Major Bayne, in place of the
senior major, whom illness had prevented from accompanying the
battalion on this last tour, no longer rotund and cheery as was his
wont, but with face grey, serious and deep lined. After him at the
head of A Company marched Captain Duff, his rugged, heavy face
looking thinner and longer than its wont but even fiercer than
ever. With eyes that looked straight before then, heedless of the
line of silent onlookers, the men marched on, something in their
set, haggard faces forbidding applause. At the rear of the column
marched the chaplain alone, and every one knew that he had left up
in the Salient behind him his friend and comrade, the M. O., whose
place in all other marching had been at his right hand. All knew
too how during this last go, in the face of death in its most
terrifying form, they had carried out their wounded comrades one by
one until all were brought to safety. And all knew too, how the
chaplain carried with him that day a sore and lonely heart for the
loss of one who was more to him than batman, and who had become his
loyal and devoted friend. The chaplain's face was gaunt and thin,
with hollow cheeks, but for all that, it wore a look of serene
"Say, he looks awful tough," said a voice in Sergeant Mackay's ear.
Sergeant Mackay turned sharply around upon Fatty Matthews.
"Tough! Tough!" he exclaimed, with a choke in his voice. "You're
a damned liar, that's what you are. He looks fine. He looks
fine," he added again furiously. "He looks as if hell itself
couldn't scare him."
In the sergeant's eyes strange lights were glistening.
"Yes, you're right, sergeant," said Fatty Matthews humbly. "You're
right, and that's where he's been, too, I guess."
Bravely and gallantly, with the historic and immortal "Cock o' the
North" shrilling out on the evening air, the pipers played them on
to the battalion parade ground, where they halted, silent still and
with that strange air of detached indifference still upon them.
They had been through hell. Nothing else could surprise them.
All else, indeed, seemed paltry.
Briefly, but with heart-reaching words, the colonel thanked the
pipers for what he called "an act of fine and brotherly courtesy."
Then turning to his men, he spoke a few words before dismissal.
"Men, you have passed through a long and hard time of testing. You
have not failed. I am not going to praise you, but I want you to
know that I am proud of you. Proud to be your commanding officer.
I know that whatever is before us, you will show the same spirit of
endurance and courage.
"We have lost this time twenty-nine men, eleven of them killed, and
with these three very brave and very gallant officers, among them
our medical officer, a very great loss to this battalion. These
men did their duty to the last. We loved them. We shall miss
them, but to-day we are proud of them. Let us give three cheers
for our gallant dead."
With no joyous outburst, but with a note of fierce, strained
determination, came the cheers. In spite of all he could do, Barry
could not prevent a shudder as he heard the men about him cheering
for those whom he had so recently seen lying, some of them sorely
mutilated, in their grey blankets.
"Now, men," concluded the O. C., "we must 'carry on.' You will
have a couple of hours in which to clean up and have supper, and
then we shall have to-night a cinema show, to which I hope you will
all come, and which I hope you will all greatly enjoy."
The colonel's little speeches, as a rule, elicited appreciative
cheers, but this afternoon there was only a grave silence. After
dismissal, the men went to their huts and were soon busy giving
themselves a "high mark scrub" preliminary to the hot bath and
"jungle hunt" in which they would indulge themselves to-morrow.
As Barry was moving off the parade ground, the junior major caught
up to him, and took him by the arm and said:
"I have sent around my batman to your hut. He will look after you
until I can pick out a man from the new draft. We all know how you
feel about Hobbs, old man."
"Thank you, major," said Barry quietly. "I appreciate that."
"You will be around to-night," continued the major.
"No, I think not. I have a lot of things to do. All those letters
to write." Barry shuddered as he spoke. For nothing in all his
ministerial experience was to him a more exhausting and heartbreaking
task than the writing of these letters to the relatives and friends
of his dead comrades.
"I think you had better come," said the major earnestly. "I know
the O. C. would like it, and the boys would like it too."
"Do you think so?" said Barry. "Then I'll be there."
"Good man," said Major Bayne, patting him on the shoulder. "That's
the stuff we like in this battalion."
Barry found his hut in order, his things out for airing, his tub
ready, and supper in preparation.
"Thanks, Monroe," he said to Major Bayne's batman, as he passed
into his hut.
As he entered his hut and closed the door, for the first time there
swept over his soul an appalling and desolating sense of loneliness.
It was his first moment of quiet, his first leisure to think of
himself for almost two weeks. With the loss of his batman there had
been snapped the last link with that old home life of his, now so
remote but all the dearer for that. It came to him that while he
remained a soldier, this was to be his continual experience. Upon
his return from every tour new gaps would stare at him. Up in the
lines they did not so terribly obtrude themselves, but back here in
rest billets they thrust themselves upon him like hideous mutilations
upon a well loved face. He could hardly force himself to remove his
muddy, filthy clothes. He would gladly have laid himself down upon
his cot just as he was, and given himself up to the luxury of his
grief and loneliness, until sleep should come, but his life as a
soldier had taught him something. These months of discipline, and
especially these last months of companionship with his battalion
through the terrible experiences of war, had wrought into the very
fibre of his life a sense of unity with and responsibility for his
comrades. His every emotion of loss, of grief, of heart-sickness
carried with it the immediate suggestion and remembrance that his
comrades too were passing through a like experience, and this was
his salvation. Weary, sick, desolate as he felt himself in this
hour, he remembered that many of his comrades were as he, weary,
and sick and desolate. He wondered how the major's batman felt.
"Well, Monroe," he said with an attempt at a voice of cheer,
"pretty tough go this time."
"Yes, sir, very tough," said Monroe. "I lost my chum this time,"
he added after a few moments' silence.
"Poor chap," said Barry. "I'm awfully sorry for you. It's hard to
leave a friend up there."
"It is that, sir," replied Monroe, and then he added hurriedly but
with hesitation, "and if you will pardon me, sir, we all know it's
awful tough for you. The boys all feel for you, sir, believe me."
The unexpected touch of sympathy was too much for Barry's self-
control. A rush of warm tears came to his eyes and choked his
voice. For some minutes he busied himself with his undressing, but
Monroe continued speaking.
"Yes, sir, the Wapiti bunch is getting pretty small. Corporal Thom
was with me--"
"Corporal Thom!" cried Barry. "Was Corporal Thom your chum?"
"Yes, sir, for six years we was on the Bar U. M. together. We was
awful close friends. He was a good chum."
"Corporal Thom!" exclaimed Barry again; "he was your chum! He was
a great friend of mine too. You have indeed suffered a great
"He thought a lot of you, sir," said Monroe. "He has often talked
to me about you."
"But what a splendid death!" cried Barry. "Perfectly glorious!"
"I didn't hear, sir," said Monroe; "I came down three days ago, and
only heard that a bomb got him."
"Oh, splendid," said Barry. "Nothing finer in the war. Let me tell
you about it. There was an enemy raid coming up. The corporal had
got wind of it and called his men out. They rushed into the front
line bay. Just as they got there, eight or ten of them, a live bomb
fell hissing among them. They all rushed to one end of the bay, but
the corporal kicked the bomb to the other end, and then threw
himself on top of it. He was blown to pieces, but no one else was
During the recital of this tale, Monroe stood looking at Barry and
when he had finished his eyes were shining with tears.
"Ay, sir, he was a man, sir," he said at length.
"Yes, you have said it, Monroe. He was a man, just a common man,
but uncommonly like God, for He did the same thing. He gave
Himself for us."
Monroe turned away to his work in silence.
"Monroe," said Barry, calling him back, "look here, lad, it would
not be right for us to grieve too much for Corporal Thom. We ought
to be thankful for him and proud of him, should we not?"
"Yes, sir, I know, sir, but," he added while his lip trembled, "you
hate to lose your chum."
Only under compulsion of his conscience did Barry go to the cinema
show that night, which in this camp was run under the chaplain
service and by a chaplain. He knew what the thing would be like.
His whole soul shrunk from the silly, melodramatic films which he
knew would constitute the programme as from a nauseating dose of
medicine. The billboard announced a double header, a trite and,
especially to Canadians, a ridiculous representation of the
experiences of John Bull and his wife and pretty daughter as
immigrants to the Canadian Northwest, which was to be followed by
the immortal Charlie Chaplin.
