The Sky Pilot in No Man's Land by Ralph Connor
Chapter IX. Submarines, Bullpups, and Other Things
A long, weird blast from the fog horn, followed by two short, sharp toots, recalled Barry from his morning dream.
"Fog," he grumbled, and turned over to re-capture the enchantment of the Athabasca rapids, and his dancing canoe.
Overhead there sounded the trampling of feet.
"Submarines, doc," he shouted and leaped to the floor broad awake.
"What's the row?" murmured the M. O., who was a heavy sleeper.
For answer, Barry ripped the clothes from the doctor's bed.
"Submarines, doc," he shouted again, and buckling on his Sam Brown, and seizing his lifebelt, he stood ready to go.
"What! your boots off, doc?"
In the orders of the day before had been an announcement that officers and men were to sleep fully dressed.
"Oh, the devil!" exclaimed the doctor, hunting through his bedclothes in desperation. "I can't sleep in my boots. Where's my tunic? Go on, old fellow, I'll follow you."
Barry held his tunic for him.
"Here you are! Wake up, doc! And here's your Sam Brown."
Barry dropped to lace the doctor's boots, while the latter was buckling on the rest of his equipment.
"All right," cried the doctor, rushing from the room and leaving his lifebelt behind him.
Barry caught up the lifebelt and followed.
"Your lifebelt, doc," he said, as they passed up the companion way.
"Oh, I'm a peach of a soldier," said the doctor, struggling into his lifebelt, and swearing deeply the while.
"Stop swearing, doc! It's a waste of energy."
"Oh, go to hell!"
"No, I prefer Heaven, if I must leave this ship, but for the present, I believe I'm needed here, and so are you, doc. Look there!"
The doctor glanced out upon the deck.
"By Jove! You're right, old man, we are needed and badly. I say, old chap," he said, pausing for a moment to turn to Barry, "you are a dear old thing, aren't you?"
The deck was a mass of soldiers struggling, swearing, fighting their way to their various stations. Officers, half dressed and half awake, were rushing hither and thither, seeking their units, swearing at the men and shouting meaningless orders. Over all the stentorian voice of the sergeant major was vainly trying to make itself understood.
In the confusion the cry was raised: "We're torpedoed! We're going down!"
There was a great rush for the nearest boats. Men flung discipline to the winds and began fighting for a chance of their lives. It was a terrific and humiliating scene.
Suddenly, over the tumult, was heard a loud, ringing laugh.
"Oh, I say, Duff! Not that way! Not that way!"
Again came the ringing laugh.
Immediately a silence fell upon the struggling crowd, and for a moment they stood looking inquiringly at each other. That moment of silence was seized by the sergeant major. Like a trumpet his sonorous voice rang out steady and clear.
"Fall in, men! Boat quarters! Silence there!"
He followed this with sharp, intelligible commands to his N. C. O.'s. Like magic, order fell upon the turbulent, struggling crowd.
"Stand steady, you there!" roared the sergeant major, who having got control of his men, began to indulge himself in a few telling and descriptive adjectives.
In less than two minutes, the men were standing steady as a rock and the panic was passed.
"Who was it that laughed up there in that stampede?" inquired the O. C., when the officers were gathered about him in the orderly room.
"I think it was the Sky Pilot, sir--the chaplain, sir," said Lieutenant Stewart Duff.
"Was it you that laughed, Captain Dunbar?" asked the colonel, turning upon Barry.
"Perhaps I did, sir. I'm sorry if--"
"Sorry!" exclaimed the colonel. "Dammit, sir, you saved the situation for us all. Who told you it was a false alarm?"
"No one, sir. I didn't know it was a false alarm. I was looking at Lieutenant Duff--" He checked himself promptly. "I mean, sir-- well, it seemed a good place to laugh, so I just let it come."
The colonel's eyes rested with curious inquiry upon the serene face of the chaplain, with its glowing eyes and candid expression. "A good place for a laugh? It was a damned good place for a laugh, and gentlemen, I thank God I have one officer who finds in the face of sudden danger a good place for a laugh. And now I have something to say to you."
