The Sky Pilot in No Man's Land by Ralph Connor
Chapter XI. The New Message
"I think," said Barry, to the M. O., "I really ought to ride down to the R. A. M. C. hospital, and tell them how the boys enjoyed the coffee last night." His face was slightly flushed, but the flush might have been due to the fact that he had been busily engaged in tying up the thongs of his bed-roll, an awkward job at times.
"Sure thing," agreed the M. O. heartily. "Indeed it's absolutely essential, and say, old chap, you might tell her how I enjoyed my coffee. She will be glad to hear about me."
Barry heaved his bed-roll at the doctor and departed.
At the R. A. M. C. Hospital the Officer Commanding, to whom he had sent in his card, gave him a cordial greeting.
"I am glad to know you, sir. We have quite a lot of your chaps here now and then, and fine fellows they seem to be. We expect a hospital train this morning, and I understand there are some Canadians among them. Rather a bad go a few days ago at St. Eloi. Heavy casualty list. Clearing stations all crowded, and so they are sending a lot down the line."
"Canadians?" asked Barry, thinking of his father. "You have not heard what unit, sir?"
"No, we only get the numbers and the character of the casualties and that sort of thing. Well, I must be off. Would you care to look around?"
"Thank you, no. We are also on the march. I simply came to tell you how very greatly our men appreciated your help last night."
"Oh, that's perfectly all right. Glad the sergeant had sense enough to do the right thing."
"May I see--ah--the sergeant?"
"The sergeant? Why, certainly, but it's not necessary at all."
The sergeant was called and duly thanked. The R. A. M. C. officer was obviously anxious to be rid of his visitor and to get off to his duty.
Still Barry lingered.
"There was also a young lady, sir, last night," he said at length.
"A young lady?"
"Sister Vincent, sir," interjected the sergeant. "She ran them up to the camp in her car, sir. The ambulances and cars were all under orders."
"Ah! Ran you up to the camp, eh?"
"Yes, she ran us up with the biscuits and coffee. It was awfully kind of her."
"Ah!--Um!--Very good! Very good! Sergeant, call her," said the O. C. abruptly.
"I'm afraid she'd be asleep now, sir. She was on night duty, sir."
"Oh, then," said Barry, "please don't disturb her. I wouldn't think of it. If you will be kind enough, sir, to convey the thanks of the men and of myself to her."
"Surely, surely! Well, I really must be going. Goodbye! Good luck!"
He turned to his motor car. "I won't forget, sir," he said to Barry. "Oh, I'll be sure to tell her," he added with a significant smile.
As Barry was mounting his horse, the strains of the battalion band were heard floating down the street. He drew up his horse beside the entrance and waited. Down the winding hill they came, tall, lean, hard-looking men, striding with the free, easy swing of the men of the foothills. Barry felt his heart fill with pride in his comrades.
"By Jove," he said to himself, "the boys are all right."
"Fine body of men, sir," said the sergeant, who with his comrades had gathered about the gateway.
"Not too bad, eh, sergeant?" said Barry, with modest pride.
"Sir," said the sergeant in a low voice, "the young lady is up at the window to your left."
"Sergeant, you're a brick! Thank you," said Barry. He turned in his saddle, and saw above him a window filled with smiling nurses looking down at the marching column, and among them his friend of the night before. Her face was turned away from him, and her eyes were upon the column, eagerly searching the ranks of the marching men.
"Sergeant," said Barry, "your Commanding Officer is a very busy man, and has a great many things to occupy his attention. Don't you think it is quite possible that that message of mine might escape his memory, and don't you think it would be really more satisfactory if I could deliver that message in person?"
The sergeant tilted his hat over one eye, and scratched his head.
"Well, sir, the Commanding Officer does 'ave a lot of things to think about, and though he doesn't often forget, he might. Besides, I really think the young lady would like to know just how the coffee went."
"Sergeant, you are a man of discernment. I'll just wait here until the battalion passes."
He moved his horse a few steps out from the gateway, and swung him around so that he stood facing the window. The movement caught the attention of the V. A. D. in the window. She glanced down, saw him, and, leaning far out, waved her hand in eager greeting and with a smile of warm friendliness.
He had only time to wave his hand in reply, when the head of the column drew opposite the gateway, forcing him to turn his back to the window and stand at salute.
The Commanding Officer acknowledged the salute, glanced up at the window, waved his hand to the group of nurses there gathered, then glanced back at Barry, with a smile full of meaning, and rode on.