The cinema hut was jammed--the whole battalion, now much reduced in
numbers, officers and men being present, and with them the men of
the base units and transports of other battalions. It was in some
senses an unusual gathering. There was an entire absence of the
wonted chaff and uproarious horseplay; instead a grave and almost
bored air rested upon the men's faces. The appalling experiences
of the past thirteen days seemed to dwarf all other things in
comparison. They had been in the presence of the Big Thing; all
else seemed petty; they had been looking into death's cold eyes;
after that other sights seemed trivial. Many of them carried sore
hearts for their comrades with whom they had at other times
foregathered in just such circumstances as these, but nevermore
It was the custom in the battalion, as the officers came into such
gatherings as this, to receive them with a ripple of applause, but
to-night there was silence. Barry arrived late. When he appeared
there fell upon the men a hush, and then as he moved toward the
front seats reserved for the officers, the men began to rise until
the whole battalion was standing silent and motionless, and so
remained until he had found a seat. It was Major Bayne who called
his attention to this unusual demonstration, which was reserved
only for great occasions and for nothing less than a battalion
"They are saluting you, Pilot," said Major Bayne in a whisper,
himself standing with the other officers.
Barry quickly lifted his eyes, saw the men standing, with all eyes
directed toward him, slowly looked over the rows of faces, smiled a
bright but slightly wavering smile, turned and saluted the
Commanding Officer, and sat down all trembling and shaken by this
most touching tribute of sympathy and affection.
The show began with some pictures of great allied leaders which
excited a mild interest and drew some perfunctory applause. Then
came the tragic comedy of John Bull's experiences as an immigrant,
when just as the interest began to deepen, the machine blew up, and
the pictures were off for the night.
Ordinarily such a contretemps would have been by no means fatal to
the evening's enjoyment, for in the battalion there was no lack of
musical and other talent, and an impromptu entertainment was easily
possible. Ordinarily, too, in such an emergency there would at
once have arisen a demand for the chaplain, who had come to be
recognised as a great standby in times of need such as this. To-
night, however, everything seemed changed. The mild suggestion of
one of the men that the chaplain should take the piano was promptly
discouraged by the dissenting growls of the others present. They
knew well how their chaplain was feeling.
"What shall we do?" asked Major Bayne of Barry.
"Get Coleman to the piano. He is a perfect wizard," suggested
Barry, indicating a young lieutenant who had come to the battalion
with the recent draft, and who had done some accompaniments for
Barry's violin playing.
Lieutenant Coleman, on being called for, went to the piano, and
began to play. He was indeed a wizard as Barry had said, with a
genius for ragtime and popular music hall ditties, and possessed
also of the further gift of improvisation that made his services
invaluable on just such an occasion as this.
From one popular air to another he wandered, each executed with
greater brilliance than the last, but he failed to excite anything
more than a mild interest and approval. The old songs which on
other occasions had been wont to let loose the song birds of the
battalion seemed to have lost their power. It was not gloom, but a
settled and immovable apathy which apparently nothing could break.
"This is going awfully slow," said Major Bayne to Barry. "I wish
something could be done."
"The boys are tired out," answered Barry, himself weary and sick of
the performance and longing more than anything else for solitude
and his cot.
The Commanding Officer came over and sat beside them. He was
obviously worried and uneasy.
"I don't like this," he said to the major. "Coleman is doing his
best, and is doing mighty well, but there is no heart in the boys,
and it isn't entirely due to physical weakness. I wish we could
start something that would wake them up before they leave. They
would sleep much better."
"The Pilot here can do it," said Major Bayne in an undertone, "but
I rather hate to ask him for he is pretty much all in."
They sat a little while longer listening to the men's half hearted
drawling of "The Tulip and the Rose."
"This won't do," said the O. C. abruptly. "Get Dunbar over here."
"Dunbar," said the O. C. when Barry had come to him. "This thing
is as dull as ditchwater. I want to get the boys started up a bit.
They are hopelessly dull. Look at their eyes. Do you know what
they are seeing?"
"Yes, sir," said Barry, "they are seeing what they have been
looking at for the last thirteen days."
"You are right, Dunbar, and that's what I want them to forget. Now
I know you don't feel very fit, and I hate to ask you, but I
believe you can do something for the men with that violin of yours.
What do you say?"
"I have already sent a man for it," said Major Bayne. "I knew he'd
do it, and his violin lies there under the piano."
Without announcement or preface Barry walked straight to the stage
where Coleman, having miserably failed to strike fire with "The
Tulip and the Rose," was grinding out, with great diligence and
conscientious energy, "Irish Eyes." Barry picked up his violin
from the floor, mounted the stage, laid his violin on the piano,
then he took his place behind the pianist and, bending over him,
reached down, caught him under the legs and while still in full
tide of his performance, lifted him squarely off the stool and
deposited him upon a chair at one side of the stage. Then,
ignoring the amazed look upon Coleman's face, he proceeded gravely
to tune his violin to the piano. The act itself, the cool neatness
with which it was performed, the astonished face of the outraged
pianist, all together created a situation excessively funny. The
effect upon the audience was first one of surprise, then of
unalloyed delight. Immediately every man in the hall was wide
awake, and as the humour of the situation grew upon them, they
began to cheer in quite a lively manner.
When Barry put his violin to his chin they cheered again, for often
had he bewitched them with the magic of his instrument.
Before he began to play, he glanced over his shoulder at the
discomfited Coleman and remarked in an undertone, perfectly audible
throughout the hall, "Now we'll have some music."
Again the audience went off in a perfect storm of delighted cheers,
which were renewed from time to time as Barry would turn looking
with a grave face upon the still amazed Coleman, not yet quite
recovered from his first astonishment.
When quiet was finally restored, Barry began to play. For his
opening number he made a daring choice. It was the intricate but
altogether tuneful Ballade and Polonaise by Vieuxtemps. Throughout
the somewhat lengthy number he held his audience fixed under the
mastery of his art. It was a triumph immediate and complete. When
he had finished the last brilliant movement of the Polonaise, the
men burst again into enthusiastic cheering, moved not only by the
music but more by the spirit of their chaplain, which they could
not fail to understand and appreciate.
He had already achieved what the O. C. had desired, but he was not
yet done with them. Having finished his classical selection, which
he was quite well aware Coleman could not touch, he turned to the
latter and gravely motioned him to the piano stool. Coleman
hesitated, not knowing quite what would be demanded of him.
"Come on, Coleman, be a sport," shouted a young officer, the
audience joining once more in encouraging cheers.
Still Coleman hesitated. One never knew just what vagary the
chaplain might put on. Failing to move him by imploring gesture,
Barry finally approached him, and with elaborate, courteous
formality, offered him his hand, and finally conducted him to the
piano stool. Again the delighted audience went into a roar of
From that moment, and for a full hour, Barry had them at his will,
now listening spellbound to some simple old heart song, now beating
hand and foot to a reel, now roaring to the limit of their lung
power some old and well-loved popular air.
"Ain't he a bird?" said the major to the Commanding Officer.
"He's fine," assented the Commanding Officer with a great sigh. "I
can't tell you what a burden he has lifted from me. It's worth a
week's rest to the men, and, poor chaps, they need it." Lowering
his voice, he leaned over to the major and said, "We may be going
up again to-morrow night."
"To-morrow night, colonel!" exclaimed the major, aghast.
"Not a word, but I have exceedingly grave news. The front line is
driven in. One of the battalions holding is completely wiped out."
"Wiped out? Good God, and where are the enemy?"
"As far as I can hear, although I haven't the particulars, they
have broken through from Hooge to Hill 60, are through Sanctuary
Wood, and down to Maple Copse. Two relief battalions have gone up
and are holding. The chances are we shall have to go to back them
up to-morrow evening. It's hard on the boys, for they have come
through a long and bitter experience, but not a word of this,
major, to any one. We shall let them have their rest to-night.
That's why I was so anxious about this entertainment. That's why I
am particularly grateful to that Pilot of ours. He is a wonder,
and by the look of him he is about all in. He is staying
magnificently with the game. And now, major, I am going to do
something that will please him immensely. At least I think it
At a pause in the music, the O. C. arose and moved toward the
stage. Barry at once stepped back to the rear. Standing before
the men, the O. C. spoke briefly:
"I wish to thank in your name, men, our chaplain, and his assistant,
Mr. Coleman, for the very delightful evening they have given us. I
know how you feel by the way I feel myself. I need say no more, and
now, seeing that we have missed our parade service for the last two
Sundays, and as I should not like the chaplain to become rusty in
his duty, I'm going to ask him to bring our very pleasant evening to
a close with a little service such as he himself would suggest."
Hardly were the words out of his mouth, when Barry took up his
violin and said:
"Boys, did you have a good time to-night?"
"Yes, sir; you bet we had, sir."
"Well, then, if you had, sing this," and recited for them the first
verses of the old hymn,
"Abide with me, fast falls the even tide."
When they had sung the first verse, he said again:
"Now sing these words," and once more he recited the stirring
"I fear no foe, with Thee at hand to bless."
When they had finished the verse, he said to them
"Shall we have another?"
"Go on, sir!" they said. "Sure thing!" "Finish it up!"
"Then," said Barry, "sing these words":
"I need Thy presence every passing hour,
What but Thy grace can foil the tempter's power."