The O. C.'s remarks did not improve the officers' opinion of themselves, and they slunk out of the room--no other word properly describes the cowed and shamed appearance of that company of men-- they slunk out of the room. They had failed to play the part of British officers in the face of sudden peril.
In his speech to the men, the C. O. made only a single reference to the incident, but that reference bit deep.
"Men, I am thoroughly ashamed and disappointed. You acted, not like soldiers, but like a herd of steers. The difference between a herd of steers and a battalion of soldiers, in the face of sudden danger, is only this:--the steers break blindly for God knows where, and end piled up over a cut bank; soldiers stand steady listening for the word of command."
If the O. C. handled the men with a light hand, the sergeant major did not. His tongue rasped them to the raw. No one knows a soldier as does his N. C. O., and no N. C. O. is qualified to set forth the soldier's characteristics with the intimate knowledge and adequate fluency of the sergeant major. One by one he peeled from their shivering souls the various layers of their moral cuticle, until they stood, in their own and in each other's eyes, objects of commiseration.
"There's just one thing more I wad like ta say to ye." The sergeant major's tendency to Doric was more noticeable in his moments of deeper feeling, "but it's something for you lads to give heed ta. When ye were scrammlin' up yonder, like a lot o' mavericks at a brandin', and yowlin' like a bunch o' coyotes, there was one man in the regiment who could laugh. There's lots o' animals that the Almighty made can yowl, but there's only one can laugh, and that's a mon. For God's sake, men, when ye're in a tight place, try a laugh."
For some weeks after this event the chaplain was known throughout the battalion as "the man that can laugh," and certain it is that from that day there existed between the M. O. and the chaplain a new bond of friendship.
As the ship advanced deeper into the submarine zone, the sole topic of thought and of conversation came to be the convoy. Where was that convoy anyway? While the daylight lasted, a thousand pairs of eyes swept the horizon, and the intervening spaces of tossing, blue-grey water, for the sight of a sinister periscope, or for the smudge of a friendly cruiser, and when night fell, a thousand pairs of ears listened with strained intentness for the impact of the deadly torpedo or for the signal of the protecting convoy.
While still a day and a night out from land, Barry awoke in the dim light of a misty morning, and proceeded to the deck for his constitutional. There he fell in with Captain Neil Fraser and Captain Hopeton pacing up and down.
"Come along, Pilot!" said Captain Neil, heartily, between whom and the chaplain during the last few days a cordial friendship had sprung up. "We're looking for submarines. This is the place and the time for Fritz, if he is going to get us at all."
Arm in arm they made the circle of the deck. The mist, lying like a bank upon the sea, shifted the horizon to within a thousand yards of the ship.
"I wish I knew just what lies behind that bank there," said Captain Hopeton, pointing over the bow.
For some moments they stood, peering idly into the mist.
"By Jove, there is something there," said Barry, who had a hawk's eye.
"You've got 'em too, eh," laughed Hopeton. "I've had 'em for the last forty-eight hours. I've been 'seein' things' all night."
"But there is," insisted Barry, pointing over the port bow.
"What is it like?" asked Captain Neil, while Hopeton ran for his glass.
"I'll tell you what it's like--exactly like the eye of an oyster in its pulp. And, by Jove, there's another!" added Barry excitedly.
"I can't see anything," said Captain Neil.
"But I can," insisted Barry. "Look there, Hopeton!"
Hopeton fixed his glass upon the mist, where Barry pointed.
"You're right! There is something, and there are two of them."
"Give the Pilot the glass, Hopeton," said Neil. "He's got a good eye."
"There are two ships, boys, as I'm a sinner, but what they are, I don't know," cried Barry in a voice tense with excitement. "Here, Neil, take the glass. You know about ships."
Long and earnestly, Captain Neil held the glass in the direction indicated.
"Boys, by all that's holy, they're destroyers," he said at length in a low voice.
Even as they gazed, the two black dots rapidly took shape, growing out of the mist into two sea monsters, all head and shoulders, boring through the seas, each flinging high a huge comb of white spray, and with an indescribable suggestion of arrogant, resistless power, bearing down upon the ship at furious speed.