After the band had passed the entrance, it ceased playing, and the men, catching sight of Barry and the smiling group at the window above him, broke softly into a rather suggestive music hall ditty, at that time popular with the soldiers:
"Hello! Hello! Who's your lady friend; Who's the little blossom by your side; I saw you, with a girl or two, Oh! Oh! Oh! Oh! I'm surprised at you."
Down the length of the column the refrain passed, gradually gaining in strength and volume, until by the time the rear came opposite the entrance, the men were shouting with wide open throats:
"Oh! Oh! Oh! Oh! I'm surprised at you,"
with a growing emphasis and meaning upon every successive "Oh!"
Barry's face was aflame and his heart hot with furious indignation. She was not that kind of a girl. She would be humiliated before her associates. He glanced up at the window but she was gone. The battalion marched on but Barry still remained, his eyes following the swinging column, his face still flaming, and his heart hot with indignation.
"Good morning, Captain Dunbar!"
He swung off his horse, and there smiling at him with warm friendliness was the little V. A. D.
"I'm awfully sorry," began Barry, thinking of the impudent song of his comrades. "I mean I'm very glad to see you. I just ran in to tell you how splendidly the coffee went last night. There are a hundred fellows marching along there that are fine and fit just because of your kindness, and I'm here to give you their thanks."
Barry felt that he was cutting a rather poor figure. His words came haltingly and stumblingly. The suggestive music hall ditty was still in his mind.
"What a splendid band you have," she said, "and how splendidly the men sing."
"Sing!" cried Barry indignantly. "Oh, yes, they do sing rather well, don't they?" he added, greatly relieved. "I have only a minute," he added hurriedly, "but I wanted to see you again, and I wonder if I may drop you a little note now and then, just to--well, hang it all--just to keep in touch with you. I don't want you to quite forget me."
"Oh, I won't forget you," she said. The brown eyes looked straight at him. "You see, after all, my uncle knows you so well. Indeed, he told me about you. You see, we really are friends, in a way, aren't we?"
"We are indeed, and you are awfully good. Goodbye!"
"Goodbye," she said, "and if I leave here soon, I promise to let you know."
And Barry rode away, his heart in such a turmoil as he had never known. In his ears lingered the music of that soft voice, and his eyes saw a bewildering complexity of dancing ringlets and lustrous glances, until he drew up at the rear of the column and found himself riding once more beside his friend, the M. O.
"Congratulations, old man," said the doctor. "She's a blossom, all right. Cheer up; you may find her bending over your white face some day, holding your hand, or smoothing your brow, in the approved V. A. D. manner."
"Oh, shut up, doc," said Barry with quite unusual curtness. "She's not that kind of a girl."
"Ah, who knows!" said the doctor. "Who knows!"
At the railway station, the battalion was halted, awaiting the making up of their train, the departure of which was delayed by the incoming hospital train from up the line. They had not long to wait.
"Here she is, boys!" called out a soldier. And into the station slowly rolled that hospital train, with its freight of wounded men, mutilated, maimed, broken. Its windows were crowded with faces, white as their swathings, worn, spent, deep-lined, from which looked forth eyes, indifferent, staring, but undaunted and indomitable.
Gradually, with stately movement, as befitted its noble burden, the train came to rest immediately opposite the battalion. With grave, fascinated, horror-stricken faces the men of the battalion stood rigid and voiceless gazing at that deeply moving spectacle. Before their eyes were being paraded the tragic, pathetic remnants of a gallant regiment, which but a few weeks before had stood where they now stood, vital with life, tingling with courage. At their country's bidding they had ascended that Holy Mount of Sacrifice, to offer upon the altar of the world's freedom their bodies as a living sacrifice unto God, holy and acceptable. Now, their offering being made, they were being borne back helpless, bruised, shattered but unconquered and eternally glorious.
Silently the two companies gazed at each other across the intervening space. Then from the window of the train a soldier thrust a bandaged head and bandaged arm.
"Hello there, Canada!" he cried, waving the arm. Instantly, as if he had touched a hidden spring, from the battalion's thousand throats there broke a roar of cheers that seemed to rock the rafters of the station building.
Again, again, and yet again! As if they could never exhaust the burden of their swelling emotions, they roared forth their cheers, waving caps and rifles high in the air, while down their cheeks poured, unheeded and unhindered, a rain of tears.
"Canada! Canada! Canada!" they cried. "Oh, you Canadians! Alberta! Alberta!"
Feebly came the answering cheers, awkwardly waved the bandaged hands and arms.