Then when he had finished the verse, he dropped the violin and,
moving to the edge of the platform, said, in a voice vibrant with
"Don't sing these words, but say them as I play them for you."
He then recited the moving words with which the old hymn closes:
"Hold Thou Thy cross before my closing eyes;
Shine through the gloom and point me to the skies;
Heaven's morning breaks, and earth's vain shadows flee,
In life, in death, O Lord, abide with me."
"I want every one of you to say the words to himself as I play
In long-drawn, tremulous notes he voiced the beautiful plea for aid
in the hour of man's supreme need, which finds expression in the
first two lines. Then, with his bow gripping the strings in a
great sweeping crescendo, he poured forth in full strong chords the
triumphant faith with which the hymn closes.
He laid his violin on the piano, stood quite a few moments looking
upon them, then said:
"Men, listen to these great words. They might have been written
for us, and for these days;" and he recited to them the words of
the Hebrew psalm, eloquent of courage in the face of a crumbling
"God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.
Therefore will not we fear, though the earth be removed, and though
the mountains be carried into the midst of the sea.
Though the waters thereof roar and be troubled, though the
mountains shake with the swelling thereof. Selah.
There is a river, the streams whereof shall make glad the city of
God, the holy place of the tabernacles of the Most High.
God is in the midst of her; she shall not be moved. God shall help
her and that right early.
The heathen raged, the kingdoms were moved; he uttered his voice,
the earth melted.
The Lord of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our refuge.
Come, behold the words of the Lord, what desolations he hath made
in the earth.
He maketh wars to cease unto the end of the earth; he breaketh the
bow, and cutteth the spear in sunder: he burneth the chariot in the
Be still and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the
heathen, I will be exalted in the earth.
The Lord of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our refuge."
Then they followed him in the General Confession, and the Lord's
"Captain Dunbar," said the O. C., offering him his hand, "you have
done for us to-night a greater thing than you know just now. You
will understand better tomorrow. With all my heart I thank you on
the men's behalf and on my own behalf, for I assure you I needed it
as much as they did. I want to assure you, too, sir, that I
received to-night the thing I needed."
"Thank you, sir," said Barry simply, too weary to utter another
word, and staggered out, half dead with exhaustion.
Half an hour later, as he was leisurely undressing, and drinking
the cup of cocoa which Monroe had prepared for him, a message
summoned him to the orderly room. There he found Colonel Leighton
with Major Bayne and the company commanders.
"I have a communication here for you, Captain Dunbar," said the
O. C., "from your D. A. C. S.," and he passed him a little slip.
It was the announcement of his "leave."
"Well, what do you think of that?" said the O. C. "How does that
"Well, sir," said Barry, uncertainty and hesitation in his voice,
"I'd like the leave, all right, but can I conveniently be spared
"Most certainly," said the O. C., "and, what's more, I want you to
go to-night. Can you get ready?"
"I suppose so, sir," said Barry, wearily.
"By Jove! listen to him," said the O. C. "He hates to leave us,
doesn't he?" And they all laughed. "Now, Dunbar," he said, "no
more posing. You catch the leave train to-night at Poperinghe. As
a matter of fact, I think it starts somewhere about twelve."
"Thank you, sir," said Barry. "I think I can catch it."
"Then good luck!" said the O. C., rising from his chair. "Every
one of us here would like to be in your place, but since it isn't
himself, every man is glad that it should be you."
Still Barry hesitated.
"I really hate to leave you, sir, just now," he said. "I mean
that," he added with a little nervous laugh.
"Oh, come on, Dunbar," said the O. C. in a voice whose gruffness
might signify almost any emotion, but with a touch upon his
shoulder that Barry knew meant comradeship. "Say good-bye to the
boys here, and get out."
They had just finished the plan for the campaign of the next night,
and every man in that little company knew that for him this might
be his last "Good-bye" to the chaplain. It only added to the depth
of their feeling that they knew that of all this Barry was
unconscious. But, whether it was that unconsciously he had
gathered something of the real significance of the situation, or
whether it was that he himself had reached the limit of emotional
control, as he passed from man to man, shaking hands in farewell,
his lips refused to utter a single word, but in his eyes were
unshed tears that spoke for him.
Major Bayne followed him to the door, and outside:
"Take my horse and Monroe with you, and good-bye, old man. All
sorts of good luck. Remember that we all feel to-night that you
are really one of us, and that we are better men because we have
known you. Goodbye."
Again Barry was conscious of that strange suggestion, almost of
"I hate to go, major," he said. "I believe I'll wait."
"Nonsense," said the major impatiently. "Take your leave when you
get your chance, and have a good time. You have earned it."
THE PASSING OF McCUAIG
At Poperinghe the leave train was waiting in the station, and a
little company of officers and men were having their papers
examined preparatory to their securing transportation. Some of
the officers were from his own brigade and were known to Barry.
"A big push on at the front, I hear," said one of them to a friend.
"Yes, major," said his friend. "They have been having a perfect
hell of a time."
"By the way, your men are going in to-morrow, I understand," said
the major, turning to Barry.
"I don't think so, major," replied Barry. "We have just come out."
"Oh, well, I had it from fairly good authority that they were going
in to-morrow night."
Barry hunted up Monroe, whom he found talking to a signaller of the
"Did you boys hear anything about the battalion going up to-morrow?"
"Yes, sir," said the signaller promptly. "We had it over the
wires. They are going in, all right, to-morrow night."
Monroe kicked the signaller on the ankle.
"Did you hear anything about it, Monroe?" enquired Barry.
"No, sir. I don't believe these rumours at all. They are always
"But you say you got it over the wires?" said Barry to the signaller.
"Yes, sir. That is, sir, of course, we get a lot of messages.
Perhaps I'm mixed up," said the signaller in very evident confusion.
"And you haven't heard anything, Monroe?" said Barry.
"No, sir, not a thing, and I think I would have heard if there had
been any truth in it."
Something in the childlike expression of innocence upon Monroe's
face wakened Barry's suspicion.
"Look here, Monroe," he said, "don't lie to me. Now, I'm talking
to you as your chaplain. Tell me the truth. Have you heard of the
battalion going in to-morrow?"
Under Barry's eye Monroe began to squirm.
"Well, sir, to tell you the truth, I did hear a rumour of that
"And you?" said Barry, turning upon the signaller, "tell me the
"Well, sir, it's just as I said. We had it over the wires. The
battalion is going in."
"Very well, get my stuff, Monroe," said Barry, quietly. "I'm going
"I beg your pardon, sir."
"Do you hear me? Get my stuff; I'm not going out to-night."
Barry's tone admitted no further talk, and Monroe, swearing deeply
at his friend the signaller and at his own stupidity, and
especially at his own "lack of nerve to see his lie through,"
hunted out Barry's baggage and stood ready for his officer to
"Hello, Dunbar," said the major, as he saw Barry about to mount his
horse. "What's up? Forgotten something? You'll surely miss your
"I'm not going," said Barry briefly, getting himself settled in his
"Not going!" exclaimed the major. "What do you mean? I thought
you were on leave."
"Changed my mind," said Barry cheerfully.
"I say, old man," said the major, "there may be nothing in what I
told you about the push. Anyway, you know we cannot postpone our
leave until all the fighting is over."
"Oh, that's all right," replied Barry. "There are lots of you
combatant chaps in a battalion, but there is only one chaplain."
"Oh, hang it all," cried the major, "take your leave. Well,"
seeing that Barry paid no heed to his advice, "the best of luck,
old man," he said, offering his hand. "I guess you're all right
The exhilaration that had sustained Barry during the evening
suddenly fled, leaving him flat in spirit and limp in body. What
he wanted most of all was sleep, and morning was not so far away.
He rode back to his hut, and, bidding Monroe let him sleep all day,
he tumbled into bed and knew nothing until late in the afternoon.
Monroe, too, had slept in, and, after rising, had been busy about
the hut, so that he had no further information as to the battalion's
movements. The chaplain's hut was some distance from Headquarters
and from the battalion camp. Hence it came that while Barry was
writing hard at his letters throughout the remainder of the
afternoon, he was quite unaware of what was taking place. Monroe,
however, returned about six o'clock to say that the battalion had
been "standing to" all afternoon, but that the general feeling was
that there would be no advance until late at night.
Glad of the opportunity to catch up with his correspondence, Barry
paid little heed to the passing of time. His last letter was to
the V. A. D., in which he poured out the bitterness of his
disappointment that he was not even now on his way to Boulogne and
to her, and expressing the hope that after this "show" was over, he
would be granted leave, upon which happy event he would with all
speed proceed to her. She had been speaking of a trip to England.
Would it not be a very wise and proper proceeding that she should
make her leave to synchronise with his? Now he must be off, and so
with love to her, and with the hope that they might see London
Just then Monroe came with the startling news that the battalion
had "moved up" hours ago.