"Destroyers!" shouted Captain Neil, in a voice that rang through the ship. "By gad, destroyers!"
There was no question of friend or foe; only Great Britain's navy rode over those seas immune.
Upon every hand the word was caught up and passed along. In a marvellously short space of time, the rails, the boats, the rigging, all the points of vantage were thronged with men, roaring, waving, cheering, like mad.
With undiminished speed, each enveloped in its cloud of spray, the destroyers came, one on each side, rushed foaming past, swept in a circle around the ship and took their stations alongside, riding quietly at half speed like bulldogs tugging at a leash.
"Great heavens, what a sight!" At the croak in Hopeton's voice, the others turned and looked at him.
"You've got it too, eh!" said Captain Neil, clearing his own throat.
"I've got something, God knows!" answered Hopeton, wiping his eyes.
"I, too," said Barry, swallowing the proverbial lump. "Those little--little--"
"Bulldogs," suggested Hopeton.
"Bulldog pups," said Captain Neil.
"That's it," said Barry. "That's what they are, little bulldog pups, got me by the throat all right."
"Me, too, by gad!" said Captain Neil. "I should have howled out loud in another minute."
"Listen to the boys!" cried Barry.
From end to end of the ship rose one continuous roar, "Good old Navy! Good old John Bull!" while Hopeton, openly abandoning the traditional reserve and self-control supposed to be a characteristic of the English public school boy, climbed upon the rail and, hanging by a stanchion with one hand, and with the other frantically waving his cap over his head, continued to shout:
"England! England! England forever!"
Then above the cheering cries was heard the battalion band, and from a thousand throats in solemn chant there rose the Empire's national anthem, "God Save the King."
That night they steamed into old Plymouth town, and the following morning were anchored safe at Devonport dock. Strict orders held the officers and men on board ship until arrangements for debarkation should be completed, but to Barry and the doctor, the Commanding Officer gave shore leave for an hour.
"And I would suggest," he said, "that you go and have a talk with that old boy walking up and down the dock there. Yarn to him about Canada, he's wild to know about it."
The old naval officer was indeed "wild to know about Canada," so that the greater part of their shore leave was spent in answering his questions, and eager though he was to explore the old historic town, before Barry knew it, he was in the full tide of a glowing description of his own Province of Alberta, extolling its great ranches, its sweeping valleys, its immense resources.
"And to think you are all British out there," exclaimed the old salt.
"We're all British, of course," replied Barry, "but not all from Britain."
"I know, I know," said the officer, "but that only makes it more wonderful."
"Wonderful! Why, why should it be wonderful?"
"Yes, wonderful. Oh, you Canadians," cried the old salt, impulsively stretching out his hand to Barry. "You Canadians!"
Surprised, Barry glanced at his face. Those hard blue eyes were brimming with tears; the leatherlike skin was working curiously about the mouth.
"Why, sir, I don't quite understand what you mean," said Barry.
"No, and you never will. Think of it, rushing three thousand miles--"
"Five thousand for some of us," interrupted Barry.
"Fancy that! Rushing five thousand miles in this way, to help old mother England, and all of your own free will. We didn't ask it of you. Though, by heaven, we're grateful for it. I find it difficult, sir, to speak quietly of this."
Not until that moment had Barry caught the British point of view. To him, as to all Canadians, it had only been a perfectly reasonable and natural thing that when the Empire was threatened, they should spring into the fight. They saw nothing heroic in that. They were doing their simple duty.
"But think of the wonder of it," said the naval officer again, "that Canada should feel in that way its response to the call of the blood."
The old man's lips were still quivering.
"That is true, sir," said the M. O., joining in the talk, "but there is something more. Frankly, my opinion is that the biggest thing, sir, with some of us in Canada, is not that the motherland was in need of help, though, of course, we all feel that, but that the freedom of the world is threatened, and that Canada, as one of the free nations of the world, must do her part in its defence."
"A fine spirit," said the old gentleman.
"This fight," continued the M. O., "is ours, you see, as well as yours, and we hate a bully."