Then the battalion broke ranks and flinging rifles and kitbags to the ground, they rushed across the tracks, eager to bring their tribute of pride and love to their brothers from their own country, far across the sea.
"Malcolm! Hello, Malcolm!" cried a voice from a window of the train, as the noise had somewhat subsided. "Hey, Malcolm, here you are!" cried a wounded man, raising himself from his cot to the window.
Malcolm Innes turned, scanned the train, then rushed across the tracks to the window and clung fast to it.
It was his brother, Ewen.
"Is it yourself, Ewen, and are you hurted bad?" cried the boy, all unconscious of his breaking voice and falling tears. They clung together for some little time in silence.
"Are you much hurted, Ewen? Tell me the God's truth," again said Malcolm.
"Not much," said Ewen. "True as death, I'm tellin' you. My arm is broke, that's all. We had a bad time of it, but, man, we gave them hell, you bet. Oh, it was great!"
Then again the silence fell between them. There seemed to be nothing to say.
"Here, stand back there! You must get back, you know, men!"
An N. C. O. of the R. A. M. C. tried to push Malcolm back from the window.
"Here, you go to hell," cried Malcolm fiercely. "It's my brother I've got."
The N. C. O., widely experienced in these tragic scenes, hesitated a moment. An officer, coming up behind him, with a single glance took in the situation.
"My boy," he said kindly, placing his hand on Malcolm's arm, "we want to get these poor chaps as soon as possible where they will be comfortable."
Malcolm sprang back at once, saluting.
"Yes, sir," he said. "Certainly, sir." And backing across the tracks, stood looking across at the window from which his brother, wearied with his effort, had disappeared.
Meantime the R. A. M. C. were busy with their work. With marvellous rapidity and speed the train was unloaded of its pathetic freight, the carrying cases into ambulances and the walking cases into cars and wagons.
"Good-bye, Mac," called a voice as a car was driving off. It was Ewen again. The wounded man spoke to the driver, who immediately pulled up and swung over to the platform where Malcolm was standing.
"Oh, are you sure, Ewen, you are goin' to be all right? Man, you look awful white."
"All right, Mac. You bet I will. It's only my arm," said Ewen, his brave, bright words in pathetic contrast to his white face.
At this point Barry came rushing along.
"Why, Ewen! My poor fellow!" he cried, throwing his arm about the wounded man's shoulder. "What is it?"
"My arm, sir," said the boy, adding some words in a low tone. "But I'm all right," he said brightly. "You'll write my mother, sir, and tell her? You'll know what to say."
"Surely I will. You'll be all right, old boy, God bless you! Good luck, Ewen!"
Then leaning over the boy, he added in a low voice, "Remember you are not all alone. God is with you. You won't forget that!"
"I won't, sir. I know it well," said Ewen earnestly.
Most of the stretcher cases had been hurried away. Only a few of the more seriously wounded remained. As Barry turned away from the car, he saw the medical officer and sergeant major approaching him.
"A terrible business," said Barry, in a horror-stricken voice. "Splendid chaps. How plucky they are!"
The M. O. made no reply, but coming close to Barry, he put his arm through his, the sergeant major taking him by the other arm.
"I say, Barry, old chap," said the M. O. in a grave voice, calling him for the first time by his first name. "There is some one here that you know well."
"Some one I know," said Barry, standing still and looking from one to the other.
"Ay, sir. Some one we all know and greatly respect," replied the sergeant major.
"Not--not--oh, not my father!"
The M. O. nodded.
"Bad, doctor? Not dying, doctor?" His face was white even in spite of his tan. His hands closed about the doctor's arm in a grip that reached to the bone.
"No, not dying, Barry, but in a bad way, I fear."
"Take me," muttered Barry, in a dazed way, and they moved together rapidly across the platform.
"Wait a moment, doctor," said Barry, breathing hard.
They stood still, a silent and sympathetic group of soldiers about them. Barry turned from them, walked a few steps, his clasped hands writhing before him, then stood with his face uplifted to the sky for a few moments.
"All right, doctor, I'll follow," he said, coming quietly back. "Will he know me?"
"Sure thing, sir," said the sergeant major cheerily. "He was asking for you."
On a stretcher, waiting to be lifted into the ambulance, he found his father, lying white and still.
"Dad!" cried Barry, dropping to his knees beside him. He put his arms around him on the stretcher, and kissed him on both cheeks and on the lips. They all drew back from the stretcher and turned their backs upon the two.