"Which road?" enquired Barry, springing to his feet.
"Don't know, sir," replied Monroe, who had evidently his own
opinion about matters. "But I met a padre," he continued, "who
told me that there was a stream of wounded passing through the
Brandhoek Clearing Station. He said they were very short-handed
there, sir," and Monroe regarded his officer with anxious eyes.
"I hate to take you up there, Monroe," said Barry with a smile.
"Oh, that's all right, sir," said Monroe, hastily, "but I guess
we'll have to hurry."
"I remember, Monroe, that your major and you would have sent me out
of this, but you know well enough that there's only one place for
me to-night, and the question is, where is the battalion--Ypres
Barracks, Chateau Beige, Zillebeck, or where?"
"I enquired at the transports, sir," said Monroe, "and no one
appeared to know. They moved out quietly and left no word behind."
"All right, we'll go up to Chateau Belge, and if they are not
there, we'll make a shot at Zillebeck," said Barry. "We'll go
right away. We don't need a lot of truck this trip."
It was a long and tiresome march, but Barry found himself
remarkably fit, and already under the exhilaration of what was
before him. At the Chateau Belge they found no word of their
battalion, but they were informed that the shelling on the
Kruisstraat road had been bad all afternoon, and was still going
on. The Boches were paying particular attention indeed to the
"All right," said Barry. "We'll go up and have a look at it,
A hundred yards further up the road they were held up by a sudden
burst of H. E. shells, which fell in near proximity to the
crossroads before them.
"Well, we'll just wait here a few minutes until we can time these
things," said Barry, sitting down by the roadside.
As they were waiting there, three soldiers passed them at quick
"Better wait, boys," called Barry; "they are dropping quite a few
shells at the crossroads."
"We are runners, sir," said one of them. "I guess we'll just take
a chance, thank you, sir."
"All right, boys, if you think best," replied Barry. "Good luck!"
"Thank you, sir," they said, and set off at a smart pace.
While Barry sat listening to the sound of their footsteps upon the
pavement, there came that terrific whine, followed by an appalling
crash, as a H. E. shell landed full upon the road. Barry sprang to
his feet. Three other shells followed in quick succession, then
there came the sound of hurrying feet and a man appeared, bleeding
horribly and gasping.
"Oh, my God! My God! They are gone! They are gone!"
"Sit down," said Barry. "Now, where's your wound?"
"My arm, sir," said the man.
Barry cut off the blood-soaked sleeve, ripped open his first aid
dressing, and bound the wound up tightly. Then he put a tourniquet
upon the arm above the wound.
"The other boys killed, you say?" he inquired.
"Yes, sir, blown to pieces. Oh, my God!" he groaned, shuddering.
"My chum's whole head was blown off, and the other has his belly
all torn up."
"Now look here, old man," said Barry, "you lie down here where you
are, and keep perfectly still," for the man was throwing himself
about, more from shock than from pain. "We'll get you to the
dressing station in a few minutes. Monroe, run and get the
stretcher bearers, and I'll go and see how things are up yonder."
He threw his coat over the wounded man, and set off at a run toward
the crossroads. He found matters as the man had said, the two
bodies lying in a dark patch of bloodsoaked dust, one with head
quite blown off, and the other with abdomen horribly torn.
He hurried back to the wounded man, who had recovered somewhat from
his shock and was now lying on his side quietly moaning. Barry got
from him the names and units of the men who had been killed.
"I will drop a note to your mother, too, my boy," he said, "and
tell her about your wound."
"Oh, sir," said the boy quickly--he was only a boy after all--
"don't tell her--at least, tell her I'm all right. I'll be all
right, won't I?"
"Sure thing," said Barry, "don't you fear. I won't alarm her, and
I'll tell her what good stuff you are, boy."
"All right, sir. Thank you, sir," said the boy quietly.
"And I'll tell her, too, that you are not worrying a bit, and that
you know that you are in the keeping of your Heavenly Father. How
"Yes, sir," said the boy in a low voice. "I will be glad to have
you tell her that. She taught me all that, sir. Poor mother,
she'll worry though, I know," he added with a little catch in his
"Now you brace up," said Barry firmly. "You have got off mighty
well. You have got a nice little blighty there, and you are going
to be all right. I'll give your mother the best report about you,
so that she won't worry."
"Oh, thank you," said the boy, with fervent gratitude, "that will
be fine. And you are right," he added, a note of resolution coming
into his voice. "I got off mighty well, and it's only my left arm,
thank goodness. I'll brace up, sir, never fear," he added between
his teeth, choking back a groan.
Barry accompanied the stretcher-bearer back to the chateau and gave
the man over into the care of the C. A. M. C.
"Can you put a squad on to digging a grave?" he inquired of the
officer in charge. "If so, though I'm in an awful hurry, I'll stay
to bury those poor chaps."
"Sure thing, we can," said the officer. "We'll do the very best we
can to hurry it."
In about an hour and a half Barry was on his way again. He dodged
the shelling at the crossroads, and following a track across the
open fields, arrived at the Zillebeck Bund without adventure.
Here to his relief he found the battalion. He made his way at once
to Headquarters, and walked in upon a meeting of officers.
"Well, I'm--" exclaimed Colonel Leighton, checking himself hard,
"who have we here! What in hell are you doing here, Pilot? I
thought you would be safely in old Blighty by this time," he added,
shaking him warmly by the hand.
"Oh, you couldn't work that game on me, colonel," said Barry
cheerily, going round the group of men, who gave him an eager
welcome. "You thought you had shipped me off, just as the fun was
starting, but I got on to you."
"Well, I'll be darned," said Major Bayne. "How did you find out?"
Barry told him, adding, "You will have to train your man to lie
"That's what comes of a man's environment," said the major,
disgustedly. "I was always too truthful, anyway."
"Well, sir," said Barry, turning to the colonel. "I'm awfully glad
to find you here. I was afraid I'd lost you."
"Well, gentlemen," said the colonel, "you have all got your orders.
Does any one want to ask a question? Well, then, it's pretty
simple after all. Two companies advance as far as Maple Copse, and
gradually work up until they feel the enemy, then put in a block
and hold against attack, at all costs. The other two companies are
to follow up in support at Zillebeck Village. Later on, when our
reserves come up, and when our guns return--I hear they are pushing
them up rapidly--we are promised a go at those devils. Meantime we
have got to hold on, but I expect the battalion will be pulled out
The flickering candles lit up the faces of the men crowding the
dugout. They were elaborately careless and jolly, but their eyes
belied their faces. Under the careless air there was a tense and
stern look of expectation. They were all sportsmen, and had all
experienced the anxious nervous thrill of the moments preceding a
big contest. Once the ball was off, their nervousness would go,
and they would be cool and wary, playing the game for all they had
"Now, gentlemen," said the colonel, as they prepared to leave the
dugout, "before I let you go, there is one thing I want to say.
It's a tradition of the British army that any soldier or officer
who has lost his unit marches toward the sound of the guns. I am
proud to-night that we have an example of that old tradition here.
We left our chaplain behind, and he didn't know where his battalion
had gone, but he moved toward the sound of the guns. That is what
I would expect from any of you, gentlemen, but it's none the less
gratifying to find one's expectations realised."
Only his flaming face revealed Barry's emotion as the colonel was
"Now then, gentlemen, carry on, and the best of luck."
"Sir," said Barry, "what about a little prayer?"
"Fine," said the colonel heartily, while round the room there ran a
murmur of approval.
Barry pulled out his little Bible and read, not one of the
"fighting psalms" but the tenderly exquisite words of the
Shepherd's song. His voice was clear, steady and ringing with
cheery confidence. His prayer was in the spirit of the psalm,
breathing high courage and calm trust, even in the presence of the
In a single sentence he commended his comrades to the keeping of
the Eternal God of Truth and Justice and Mercy, asking that they
might be found steadfast in their hour of testing and worthy of
their country and their cause.
Together they joined in the Lord's prayer; then lifting over them
his hands, he closed the little service with that ancient and
beautiful formula of blessing, which for two thousand years has
sent men out from the Holy Place of Meeting to face with hearts
resolved whatever life might hold for them.
One by one, as they passed out the officers shook hands with Barry,
thanking him for the service, and expressing their delight that he
was with them again.
"What are we going to do with you, Pilot?" inquired the colonel.
"I thought I'd stick around with the boys," said Barry.
"Well," said the colonel, gravely, "of course, there's no use of
your going up to the attack. You would only be in the way. You
would be an embarrassment to the officers. That reminds me, there
was a call from Menin Mill for you this afternoon. They are having
an awful rush there. Our own R. A. P. will be in Zillebeck
Village, and our Headquarters will be there."