The old salt swore a great oath, and said:
"You are pups of the old breed, and you run true to type. I'm glad to know you, gentlemen," he continued, shaking them warmly by the hand.
After they had gone a few steps he called Barry back to him.
"That's my card, sir. I should like you to come to see me in London sometime when you are on leave."
Barry glanced at the card and read, "Commander Howard Vincent, R. N. R."
"It was very decent of the old boy," he said to the Commanding Officer afterwards, when recounting the interview. "I don't suppose I'll ever use the card, but I do think he really meant it."
"Meant it," exclaimed the Commanding Officer. "Why, Dunbar, I'm an old country man, and I know. Make no mistake. These people, and especially these naval people, do not throw their cards loosely about. You will undoubtedly hear from him."
"It's not likely," replied Barry, "but the old gentleman is great stuff, all right."
During the long, sunny spring day, their dinky little train whisked them briskly through the sweet and restful beauty of the English southern counties. To these men, however, from the wide sunbaked, windswept plains of western Canada, the English landscape suggested a dainty picture, done in soft greys and greens, with here and there a vivid splash of colour, where the rich red soil broke through the green. But its tiny fields set off with hedges, and lines of trees, its little, clean-swept villages, with their picturesque church spires, its parks with deer that actually stood still to look at you, its splendid manor houses, and, at rare intervals, its turreted castles, gave these men, fresh from the raw, unmeasured and unmade west, a sense of unreality. To them it seemed a toy landscape for children to play with, but, as they passed through the big towns and cities with their tall, clustering chimneys, their crowding populations, with unmistakable evidences of great wealth, their shipping, where the harbours bit into the red coast line, there began to waken in them the thought that this tiny England, so beautifully finished, and so neatly adorned, was something mightier than they had ever known.
In these tiny fields, in these clean swept villages, in these manor houses, in these castles, in factory and in shipyard, were struck deep the roots of an England whose greatness they had never yet guessed.
The next afternoon brought them to the great military camp at Shorncliffe, in a misty rain, hungry, for their rations had been exhausted early in the day, weary from ship and train travel, and eager to get their feet once again on mother earth.
At the little station they were kept waiting in a pouring rain for something to happen, they knew not what. The R. T. O., a young Imperial officer, blase with his ten months of war in England, had some occult reason for delaying their departure. So, while the night grew every moment wetter and darker, the men sat on their kit-bags or found such shelter as they could in the tiny station, or in the lee of the "goods trains" blocking the railroad tracks, growing more indignant and more disgusted with the British high command, the war in general, and registering with increasing intensity vows of vengeance against the Kaiser, who, in the last analysis, they considered responsible for their misery.
At length the "brass hat" for whom they had been waiting appeared upon the scene, not in the slightest degree apologetic, but very businesslike, and with a highly emphasised military manner. After a little conversation between the brass hat and their Commanding Officer, the latter gave the command and off they set in the darkness for their first route march on English soil.
Through muddy roads and lanes, over fields, slushy and sodden, up hill and down dale, they plodded steadily along. At the rear of the colunm marched Barry with the M. O.
Long before they reached their destination, their conversation had given out, the M. O. sucking sullenly at his pipe, the bowl upside down. The rear end of the column was very frayed and straggling. Why it is that a perfectly fit company will invariably fray out if placed at the rear of a marching column, no military expert has quite succeeded in satisfactorily explaining.
As he tramped along in the dark by the side of the road, the M. O. stumbled over a soldier sitting upon the soggy bank.
"Who are you?" he inquired shortly.
"Corporal Thom, sir."
"What's the matter with you?"
"I'm all in, sir. I've been sick all day, sir."
"Why didn't you report sick, then? Can't you get on?"
"I don't think so, sir. Not for a while, at least."
"Have you any pain, any nausea?"
"No, sir, I'm just all in."
"Do you know our route?"
"Yes, sir, I've got the turns down."
"Well, come along then when you can. I'll send back a waggon later, but don't wait for that."
"Yes, sir," said Corporal Thom.
"Come on, Dunbar! We'll send a waggon back for these stragglers. There will be a good many of them before long."