"Barry, my boy. Thank the good God! I feared I would not see you. It's all right now. Everything is all right now. I can't put my arms around you, boy. I haven't any left."
Barry's shudder shook the stretcher.
"Dad, dad, oh, dad!" he whispered, over and over again.
"It's all right," whispered his father. "We must not forget we're soldiers. Help me to keep up, boy. I'm not very strong."
That pitiful word did for Barry what nothing else could do. He lifted his head, stood up and drew a deep breath.
"Sure thing, dad," he said, in a clear, steady voice. "I mustn't keep you."
He motioned to the bearers. Then suddenly recollecting that his duty would call him away from his father, he turned to the M. O., an agony of supplication in his voice.
"Oh, doctor, must I leave him here?" he asked in a low tone.
Just then an orderly came running up to him, and, saluting, said:
"Sir, the Commanding Officer says you are to remain behind with your father--till--till--"
"Until you are sent for," said the M. O. "I will see to that."
"Where's the Commanding Officer?" cried Barry, starting forward.
"He has gone off somewheres, sir. He was sorry he couldn't come himself, but he was called away. He sent that message to you."
"Doctor, will you remember to thank the Commanding Officer for me?" he said briefly, and turned to follow his father into the ambulance, which he discovered to be in charge of his friend, the sergeant of the R. A. M. C.
At the hospital he was received with every mark of solicitous care. He was made to feel that he was among friends.
"How long, doctor?" he asked, after the doctor had finished his examination.
"Not long, I'm afraid. A few hours, perhaps a day. He will not suffer though," said the doctor. "But," he added, taking Barry by the arm, "he is very weak, remember, and must not be excited."
"I know, doctor," said Barry, quietly. "I won't worry him."
Through the morning Barry sat by his father's cot, giving him, under the directions of the nurse, such stimulants as he needed, now and then speaking a quiet, cheery word.
Often his father opened his eyes and smiled at him.
"Good to see you there, my boy. That was my only grief. I feared I might not see you again. Thank the good God that he allowed me to see you."
"He is good, dad, isn't He? Good to me; good to us both."
"Yes, He is good," said his father, and fell asleep. For almost two hours he slept, a sleep of exhaustion, due to the terrific strain of the past forty-eight hours, and woke refreshed, calm and strong.
"You are a lot better, dad," said Barry. "I believe you are going to pull through, eh!"
"A lot better, Barry," said his father, "but, my boy, we are soldiers, you and I. I shall not be long, but remember, we are soldiers."
"All right, dad. I'll try to play the game."
"That's the word, Barry. We must play the game, and by God's grace we will, you and I--our last game together."
Through the afternoon they talked, between intervals of sleep, resolved each to help the other in playing to the end, in the manner of British soldiers, that last, great game.
They talked, of course, of home and their happy days together, going far back into the earlier years of struggle on the ranch.
"Hard days, Barry, they were, but your mother never failed me. Wonderful courage she had, and if we were all right, you and I, Barry, she was always happy. Do you remember her?"
"Yes, dad, quite well. I remember her smiling always."
"Smiling, my God! Smiling through those days. Yes, that's the way she played the game, and that's the only way, boy."
"Yes, dad," said Barry, and his smile was brighter than ever, but his knuckles showed white where he gripped the chair.
The nurse came and went, wondering at their bright faces and their cheery voices. They kept their minds upon the old happy days. They recalled their canoe trips, their hunting experiences, dwelling mostly upon the humorous incidents, playing the game. Of the war they spoke little; not at all of what was to be after--the past, the golden, happy past, rich in love and in comradeship, that was their one theme.
As night fell, the father grew weary, and his periods of sleep grew longer, but ever as he woke he found his son's face smiling down upon him.
"Good boy, Barry," he said once, with an understanding look and an answering smile. "Don't try too hard, my boy."
"It's all right, dad. I assure you it's all right. You know it is."
"I know, I know, my boy," he said, and fell asleep again.
As the midnight hour drew on, Barry's head, from sheer weariness, sunk upon his breast. In his sleep he became aware of some one near him. He sat up, dazed and stupid from his exhaustion and his grief, and found a nurse at his side.
"Take this," she said softly. "You will need it." She set a tray at his side.
"Oh, thank you, no!" he said. "I can't eat. I can't touch anything."
"You need it," said the nurse. "You must take it, for his sake, you know. He will need you."
Her voice aroused him. He glanced at her face.
"Oh, it's you!" he cried.
It was the little V. A. D.