"I'll go there, sir, if you agree," said Barry, and after some
discussion the matter was so arranged.
In a ruined cellar in the village of Zillebeck, a mile and a half
further in, the R. A. P. was established and there carried on
during the desperate fighting of the next three days. Through this
post a continuous stream of wounded passed, the stretcher cases all
night, the walking cases all day and all night. In spite of its
scenes of horror and suffering the R. A. P. was a cheery spot. The
new M. O. was strange to his front line business, but he was of the
right stuff, cool, quick with his fingers, and undisturbed by the
crashing of bursting shells. The stretcher bearers and even the
wounded maintained an air of resolute cheeriness, that helped to
make bearable what otherwise would have been a nightmare of
unspeakable horror. Attached to the R. A. P. was an outer building
wherein the wounded men were laid after treatment. Thither in a
pause of his work, Barry would run to administer drinks, ease the
strain of an awkward position, speak a word of cheer, say a prayer,
or sing snatches of a hymn or psalm. There was little leisure for
reflection, nor if there had been would he have indulged in
reflection, knowing well that only thus could he maintain his self-
control and "carry on."
With each wounded man there came news of the progress of the
fighting. The boys were holding splendidly, indeed were gradually
eating into the enemy front. They brought weird stories of his
comrades, incidents pathetic, humorous, heroic, according to the
temperament of the narrator. But from more than one source came
tales of Knight's machine gun section to which McCuaig was
attached. Knight himself had been killed soon after entering the
line, and about his men conflicting tales were told: they were
holding a strong point, they were blown up, they had shifted their
position, they were wiped out, they were still "carrying on."
McCuaig was the hero of every tale. He was having the time of his
life. He had gone quite mad. He was for going "out and over"
The first authentic account came with young Pickles, now a runner,
who made his way hobbling to Headquarters with a message from A
Company, and who reported that he had fallen in with McCuaig by the
way, and by him had been commandeered to carry ammunition, under
threat of instant death.
"Where did you see McCuaig first, Pickles?" Barry inquired, anxious
to learn the truth about his friend.
"Way up Lover's Walk," said young Pickles, who was in high spirits,
"under a pile of brush and trees. I though it was a wildcat, or
something moving and snarling--the light was kind of dim--and when
I went up there was McCuaig. He was alone. Two or three men were
lying near him, dead, I guess, and he was swearing, and talking to
himself something fierce. I was scart stiff when he called me to
him. I went over, and he says to me, 'Say, youngster,' just like
that, 'you know where this walk used to drop down into the trench?
Well, there's a lot of machine gun ammunition over there, all fixed
up and ready. You go and bring it up here.' I tried to get out of
it, sayin' I was bringing a 'hurry up' message down, but he turns
his machine gun on me, and says, 'Young man, it's only a couple of
hundred yards down there, and fairly good cover. They can't see
you. Go and bring that stuff here. If you don't I'll blow you to
hell just where you stand.' You bet I promised. I got that
ammunition so quick. Oh, of course, he's crazy, all right," said
young Pickles, "but he is fighting like hell. I beg pardon, sir."
"Doctor, I'm going after him," said Barry. "He will stay there
until he bleeds to death. He is my oldest friend."
"All right, padre, if you say so," said the M. O., "but it's a
nasty job. I should not care for it."
Barry knew the area thoroughly. He got from young Pickles an exact
description of the location of the spot where McCuaig had last been
seen, and with the returning stretcher bearers set off for the
wood, which was about a thousand yards further on.
The communication trench leading up to the wood, which had been
constructed with such care and of which the Canadians were so
proud, had been blown up from end to end by the systematic and
thorough bombardment of the three days before. The little party,
therefore, were forced to make their way overland by the light of
the star shells.
They reached the wood in safety. Barry looked about him in utter
bewilderment. Every familiar feature of the landscape was utterly
blotted out. The beautiful ambrosial wood itself, of heavy trees
and thick tinder-brush, was a mat of tangled trunks, above which
stood splintered stubs. Not a tree, not a branch, hardly a green
leaf was left. Under that mat of fallen trunks were A and C
Companies, somewhere, holding, blocking, feeling up toward the Hun.
The shells were whining overhead, going out and coming in, but
mostly coming in. None, however, were falling on the wood because
here friend and foe were lying almost within bayonet length of each
other. Only an occasional burst from a machine gun broke the
silence that hung over this place of desolation and death.
"That's the company Headquarters," said the stretcher bearer,
pointing to what looked like a bear den, under some fallen trees.
Barry pushed aside the blanket and poking his head in, found Duff
and a young lieutenant working at a table by the light of a
"For the love of God, Pilot," exclaimed Duff, springing up and
gripping Barry's hand, "it's good to see you, but what are you
"I came up for McCuaig," said Barry, after a warm greeting to both.
"Oh, say, that's good. We have got him as far as the next dugout
here, the old bear. I've been trying to get him out for half a
day. There's a soldier for you! He's been potting Boches with his
blessed machine gun, scouting from one hole to another for the last
two days, and he's got a nasty wound. I'm awfully glad you have
"How are things going, Duff?"
"We have got the ----s so that they can't move a foot, and we'll
hold them, unless they bring up a lot of reserves."
"By Jove! Duff, you boys are wonderful."
"I say," said Duff, brushing aside the compliment, "did young
Pickles get through? That young devil is the limit. You'd have
thought he was hunting coyotes."
"Yes, he got through. Got a blighty though, I guess. It was he
that told me about McCuaig."
"Well, Pilot, old man," said Duff, taking him by the arm, "get out!
Get out! Don't waste time. There may be a break any minute. Get
out of here."
Duff was evidently in a fever of anxiety. "You had no right to
come up here anyway; though, by Jove, I'm glad to see you."
"What's the fuss, Duff?" said Barry. "Am I in any more danger than
you? I say," he continued, with tense enthusiasm, "do you realise,
Duff, that as long as Canada lasts they will talk of what you are
doing up here these days?"
"For Heaven's sake, Pilot, get out," said Duff crossly. "You make
me nervous. Besides, you have got to get that wounded man out, you
know. Come along."
He hustled Barry out and over to the neighbouring dugout, where
they found McCuaig with his beloved machine gun still at his side.
The wounded man was very pale, but extremely cheerful, smoking a
"I'm glad to see you, sir," he said quietly, reaching out his hand.
"Good old man," said Barry, gripping his hand hard, "but you are a
blamed old fool, you know."
McCuaig made no reply, but there was a happy light on his face.
Under Duff's compelling urging they got the wounded man on a
stretcher and started on their long and painful carry.
"Now, boys," warned Duff, "you are all right up here, except for
machine guns, but don't take any chances further out. That's where
the danger is. When the shells come, don't rush things. Take your
time. Now, good-bye, Pilot, it's worth a lot to have seen you
"Good-bye, old man," said Barry, smiling at him. "You're the
stuff. Good luck, old man. God keep you."
Duff nodded, and waved him away. The return trip was made in
"What do you think, doctor?" said Barry, after the M. O. had
completed his examination.
"Oh, we'll pull him through all right," said the M. O. "When did
you get this, McCuaig?" he continued, touching a small wound over
"Dunno, rightly. Guess I got it when we was blown up, yesterday."
"Then why didn't you come in at once?" inquired the M. O.
McCuaig looked at him in mild surprise.
"Why, they was all blown up, and there wasn't anybody to run the
The M. O. examined the wound more closely and shook his head at
"We won't touch that now. We'll just bandage it up. Are you
feeling pretty comfortable?"
"Fine," said McCuaig with cheerful satisfaction. "We held them up,
I guess. They thought they was going to walk right over us. They
was comin' with their packs on their backs. But the boys changed
their minds for them, I guess."
A reminiscent smile lingered upon the long, eaglelike face.
Half an hour later Barry found a minute to run into the adjoining
room where the wounded lay.
"Anything you want, McCuaig?" he asked.
"A drink, if you ain't too busy, but I hate to take your time."
"Oh, you go to thunder," said Barry. "Take my time! What am I
for? Any pain, Mac?"
"No, not much. I'm a little sleepy."
Barry turned the flash-light on his face. He was startled to find
it grey and drawn. He brought the M. O., who examined the wounded
"No pain, eh, Mac?"
"No, sir," said McCuaig cheerfully.
"All right, boy, just lie still," said the M. O., beckoning Barry
"He is going out," he said when they reached the dressing room,
"and he's going fast. That wound in the back has been bleeding a
"Oh, doctor, can't anything be done? You know he's got a
remarkable constitution. Can't something be done?"
"There are times when a doctor wishes he had some other job," said
the M. O., "and this is one of them."
"I say, doctor, will you get along without me for a while?" said
"Go on," said the M. O., nodding to him.