"You go on, doc. I'll come later," said Barry. "I'll catch up to you."
But the M. O., at the various halts, waited in vain for the chaplain to appear.
On arriving at the camp, after a long struggle, he succeeded in sending back an Army Service waggon to bring in the stragglers, but just as the waggon was about to leave, he heard coming up the road, a party stepping out briskly to the music of their own whistling. In the rear of the party marched the chaplain, laden down with one man's rifle and another man's kit-bag.
"They're all here, sir," said Corporal Thom to the M. O., with a distinct note of triumph in his voice. "All here, sir," he repeated, as he observed the sergeant major standing at the doctor's side.
"Well done, corporal," said the sergeant major. "You brought 'em all in? That means that no man has fallen out on our first march in this country."
The corporal made no reply, but later on, he explained the matter to the sergeant major.
"It's that Sky Pilot of ours, sir," he said. "Blowed if he'd let us fall out."
"Kept you marching, eh?"
"No, it's his chocolate and his jaw, but more his jaw than his chocolate. He's got lots of both. I was all in. I'd been sick all day in the train. Couldn't eat a bite. Well, the first thing, he gives me a cake of his chocolate. Then he sets himself down in the mud beside me, and me wishin' all the time he'd go on and leave me for the waggon to pick up. Then he gives me a cigarette, and then he begins to talk."
"Talk, what about?"
"Damned if I know, but the first thing I knew I was tellin' him about the broncho bustin',--that's my job, you know--and how I won out from Nigger Jake in the Calgary Stampede, until I was that stuck on myself that I said: 'Well, sir, we'd better get a move on,' and up he gets with my kit-bag on his back. By and by, we picks up another lame duck and then another, feedin' 'em with chocolate and slingin' his jaw, and when we was at the limit, he halts us outside one of them stone shacks and knocks at the door. 'No soldiers here,' snaps the red-headed angel, shuttin' the door right in his face. Then he opens the door and steps right in where she could see him, and starts to talk to her, and us listening out in the rain. Say! In fifteen minutes we was all standin' up to a feed of coffee and buns, and then he gets Harry Hobbs whistlin' and singin', and derned if we couldn't have marched to Berlin. Say! He's a good one, ain't no quitter, and he won't let nobody else be a quitter."
And thus it came that with Corporal Thom and his derelicts the chaplain marched into a new place in the esteem of the men of his battalion, and of its sergeant major.
But of this, of course, Barry had no knowledge. He knew that he had made some little progress into the confidence of both officers and men in his battalion. He had made, too, some firm friendships which had relieved, to a certain extent, the sense of isolation and loneliness that had made his first months with the battalion so appalling. But there still remained the sense of failure inasfar as his specific duty as chaplain was concerned.
The experiences of the first weeks in England only served to deepen in him the conviction that his influence on the men against the evils which were their especial snare was as the wind against the incoming tide, beating in from the North Sea. He could make a ripple, a certain amount of fussy noise, but the tide of temptation rolled steadily onward, unchecked in its flow.
The old temptations to profanity, drink and lust, that had haunted the soldiers' steps at home, were found to be lying in wait for them here and in aggravated form. True, in the mess and in his presence among the men there was less profanity than there had been at the first, but it filled him with a kind of rage to feel that this change was due to no sense of the evil of the habit, but solely to an unwillingness to give offence to one whom many of them were coming to regard with respect and some even with affection.
"I hate that," he said to the M. O., to whom he would occasionally unburden his soul. "You'd think I was a kind of policeman over their morals."
"Oh, I wouldn't worry about that," said the M. O., to whom the habit of profanity was a very venial sin. "You ought to be mighty glad that your presence does act as a kind of moral prophylactic. And it does, I assure you. I confess that since I have come to be associated with you, I am conscious of a very real, and at times, distressing limitation of my vocabulary. I may not be more virtuous, but certainly I am more respectable."
This sentiment, however, brought little comfort to the chaplain.
"I am not a policeman," he protested, "and I am not going to play policeman to these men. I notice them shut up when I come around, but I know quite well that they turn themselves loose when I pass on, and that they feel much more comfortable. I am not and will not be their policeman."