"Don't rise," she said, putting her hand on his shoulder, and pointing to his father. "Drink this first." She handed him an eggnog. "Now take your tea." There was a quiet authority about her that compelled obedience. He ate in silence while she stood beside him. He was too weary and too sick at heart to talk, but he gradually became aware that the overpowering sense of loneliness that had been with him all day was gone.
When he had finished his slight meal, he whispered to her:
"I wish I could thank you, but I can't. I did need it. You have helped me greatly."
"You are better now," she said softly. "It's very, very hard for you, so far from home, and from all your friends."
"There is no one else," said Barry simply. "We have no one but just ourselves."
At this point his father opened his eyes bright and very wide- awake.
The V. A. D. began to gather up the tea things. Barry put out his hand and touched her arm.
"Dad, this is your night nurse. She was very kind to me last night, and again to-night. This is Miss Vincent."
The brightness of the V. A. D.'s smile outshone his own.
"I'm not a real nurse," she said. "I'm only a V. A. D., you know. They use me to wash the floors and dishes, and for all sorts of odd jobs. To-night they are shorthanded, and have put me on this duty."
While she was speaking, she continued to smile, a smile of radiant cheer and courage.
The wounded man listened gravely to her, his eyes searching her face, her eyes, her very soul, it seemed to her. In spite of her experience and her self-control, she felt her face flushing under his searching gaze.
"My dear," he said at length, "I am glad to meet you. You are a good and brave girl, I know." His eyes fell upon the black band upon her arm. "I see you are wearing the badge of heroism. My dear, pardon me, you have the same look--Barry, she has your dear mother's look, not so beautiful--you will forgive me, my dear--but the same look. She thinks of others and she has courage to suffer. My dear, I cannot take your hands in mine,"--he glanced with a pathetic smile at his bandaged arms, but with a swift movement of indescribable grace the girl stooped and kissed him on the forehead.
"Barry," he said, turning to his son, "that was a fine courtesy. I count it an honour to have known you, Miss Vincent."
He paused a moment or two, his searching eyes still upon her face.
"You will befriend my boy, after--after--"
"I will try my best, sir," said the girl, the colour deepening in her cheeks the while. "Good night, sir," she said. "I shall be near at hand if I am wanted."
"Barry," said his father, after the girl had gone, "that is a very charming and a very superior young lady, one you will be glad to know."
"Yes, dad, I am sure she is," said Barry, and then he told his father of the events of the previous night.
For some moments after he had finished his father lay with his eyes shut, and quite still, and Barry, thinking he slept, sat watching, his eyes intent upon the face he loved best in all the world.
But his father was not asleep.
"Yes, Barry," he said, "she is like your dear mother, and now," he added hurriedly, "I hope you will not think I am taking a liberty--"
"Oh, dad, I implore you!" said Barry.
"Barry, I would like to speak to you about your work."
Barry shook his head sadly.
"I'm not much good, dad," he said, "but I'm not going to quit," he added quickly, noting a shadow on his father's face.
"Barry, I'm going to say something to you which I do hope will not hurt you. I know the common soldier better than you do, boy. Our Canadian soldiers do not like to be rebuked, criticised or even watched too closely. Forgive me this, my boy."
"Oh, dad, please tell me all that is in your heart!"
"Thank you, Barry. They don't like the chaplain to be a censor over their words."
"I loathe it," said Barry passionately.
"Believe me, they are good chaps in their hearts. They swear and all that, but that is merely a habit or a mere expression of high emotion. You ought to hear them as they 'go over.' Barry, let all that pass and remember that these boys are giving their lives-- their lives, Barry, for right, for conscience, and ultimately, though it may be unconsciously, for God. Barry, a man that is giving his life for God may say what he likes. Don't be too hard on them, but recall to mind, Barry, that when they go up the line they feel terribly lonely and terribly afraid, and that is a truly awful experience."
He paused a moment or two, and then lowered his voice and continued: "Barry, you won't be ashamed of me. I was terribly afraid, myself."
Barry choked back a convulsive sob.
"You, dad, you!" He laughed scornfully.
"I didn't run, Barry, thank God! But the boys--my boys--they are only lads, many of them--lonely and afraid--and they must go on. They must go on. Oh, Barry, in that hour they need some one to go with them. They need God."
His son was listening with his heart in his eyes. He was getting a new view of the soldier and of the soldier's needs.
"Unhappily," continued his father, "God is at best a shadowy being, to many of them a stranger, to some a terror. Barry," he said, "they need some one to tell them the truth about God. It's not fair to God, you know." Here again his father paused and then said very humbly: "I think I may say, Barry, I know God now, as I did not before. And you helped me, boy, to know him."