Barry took a candle and went in beside his friend. As he sat there
gazing upon the greying face, the wounded man opened his eyes.
"That you, Barry?" he asked with a quiet smile.
Barry started. Only in the very first weeks of their acquaintance
had McCuaig called him by his first name, and never during the past
months had be used anything but his rank title. Now all rank
distinctions were obliterated. They were as man to man.
"Yes, Mac, it's me. Do you know what I was thinking about? I was
thinking of the first time I saw you coming down that rapid in your
"I remember well, Barry. I often think of it. It's a long time
ago," said McCuaig in his soft, slow voice. "I've never been sorry
but once that I come, and that time it was my own fault, but I
didn't understand the game."
"You've made a great soldier, Mac. We are all proud of you," said
Barry, putting his hand upon McCuaig's. McCuaig's long thin
fingers tightened upon Barry's hand.
"I think I'm going out," he said, with his eyes on Barry's face.
"What do you think?"
It was the time for truth telling.
"Oh, Mac, old man," said Barry, putting his head down close to him
to hide from him the rush of tears that came to his eyes, "I'm
afraid you are, and I hate to have you go."
"Why, Barry, you crying for me?" asked McCuaig in a kind of wonder.
"Say, boy, I'm awful glad you feel that way. Somehow I don't feel
quite so lonely now."
"Oh, Mac, you are my oldest, my best friend in the battalion, in
all the world," said Barry.
"Oh, I just love to hear you say that, boy. Do you know I wanted
to tell you how I felt about that time on the boat, you remember?"
Barry nodded. "Barry, tell me, honest Injun, did I make good as a
"The best ever," said Barry. "They all say so, officers and men.
I heard the colonel say so the other day."
Again the smile came.
"Barry, it was you that done that for me. You showed me, and you
done it so nice. I never forgot that, and I always wanted to tell
you how I felt about it. Barry, you done a lot for me."
"Oh, Mac, don't talk like that," said Barry, trying to keep his
voice steady. "I did so little and I wanted to do so much."
"Say, I like to hear you. I'd like to stay a little longer just to
be with you, Barry. I've watched you just like you was my own boy,
and I've been awful proud of you, but I didn't like to say so."
The uncovering of the great love of this simple, humble hearted man
broke down Barry's self-control. He made no effort to check his
"I'm getting--kind of weak, Barry," whispered McCuaig. "I guess I
won't be long, mebbe."
His words recalled Barry's nerve.
"Mac, would you like me to say a prayer?" he asked. "Just as you
feel about it, you know."
"Yes--I would--but I ain't--your religion--you know--though--I
like--awful well--the way--you talk about--Him."
"I know you are R. C., Mac, but after all you know we have just the
one Father in Heaven and the one Saviour."
"Yes,--I know, Barry. It's all the same."
Barry had a sudden inspiration.
"Wait, Mac, a minute," he said.
He hurried out to the dressing room, seeking a crucifix, but could
find none there.
"I'll run across to Headquarters," he said.
"Say, there's a machine gun playing that street awful," said the
M. O.'s sergeant, "to say nothing of whizzbangs."
"Oh, that's all right," said Barry. "I'll make a dash for it."
But at Headquarters he was no more successful. He went out into
the garden in the rear of the R. A. P., and returned with two small
twigs. The M. O. bound them together in the form of a cross.
Barry took it and hastened to McCuaig's side.
The hurried breathing and sunken cheeks of the wounded man showed
that the end was not far. As Barry knelt beside him, he opened his
eyes. There was a look of distress upon his face, which Barry
understood. God was near. And God was terrible. He wanted his
"Barry," he whispered, "I've not--been a good man. I haven't been--
mean to anybody,--but I used--to swear--and fight, and--"
"Mac, listen to me. We're all the same," said Barry, in a quiet,
clear voice. "Suppose I'd injured you."
"But suppose I did some real mean thing to you, and then came and
said I was sorry, would you forgive me?"
"Would I--I'd never think--of anything--you did--to me, Barry."
"Mac, that's the way your Father in Heaven feels to you. We have
all done wrong, but He says, 'I will blot out all your sins.' You
needn't fear to trust Him, Mac."
"I guess--that's so, Barry--I guess that's--all right."
"Yes, it's all right. Now I'll say a prayer. Look, Mac!"
He held up the little wooden cross before his eyes. A smile of joy
and surprise transfigured the dying face.
"I see it!--I see--it!" he whispered, and made a movement with his
lips. Barry laid the cross upon them, and with that symbol of the
Divine love and of the Divine sacrifice pressed to the dying lips,
he prayed in words such as a child might use.
For some time after the prayer McCuaig lay with his eyes shut, then
with a sudden accession of strength, he opened them and looking up
into Barry's eyes, said:
"Barry, I'm all right now. . . . You helped me again."
The long thin hands, once of such iron strength, began to wander
weakly over the blanket, until touching Barry's they closed upon
it, and held it fast.
"I--won't--forget--you--ever--" he whispered. The nerveless
fingers with difficulty lifted Barry's hand to the cold lips.
"Good--bye--Bar--ry--" he said.
"Good-bye, dear old comrade. Good-bye, dear old friend," said
Barry in a clear quiet voice, gazing through his falling tears
straight into the dying eyes.
"Good--night--" The whisper faded into silence. A quiet smile lay
on the white face. The eyes closed, there was a little tired sigh,
and the brave tender spirit passed on to join that noble company of
immortals who abide in the Presence of the Eternal God of Truth and
Love, and "go no more out forever," because they are akin to Him.
In the sorely tortured graveyard, beside the little shell-wrecked
Zillebeck church, in a hole made by an enemy shell, they laid
McCuaig--a fitting resting place for one who had lived his days in
the free wild spaces of the Canadian west, a fitting tomb for as
gallant a soldier as Canada ever sent forth to war to make the
That night the battalion was relieved. Worn, spent, but with
spirit unbroken, they crawled out from under that matted mass of
tangled trunks, sending out their wounded before them, and leaving
their buried dead behind them, to hold with other Canadian dead the
line which from St. Julien, by Hooge, Sanctuary Wood, and Maple
Copse, and Mount Sorel, and Hill 60, and on to St. Eloi, guards the
way to Ypres and to the sea. To Canada every foot of her great
domain, from sea to sea, is dear, but while time shall last Canada
will hold dear as her own that bloodsoaked sacred soil which her
dead battalions hold for Honour, Faith and Freedom.
LONDON LEAVE AND PHYLLIS
The leave train pulled into the Boulogne station exactly twenty-six
hours late. As Barry stepped off the train he was met by the
R. T. O., an old Imperial officer with a brisk and important
"You are the O. C. train, sir?" he inquired.
"I am, sir," replied Barry, saluting.
"You have had a hard time, I understand," said the R. T. O., drawing
him off to one side and speaking in a low tone.
"Yes sir, we HAVE had a hard time," replied Barry, "at least the
men have. This is my report, sir."
The R. T. O. took the document, opened it, glanced hurriedly
"Ah," he said, "ninety-seven casualties, thirteen fatal. Very bad.
Six burned. This is truly terrible."
"There were only two soldiers burned, sir," replied Barry, "but it
IS terrible, especially when you think that the men were going on
leave and were supposed to have got quit of the danger zone."
"Very, very terrible," said the officer. "You ran off the track, I
"No, sir, it was a collision. There must have been gross
carelessness, sir," said Barry. "I trust there will be an
investigation. I have taken the liberty to suggest that, sir, in
Barry's voice was stern.
"You need have no apprehension on that score, sir," said the
R. T. O., with his eyes still upon the report. "This is very clear
and concise. I see you make no mention of your own services in
connection with the affair, but others have. I have had a most
flattering telegram from the officer commanding the R. A. M. C., as
also from the Divisional Commander, mentioning your initiative and
resourcefulness. I assure you this will not be forgotten. I
understand you are a padre?"
"Yes, sir," replied Barry, who was getting rather weary of the
"All I have to say, then, sir, is that the Canadian army must be
rich in combatant officers for, if you will pardon me, it strikes
me that there is a damned good combatant officer lost in you."
"If I were a better padre," replied Barry, "I would be content."
"I fancy you have little ground for complaint on that score," said
the R. T. O., for the first time smiling at him.
"May I ask, sir," replied Barry, "if my responsibility ends here?"
"Yes, unless you want to take charge of the boat."
"I'd rather not, sir, if you please. How long before she sails?"
"About three hours. Have you anything to do?"
"I should like to visit the R. A. M. C. hospital. I should also
like to phone the American hospital at Etaples."
"Very well, you can easily do both. I will run you up in my car,
if you care to wait a few moments until I put through some little
matters here. Then if you will be good enough to join me at
breakfast, I can drive you up afterwards to the hospital. This is
my car. I think you had better step in and sit down; you look
rather used up."
