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"Lord, how I sleep! I guess it's a good thing. Otherwise I might worry. You see, sometimes a chap realizes that he is pretty young to have the responsibility of two hundred and eighty men of his own age, who are just as valuable to their families and to their country as he is. Most of those fellows have more sense than I have, and just as much education. The only difference is that I happened to go to Plattsburg. I don't know why I did, at that. I went just because my friends were going. I didn't have anything else to do particularly. It was a kind of adventure. 'Soldiers Three' stuff, you know-that sort of thing.
"I tell you I woke up with a bump when some of the instructors got talking to us up there. The first time you do bayonet exercise it's enough to make you sick! You realize what it all means then. I feel pretty sure that the man who committed suicide there did so because the horror of the whole thing was too much for him. It's hard to teach the men 'the will to use the bayonet'; that they're sent forward to kill or be killed. There is no back step or fencing taught, and the only parry is the slight deflection of your opponent's point immediately before your own thrust."
"Do the men appreciate what they are up against?” Jack shook his head.
"I don't think they do," he answered solemnly. "That's the worst feature of it. After the dreariness of the first few days wears off they get to be like a
parcel of kids. They act like a lot of schoolboys. The difficulty is to make 'em see the necessity of discipline. I have to talk to them like a Dutch uncle.
"For example, there's a fellow named Coffey in my company. Yesterday afternoon he went up and bought a package of cigarettes when he knew perfectly well he wouldn't have time to get back for inspectiondidn't think it made any difference, you know! What are you going to do with a fellow like that? The question is, how are you going to show him that it does make a difference?
"Look here, Coffey,' I said. 'I don't know what's the matter with you. I don't want to punish you. What I want is to make you see that some time or other, unless you realize that absolute obedience to orders is a matter of life and death, you are going to put yourself and all of us in a hole. When we get over in a trench, sixty yards opposite the Germans, and the order is given for us to go over and clean 'em out, you've got to be there—not off buying a package of fags. Nobody is going to wait for you then. Now, as I said, I don't want to punish you, but I don't know of any other way to bring it home to you that the safety of all of us depends on your strict obedience to orders. You go down and saw wood for three hours!'"
"How many of your own friends volunteered?" I asked.
"All of them," he answered instantly. "Every one of the fellows I know either went to Plattsburg and got a commission or have volunteered. They just did
it as a matter of course-without thinking anything about it especially. I don't know any college men of the right age who haven't, except one or two cripples. Out of the New York Harvard Club's full membership of forty-eight hundred, old and young, there are nearly a thousand men in active service in the army and navy and several hundred more engaged in some sort of war service almost a perfect record for the men of military age.
"It's just the same with all the other colleges and college clubs, all the fellows have come up to the scratch. It's what you'd expect, of course. The only ones who make me sore-when we're so much in need of officers-are the few chaps just over age who are perfectly well and fit-athletes, some of 'em-who've got jobs of one sort or another down in Washington, when they could be going across. I wouldn't mind if they didn't pretend to be doing something. What I kick at is the able-bodied fellow of thirty-five who's got a clerical job in the War Department and is camouflaging behind a desk in a uniform, instead of drilling a machine-gun squad or teaching his men how to cut through barbed wire.
"Then there's the husky young athlete who goes into the remount business and is busily engaged in buying
horses out in Kansas, where he is fairly safe from the U-boats, and the perfectly able-bodied Y. M. C. A. worker who is drawing a salary to teach the soldiers how to play football. That last is wonderful work, but they should utilize much older men or fellows who have some physical defect, instead of chaps who ought to be in the ranks."
"The slackers will be the losers, Jack," I assured him.
"But they may never know it," he answered. "They certainly won't realize what they've missed. They couldn't!" He turned to me eagerly. "Father! Life's an entirely different thing to me since I came down here. What I've learned in the last six weeks has changed every idea I've ever had. The friendships I've made would be enough to pay for everything. You know, up at college we had a pretty low standard. It was all right enough in its way, but there was a lot of petty meanness and imputing rotten motives. Well, here we're all brothers, and we know that we can count on each other and on the menevery last one of them. I didn't used to have a very high opinion of human nature, but now with these friends I've made and my new knowledge of the men I used to regard as muckers I realize how fine it isand that it's well worth dying for!"
As we ploughed back through the mud to the lower station I still couldn't bring myself to realize that
this serious-minded young officer was my son. It seemed preposterous! It was wholly incredible that this was the silly ass who had strung crockery on a belfry. Here was a fully equipped officer, keenly alive to all his obligations and responsibilities, produced in a little over three months of intensive training. In the face of such a miracle, why had I ever bothered about college?
And then it came to me that perhaps the college education had unconsciously had something to do with it. I thought of the Teddy-bear at home and of Helen, still almost fresh as a girl! Was it possible that I had a son old enough to go to war? Was I as old as all that? Yes; a thousand years old! As old as Methuselah, to every intent and useful purpose, for I could no longer bear arms in defense of what I held most dear and sacred. The sword had passed to my son and he was now the head of the family. By every tradition and every law he now came first.
I wonder if there is some peculiar adaptability in the newer blood of our hybrid race that makes it possible in three months to produce a thousand youths capable of training an army. Was Bryan merely talking when he prophesied a million men springing to arms overnight? Probably there is an inherited gift for leadership in the Anglo-Saxon that has made it easier for us. Jack told us a story illustrating that gift