"Oh, dad," cried Barry, passionately. "Not I! I don't know Him at all!"
"Let me tell you how you helped me, Barry. Before I went up the last time, I wanted--"
He paused abruptly, his face working and his lip quivering.
"Forgive me, my boy. I'm a little weak."
A few moments of silence and then he continued quietly:
"I wanted you, Barry."
The boy's hands were writhing under his knees, but his face and eyes were quite steady.
"I was terribly lonely. I thought of that strange, dear bond that held us together, and then like a flash out of the sky came those great words: 'Like as a father pitieth his children,' and oh, boy, boy! It came to me then that as I feel toward my boy God feels toward me. Barry, listen--" His voice fell to a whisper. "I am God's son, as you are mine. There was no more fear, and I was not nearly so lonely. Tell the boys--tell the boys the truth about God."
He lay a long time silent, with his eyes closed, and as Barry watched he saw two tears fall down the white cheeks. It was to him a terrible sight. Never, not even at his mother's grave, had he seen his father's tears. It was more than he could endure. He put his face down beside his father's on the pillow.
"Dad, I understand," he whispered. "I know now what God is like. He is like you, dad. He gave himself for us, as you, dad, have given yourself all these years for me."
He was sobbing, but very quietly.
"Forgive me, dad; I'm not crying. I'm just thinking about God and you. Oh, dad, you are both wonderful! Wonderful!"
"Barry, my boy, tell them. Don't worry yourself about them. Just tell them about God. He is responsible for them, not you."
"Oh, I will, dad; I promise you I will. I've been all wrong, but I'll tell them. I'll tell them."
"Thank God, my boy," said his father, with a deep sigh. "Now I'm tired. Say 'Our Father.'"
Together they whispered those greatest of words in human speech, those words that have bound heaven to earth in yearning and in hope for these two thousand years.
"Don't move, Barry," whispered his father. "I like you there."
With their faces thus together they fell asleep.
Barry was awakened by his father's voice, clear and strong.
"Are you there, Barry?" it said.
"Here, dad, right here!"
"Good boy. Good boy. You won't leave me, Barry. I mean you don't need to go?"
"No, dad, I'll never leave you."
"Good boy," again murmured his father softly. "Always a good boy, always, always--"
He was breathing heavily, long deep breaths.
"Lift me up, Barry," he said.
Barry sat on the bed, put his arm around his father's shoulders, and lifted him up.
"That's better--hold me closer, Barry-- You won't hurt me-- Oh, it's good--to feel--your arms--strong arms--Barry."
"You made them strong, dad," said Barry, in a clear, steady voice.
The father nestled his head upon his son's shoulder.
"Barry," he said in the low tone of one giving a confidence, "don't ever forget--to thank God--for these eighteen years--together-- You saved me--from despair--eighteen years ago--when she went away-- you know--and you have been--all the world to me--my son--"
"And you to me, dad," said his son in the same steady tone.
"I've tried all my life--to make you know--how I love you--but somehow I couldn't--"
"But I knew, dad," said Barry. "All my life I have known."
"Really?" asked his father. "I--wonder--I don't think--you quite know-- Ah--my boy--my boy-- You don't--know--you--can't. Barry," he said, "I think--I'm going out--I'm going--out--no, in--your word--my boy--in--eh--Barry?"
"Yes, dad," said his son. "Going in. The inner circle, you know."
"The--inner--circle--" echoed his father. "Warmth--light--love-- Now--I think--I'll sleep-- Good night--Barry-- Oh--my boy,--you-- don't quite--know-- Kiss me--Barry--"
Barry kissed him on the lips.
A deep breath he took; another--Barry waited for the next, but there was not another.
He laid his father down and looked into his quiet face, touched even now with the noble stateliness of death. He put his arms about the unresponsive form, and his face to the cheek still warm.
"Dad, oh, dad," he whispered. "Do you know--do you know-- Oh, God, tell him how I love him. Tell him! Tell him! I never could."
The little V. A. D. came softly and stood looking from a distance. Then coming to the bedside, she laid her hand upon the head and then the heart of the dead man. Then she drew back, and beckoning to an orderly, they placed a screen about the cot. She let her eyes rest for a moment or two upon the kneeling boy, then went softly away.
Death was to her an all too familiar thing. She had often seen it unmoved, but to-night, as she walked away, the brown eyes could not hold their tears.