"Will you allow me to speak to some of the men first, sir?"
"Oh, certainly. Do anything you like. There are your men."
As Barry moved along the line of men drawn up on the platform, he
was followed by a rising murmur of admiration, until, as he reached
a group of officers at the end, a little Tommy, an English cockney,
lifting high his rifle, sang out:
"Naow then, lads, 'ere's to our O. D," adding after the cheers,
"'e's a bit ov ol raa-ght, 'e is!"
"Men," said Barry, "I thank you for your cheers, but I thank you
more for your splendid behaviour night before last. It was beyond
praise. You couldn't save all your comrades, but you would
willingly have given your lives to save them. That's the true
spirit of the Empire. It's the spirit of Humanity. It's the
spirit of God. If I were a combatant officer--"
"You'd be a good 'un, sir," cried a voice.
"If I were a combatant officer, I should like to lead men like you
"We'd follow you to 'ell, sir," shouted the little cockney.
"Oh, I hope not," replied Barry. "I'm not going that way. May I
say, in wishing you every good luck, that you are a credit to your
country, and I can say nothing higher. I wish to thank the
officers who so splendidly did their duty and gave such valuable
service. Good luck to you, boys, and give my love to all at home."
Again the men broke into cheers, and Barry, shaking hands with the
officers, turned away toward the car. As he was entering the car,
Sergeant Matthews came over to him.
"I want to thank you, sir, for getting me free of the R. A. M. C.
up there. I feel rather bad, but since my wife is waiting to meet
me in London, I was anxious to get through."
"All right, sergeant," replied Barry. "I'll get you to a hospital
in London, when we arrive. You are not feeling too badly, I hope."
"A little shook up, sir," said the sergeant.
At the R. A. M. C. hospital a bitter disappointment awaited him.
He found that the V. A. D. had departed for England, but just where
no one seemed to know. In her last letter to him, received before
the last tour in the trenches, she had mentioned the possibility of
a visit to London, and had promised him further information before
her departure, but no further word had he received.
His inquiry at Etaples was equally unproductive of result. Paula
and her father had also gone to England. They had taken the
V. A. D. with them, and their address was unknown. The matron of
the hospital believed that they had planned a motor trip to
Scotland, for they had carried Captain Neil Fraser off with them,
and were planning a visit to his home. They expected to return in
about three weeks.
By the bitterness of his disappointment, Barry realised how greatly
he had counted on this meeting with his friends. Were it not for
the hope of being able to discover them in England, he would have
turned back up the line, there and then, and found among the only
friends he had on this side of the ocean relief from the
intolerable weight of loneliness that was bearing him down.
He walked out to the cemetery, and stood beside his father's grave.
There for the first time it came over him that henceforth he must
go all the way of his life without the sight of that face, without
the touch of that hand on his shoulder, without the cheer of that
voice. In floods his sense of loss swept his soul. It took all
his manhood to refrain from throwing himself prone upon the little
mound and yielding to the agony that flooded his soul, and that
wrought in his heart physical pain. By a resolute act of will, he
held himself erect. While he blamed and despised himself for his
weakness, he was unable to shake it off. He did not know that his
mental and emotional state was in large measure a physical reaction
from the prolonged period of exhausting strain, his treble tour in
the trenches, with its unrelieved sense of impending destruction,
that its endless procession of broken, torn bodies, with its nights
of sleepless activity, with its eternal struggle against depression,
consequent upon the loss of his comrades, its eternal striving after
cheeriness and more than all the shock of the train wreck, with its
scenes of horror; all this had combined to reduce his physical
powers of resistance to the point of utter exhaustion.
As he stood there in that cemetery with its rows of crosses,
silently eloquent of heroism and of sacrifice, the spirit of the
place seemed to breathe into him new life. As his eyes fell upon
the cross bearing his father's name, he seemed to see again that
erect and gallant figure, instinct with life and courage. There
came to him the memory of a scene he had never forgotten. Again he
was with his father in the little home cottage. How dear it had
been to him then! How dear to him, today! Once more he felt the
strong grip of his father's hand and heard his father's voice:
"Good night, boy. We don't know what is before us, defeat, loss,
suffering, that part is not in our hands altogether, but the shame
of the quitter never need and never shall be ours."
Unconsciously as if he were in the presence of a superior officer,
he lifted his hand in salute, and with a sense of renewal of his
vital energies he returned to the boat.
During the crossing his mind was chiefly occupied with the problem
of discovering the whereabouts of the V. A. D. or his American
friends. He had never learned her London address, if indeed she
had one. He remembered that she had told him that her home had
been turned into a hospital. He had some slight hope that he might
be able to trace her by the aid of her uncle.
Arrived in London, his first duty was to see Sergeant Matthews,
whose injuries in the wreck were apparently more serious than at
first supposed, safely disposed in a hospital ambulance. Thereupon
he proceeded to the Hotel Cecil, and set himself seriously to the
solution of his problem. He was too weary for clear thinking and
as the result of long, confused and very vexing cogitation, he
resolved upon a letter to Commander Howard Vincent, R. N. R. This,
after much labour, he succeeded in accomplishing. Thereafter, much
too weary for food, he proceeded to his room, where he gave himself
up to the unimaginable luxury of a bath in a clean tub, and with an
unstinted supply of clean towels, after which riotous indulgence,
he betook himself to bed. As he lay stretched between the smooth
clean sheets, he found it impossible to recall a state of existence
when clean sheets had been a nightly experience. The chief regret
of these semi-unconscious moments preceding slumber was that sleep
would rob him of this delicious sense of physical cleanness and
He was wakened by a knock at his door, followed by a hesitating
apology for intrusion. Rejoicing in the luxury of his surroundings,
and in the altogether satisfying discovery that he might sleep
again, he turned over and once more was lost in profound slumber.
A second time he was aroused by a mild but somewhat anxious inquiry
as to his welfare.
"I want nothing, only a little more sleep," and again luxuriating
for a few moments in his clean sheets and his peaceful environment,
he resigned himself to sleep, to waken with a comfortable sense of
pleasant weariness, which gradually passed into a somewhat acute
sense of hunger.
He decided, after due consideration, that he would plumb the depths
of bliss, unmeasured and unknown, and have breakfast in bed. He
went to the window and looked out upon the murky light of a London
day. He decided that it was still early morning, and rang for the
waiter. He was informed by that functionary that breakfast was
impossible, but that if he desired he could be supplied with an
"Dinner!" exclaimed Barry.
He looked at his watch, but found that he had neglected to wind it,
and that consequently it had stopped.
"What time do you make it, waiter?"
"Half after six, sir."
He decided that he would rise for dinner, 'phoned for a paper and
his mail, and lay back between the sheets once more, striving to
recapture that rapturous sense of welfare that had enwrapped him
the night before. Luxuriating in this delightsome exercise, he
glanced lazily at the heading of his paper, and then cried, as the
paper boy was leaving the room,
"Hello! here, boy! what day is this?"
"Friday, sir," said the boy, gazing at him in astonishment.
"Friday? Are you sure?"
"Yes, sir, Friday, sir. What does the paper say, sir?"
"Oh, yes, of course. All right."
He had gone to bed on Wednesday night. He knew that because he
remembered the date of his letter to Commander Howard Vincent,
R. N. R. He made the astounding discovery that he had slept just
forty-four hours. Then he made a second discovery and that was
that of his precious eight days' leave, three were already gone.
After he had dined he inquired at the desk for his mail, and
searched through the telegrams, but there was nothing for him.
Then he betook himself to the streets, aware that the spectre of
loneliness was hard on his trail, and swiftly catching up with him.
London was roaring around him in the dark, like a jungle full of
wild beasts, of whose shapes he could catch now and then horrid
glimpses. Among all the millions in the city, he knew of no living
soul to whom he could go for companionship, nor was there anything
in form of amusement that specially invited him.
There was Grand Opera, of course, but from its associations with
his father he knew that that would bring him only acute misery.
Gladly would he have gone to the hospitals, but they would be shut
against him at this hour. He bought an evening paper, and under a
shaded lamp studied the amusement columns. Some of the Revues he
knew to be simply tiresome, others disgusting. None of them
appealed to him. Aimlessly he wandered along the streets, heedless
of his direction, conscious now and then of an additional pang of
wretchedness as he caught a glimpse now and then at a theatre door
of young officers passing in with sweet faced girls on their arms,
At length in desperation he followed one such pair, and found
himself listening to Cinderella. Its light and delicate fancy, its
sweet pathos, its gentle humour lured him temporarily from his
misery, but often there came back upon him the bitter memory of
his comrades in their horrid environment of filth, danger and
He found some compensation in the thought that these officers
beside him were like himself on leave, and while he envied them, he
did not grudge them their delight in the play, and their obviously
greater delight in their lovely companions beside them, but this
again was neutralised by the bitter recollection of his own hard
fate which denied him a like joy.