"What then would you be?" inquired the M. O.
Barry pondered this question for some time.
"To tell the truth," he said, at length, "I confess, I don't quite know. I wish I did, doc, on my soul. One thing I do know, the men are no better here in their morals than they were at home."
"Better? They are worse, by Jove!" exclaimed the M. O. "Look at the daily crime-sheet! Look at that daily orderly room parade. It's something fierce, and it's getting worse."
"The wet canteen?" inquired Barry, who had lost prestige with some in the battalion by reason of the strenuous fight he had made against its introduction since coming to England. Not that the men cared so much for their liquor, but they resented the idea that they were denied privileges enjoyed by other battalions.
"The wet canteen?" echoed the doctor. "No, you know I opposed, as you did, the introduction of the wet canteen, although not upon the same grounds. I regard it as a perfect nuisance in camp. It is the centre of every disorder, it is subversive of discipline; it materially increases my sick parade. But it is not the wet canteen that is chiefly responsible for the growing crime-sheet and orderly room parade. It is those damned--I don't apologise--"
"Please don't. Say it again!" exclaimed Barry fervently.
"Those damned pubs," continued the M. O., "stuck at every crossroads in this country. They're the cause of ninety per cent. of the drunkenness in our army, and more than that, I want to give you another bit of information that came out at our M. O. conference this week, namely that these pubs account for ninety per cent. of our tent hospital cases."
"Ninety per cent., doctor? That's surely high."
"I would have said so, but I am giving you the unanimous verdict of the twenty-six medical officers at the conference. Cut out the damned beer--and you know I take my share of it--cut out the beer and ninety per cent. of the venereal disease goes. With me it is not a question of morality but of efficiency." Here the M. O. sprang from his chair and began to pace the hut. "This is the one thing in this army business that makes me wild. We come over here to fight--these boys are willing to fight--and by gad they will fight! They go out for a walk, they have a few beers together, their inhibitory powers are paralysed, opportunity comes their way, and they wake up a little later diseased. God in heaven! I love this dear old England, and I would die for her if need be, but may God Almighty damn her public houses, and all the infernal and vicious customs which they nourish."
"Thank you, doctor, go right on," said Barry. "I was at the tent hospital this week for the first time. Ever since, I have been wanting to say what you have said just now. But what did your M. O. conference do about it?"
"What could we do? The Home Office blocks the way. Well, I've got that off my stomach, and I feel better," added the M. O., with a slight laugh.
"But, doc, I want to say this," said Barry. "I don't believe that the percentage of men who go in for this sort of thing is large. I've been making inquiries from our chaplains and they all agree that we have a mighty fine and clean body of men in our Canadian army."
"Right you are! Of course, it is only a small percentage, a very small percentage--a much smaller percentage than in our civilian population at home. But small as it is, it is just that much too many. Hell and blazes! These men are soldiers. They have left their homes, and their folks, to fight. Their people--their people are the best in our land. There's that young Pentland. A finer young chap never threw a leg over a broncho. He's in that tent hospital to-night. I know his mother. Three sons she has given. Oh, damn it all," the doctor's voice broke at this point. "I can't speak quietly. Their mothers have given them up, to death, if need be, but not to this rotten, damnable disease. Look here, Pilot!" The doctor pointed a shaking and accusing finger at Barry. "You have often spoken against this thing, but next time you break loose, give them merry hell over it. You can't make it too hot."
Long Barry sat silent overborne by the fury of the doctor's passionate indictment.
"Cheer up, old chap!" said the doctor, when his wrath had somewhat subsided. "We'll lick the Kaiser and beat the devil yet."
"But, doctor, what can I do?" implored Barry. "That's part of my job, surely. Part of the job of the chaplain service, I mean. Oh, that is the ghastly tragedy of this work of mine. Somehow I can't get at it. These evils exist. I can speak against them and make enemies, but the things go on just as before."
"Don't you believe it, Pilot, not quite as before. Behold how you have already checked my profanity. Even the old man has pretty much cut it out at mess. You don't know where they would have been but for you. Cheer up! Our wings may not be visible but, on the other hand, there are no signs of horns and hoofs."