After the play he stood in the entrance hall, observing the crowd,
indulging his sense of ill-usage at the hands of fate as he saw the
officers lingering with many unnecessary touches over the cloaking
of their fair partners, and as he caught the answering glances and
smiles that rewarded their attentions.
His eyes followed the manoeuvrings of the painted ladies as they
hovered about the doors, boldly busy with their profession. He
understood as never before the nature of their lure and the
overpowering subtlety of the temptation cast by them over the
lonely soldier in London.
Close at his side he heard a voice:
"How do you like it, boy? Not bad, eh?"
"Awfully jolly, dad. It's perfectly fine of you."
He turned and saw a grey-haired gentleman, with upright soldierly
figure, and walking with him, arm in arm, a young officer,
evidently his son. He followed them slowly to the door, and eager
to share if he might the joy of their comradeship, he listened to
their talk. Then as they disappeared into the darkness, sick at
heart, he passed out of the door, stood a moment to get his
bearings, and sauntered beyond the radius of the subdued light
about the entrance, into the darkness further on.
He had gone but a few paces, and was standing beneath a shaded
corner light, meditating the crossing of the roaring street, when
he heard behind him an eager voice crying,
"Captain Dunbar! Captain Dunbar!"
Swiftly he turned, and saw in the dim light a dainty figure, opera
coat flowing away from gleaming arms and shoulders, a face with its
halo of gold brown hair, with soft brown eyes ashine and eager
parted lips, a vision of fluttering, bewildering loveliness bearing
down upon him with outstretched hands.
"What," he gasped, "you! Oh, you darling!"
He reached for her, gathered her in his arms, drew her toward him,
and before either he or she was aware of what he intended to do,
kissed her parting lips.
"Oh, how dare you!" she cried, aghast, pushing him back from her,
her face in a red flame. "Oh, I'm so glad. I was afraid I should
Barry, appalled at his own temerity, his eyes taking in the sweet
beauty of her lovely face, stood silent, trembling.
"Well, aren't you going to tell me you are glad to see me?" she
cried, smiling up at him saucily.
"Phyllis," he murmured, moving toward her.
"Stop," she said, putting her hands out before her, as if to hold
him off. "Remember where you are. I ought to be very angry,
She drew him toward a dark wall.
"But you aren't angry, Phyllis. If you only knew how I have wanted
you in this awful place. Oh, I have wanted you."
She saw that he was white and still trembling.
"Have you, Barry?" she asked, gently. "Oh, you poor boy. I know
you have been through horrible things. No, Barry, don't. You
awful man," for his hands were moving toward her again. "You must
remember where you are. Look at all these people staring at us."
"People," he said, as if in a daze. "What difference do they make?
Oh, Phyllis, you are so wonderfully lovely. I can't believe it's
you, but it is, it is! I know your eyes. Are you glad to see me?"
he asked shyly, his hungry eyes upon her face.
"Oh, Barry," she whispered, the warm flush rising again in her
cheeks, "can't you see? Can't you see? But what am I thinking
about? Come and see mamma, and there's another dear friend and
admirer of yours with her."
"Who? Not Paula?"
"No, not Paula," she said, with a subtle change in her voice.
"Come and see!"
She took his arm and brought him back to a motor standing at the
"Oh, mamma, I have had such a race," she cried excitedly, "and I
have captured him. Barry, my mother."
Barry took the offered hand, and gazed earnestly into the sad brown
eyes that searched his in return.
"And here's your friend," said Phyllis.
"Hello, Pilot," said a voice from a dark corner of the car.
"What, Neil! Oh, you boy," he cried in an ecstasy, pushing both
hands at him. "You dear old boy. How is the arm, eh? all right?"
"Oh! doing awfully well," said Captain Neil. "And you?"
"Oh, never so well in all my life," cried Barry. "Yet, to think of
it, ten minutes ago, or when was it, I was in there a miserably
homesick creature, envious of all the happy people about me, and
While he was speaking, his eyes were on Mrs. Vincent's face, but
his hand was holding fast to her daughter's arm. "Now it's a
lovely old town, and full of dear people."
"Where are you putting up?" asked Mrs. Vincent.
"Let us drive you there then," she said.
During the drive Barry sat silent for the most part, listening to
Phyllis talking excitedly and eagerly beside him, answering at
random the questions which came like rapid fire from them all, but
planning meanwhile how he should prolong these moments of bliss.
"How about supper?" he cried, as they arrived in the courtyard of
the hotel. "Come in. I want you to; you see I have so much to ask
and so much to tell Captain Fraser here, and three of my days are
gone already. Besides, I want you to awfully."
Mrs. Vincent looked at his face, which for all its brightness was
worn and deep-lined, and her compassionate motherly heart was
"Of course we'll come. We want to see you and to hear about your
"Oh, bully!" cried Barry. "I shall always remember how good you
are to me to-night."
He was overflowing with excitement.
"Oh, this is great, Neil. It's like having a bit of the old
battalion here to see you again."
While waiting for their orders to be filled at the supper table,
Captain Neil turned suddenly to Barry and said, "What's all this
about a train wreck and the gallant O. C. train?"
"Yes, and this rescuing of men from burning cars," exclaimed
"And knocking out insubordinates."
"And being mentioned in despatches."
"And receiving cheers at the station."
"Now where did you get all that stuff?" inquired Barry.
"Why, all London is ringing with it," said Captain Neil.
"Nonsense," said Barry; "who's been stuffing you?"
"Well," said Phyllis, "we came across your sergeant to-day in the
hospital. Such a funny man."
"Who? Fatty Matthews?" asked Barry, turning to Captain Neil.
"Yes, it was Fatty," said Captain Neil, "and if you had your rights
by his account, you ought to be in command at this moment of an
army corps at the very least. But you were O. C. leave train, were
"Yes, to my dismay I was made O. C., but I met a chap, Captain
Courtney, a very decent fellow, my adjutant, and made him carry
"My word, that was a stroke!"
"We had a wreck, a ghastly affair it was, though it might have been
a lot worse. The R. A. M. C. people did magnificently, and the men
behaved awfully well, so that we managed to get through."
"And what about the O. C.?" inquired Captain Neil.
"Oh, nothing special. He just saw that the others carried on. Now
tell me about you people. What have you been doing and what are
you going to do?"
"Well, 'we're here, because we're here,'" chanted Captain Neil.
"And why didn't you send me word as to your movements?" said Barry.
"What hours of agony you would have spared me!"
"But I did," replied Phyllis. "I sent you our town address and
told you everything."
"Now isn't that rotten!" exclaimed Barry. "Never mind, I've found
you, and now what's the programme?"
"Well," cried Captain Neil with great enthusiasm, "we are all off
to Edinburgh to-morrow, where we meet the Howlands, and then for a
motor trip through the Highlands and to my ancestral home."
Barry's face fell. "To-morrow?" he said blankly, with a quick look
at Phyllis. "And you are all going?"
"Not I," said Mrs. Vincent, "but why should you not join the party?
You need just such a change. It would do you good."
"Sure thing he will," cried Captain Neil.
During the supper they had firmly resolved to taboo the war. They
talked on all manner of subjects, chiefly of the proposed motor
trip, but in spite of the ban their talk would hark back to the
trenches. For Captain Neil must know how his comrades were faring,
and how his company was carrying on, and Barry must tell him of
their losses, and all of the great achievements wrought by the men
of their battalion. And Barry because his own heart was full of
all their splendid deeds let himself go. He told how Sally and
Booth had met their last call, of the M. O. and his splendid work
in rescuing the wounded.
"No word in all of this of the Pilot, I observe," interjected
"Oh, he just carried on!"
Then he told how at last the M. O. went out, and how on his face
there was only peace. He had to tell of Corporal Thom, and how he
gave himself for his comrades and how Cameron kept the faith, a
long list of heroes he had to enumerate, of whom the world was not
worthy, whose deeds are unknown to fame, but whose names are
recorded in the books of God. And then reverently he told of
As Barry talked, his heart was far away from London. He was seeing
again that line of mud bespattered men, patiently plodding up the
communication trench. He was looking upon them sleeping with worn
and weary faces, in rain and mudsoaked boots and puttees, down in
their flimsy, dark dugouts. He was hearing again the heavy "crash"
of the trench mortar, the earth shaking "crumph" of the high
explosive, the swift rush of the whizbang. Before his eyes he saw
a steady line of bayonets behind a crumbling wall, then a quick
rush to meet the attack, bomb and rifle in hand. He saw the
illumined face of his dying friend.
As he told his tale, his face was glowing, his eyes gleaming as
with an inner fire.
"Oh, God's Mercy!" he cried, "they are men! They are men! Only
God could make such men."