"Doctor, one thing I'll do," cried Barry, with a sudden inspiration "We've a meeting of the chaplains' corps to-morrow. I'll give them your speech."
"Expurgated edition, I hope," said the M. O.
"No, I'll put in every damn I can remember, and, if need be, a few more."
"Lord, I'd like to be there, old boy!" said the doctor, fervently.
Barry was as good as his word. At the meeting of the chaplains' corps, the time was mainly taken up in routine business, dealing with arrangements for religious services at the various camps within the area.
At the close of the meeting, however, one of the chaplains rose and announced that he had a matter to bring to the attention of the corps--a matter of the highest importance, which demanded their immediate and serious attention, and which they dared not any longer ignore. It was the matter of venereal disease in our Canadian army.
His statistics and illustrative incidents gripped hard the hearts of the men present. He closed with a demand that steps be taken that day to deal with the situation. The Canadian people had entrusted them with the care of their boys' souls. "Their souls," he cried. "I say our first duty is to their bodies. I am not saying the percentage is large. It is not as large as in the civilian population at home. But why any? We must care for these men's bodies. They fight with their bodies."
His last sentence struck Barry to the heart. It recalled his own sermon, spoken in Edmonton to his father's battalion. Immediately he was on his feet, and without preface or apology, reproduced as far as he was able the M. O.'s speech of the previous night, and that without expurgation.
There was but little discussion. There was but one opinion. It was resolved to call a joint meeting of the chaplains and medical officers to decide upon a course of action.
As Barry was leaving the meeting, the senior chaplain, an old Anglican clergyman, with a saintly face and a smile that set one's tenderest emotions astir, came to him, and putting his hand affectionately upon his shoulder, said:
"And how is your work going, my dear fellow?"
It was to Barry as if his father's hand were upon his shoulder, and before he was aware he was pouring out the miserable story of his own sad failure as a chaplain.
"Poor boy! Poor boy!" the old gentleman kept saying. "I know how you feel. Just so, just so!"
When Barry had finished relieving his heart of the burden that had so long lain upon it, the old gentleman took him by the hand and said:
"My dear fellow, remember they are far from home. These boys need their mothers. They sorely need their mothers! And, my boy, they need God. And they need you. Good-bye!"
Barry came away with a warm feeling in his heart, and in it a new purpose and resolve. No longer would he be a policeman to his men. He would try to forget their faults, and to remember only how sorely they needed their mothers and their God, and that they needed him, too.
He found the camp thrilling with great news, glorious news. The day so long awaited had come. The battalion was under orders for France. At that very moment there was an officers' meeting in the orderly room.
As Barry entered the room, the O. C. was closing his speech.
Barry was immediately conscious of a new tone, a new spirit, in the colonel's words. He spoke with a new sense of responsibility, and what more than anything else arrested Barry's attention, with a new sense of brotherhood toward his officers.
"In closing what I have to say, gentlemen, let me make a confession. I am not satisfied with the battalion, nor with my officers. I am not satisfied with myself. I remember being indignant at the report sent in by the inspecting officer concerning this battalion. I thought he was unfair and unduly severe. I believe I said so. Gentlemen, I was wrong. Since that time I have seen work in some regiments of the Imperial Service, and especially, I have seen the work on the front line. I think I know now what discipline means. Discipline, gentlemen, is the thing that saves an army from disaster. Some things we must cut out absolutely. Whatever unfits for service must go. I saw a soldier, a Canadian soldier, shot at the front for being intoxicated. I pray God, I may never see the like again. At this point, I wish to express my appreciation of the work of our chaplain, who I am glad to see has just come in. He has stood for the right thing among us, and has materially helped in the discipline and efficiency of this battalion. Gentlemen, you have your orders. Let there be no failure. Obedience is demanded, not excuses. Gentlemen, carry on!"
Barry hurried away to his hut. The words of his colonel had lifted him out of his despair. He had not then so desperately failed. His colonel had found something in him to approve. And France was before him! There was still a chance for service. The boys would need him there.