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Copyright, 1919, by
Charles Scribner's Sons

Published January, 1919

Copyright, 1917, by THE CROWELL PUBLISHING CO.
Copyright, 1918, by HARPER & BROTHERS
Copyright, 1918, by THE YALE PUBLISHING ASSN., Inc.












THE LAND, 1917 169

THE LAND, 1918 205




The road stretched in a pale, straight streak, narrowing to a mere
thread at the limit of vision--the only living thing in the wild
darkness. All was very still. It had been raining; the wet heather and
the pines gave forth scent, and little gusty shivers shook the dripping
birch trees. In the pools of sky, between broken clouds, a few stars
shone, and half of a thin moon was seen from time to time, like the
fragment of a silver horn held up there in an invisible hand, waiting to
be blown.

Hard to say when I first became aware that there was movement on the
road, little specks of darkness on it far away, till its end was
blackened out of sight, and it seemed to shorten towards me. Whatever
was coming darkened it as an invading army of ants will darken a streak
of sunlight on sand strewn with pine needles. Slowly this shadow crept
along till it had covered all but the last dip and rise; and still it
crept forward in that eerie way, as yet too far off for sound.

Then began the voice of it in the dripping stillness, a tramping of
weary feet, and I could tell that this advancing shadow was formed of
men, millions of them moving all at one speed, very slowly, as if
regulated by the march of the most tired among them. They had blotted
out the road, now, from a few yards away to the horizon; and suddenly,
in the dusk, a face showed.

Its eyes were eager, its lips parted, as if each step was the first the
marcher had ever taken; and yet he was stumbling, almost asleep from
tiredness. A young man he was, with skin drawn tight over his heavy
cheek-bones and jaw, under the platter of his helmet, and burdened with
all his soldier's load. At first I saw his face alone in the darkness,
startlingly clear; and then a very sea of helmeted faces, with their
sunken eyes shining, and their lips parted. Watching them pass--heavy
and dim and spectre-like in the darkness, those eager dead-beat men--I
knew as never before how they had longed for this last march, and in
fancy seen the road, and dreamed of the day when they would be trudging
home. Their hearts seemed laid bare to me, the sickening hours they had
waited, dreaming and longing, in boots rusty with blood. And the night
was full of the loneliness and waste they had been through....

* * * * *

Morning! At the edge of the town the road came arrow-straight to the
first houses and their gardens, past them, and away to the streets. In
every window and at each gate children, women, men, were looking down
the road. Face after face was painted, various, by the sunlight, homely
with line and wrinkle, curve and dimple, pallid or ruddy, but the look
in the eyes of all these faces seemed the same. "I have waited so long,"
it said, "I cannot wait any more--I cannot!" Their hands were clasped,
and by the writhing of those hands I knew how they had yearned, and the
madness of delight waiting to leap from them--wives, mothers, fathers,
children, the patient hopers against hope.

Far out on the road something darkened the sunlight. _They were


The Angel of Peace, watching the slow folding back of this darkness,
will look on an earth of cripples. The field of the world is strewn with
half-living men. That loveliness which is the creation of the ├Žsthetic
human spirit; that flowering of directed energy which we know as
civilisation; that manifold and mutual service which we call
progress--all stand mutilated and faltering. As though, on a pilgrimage
to the dreamed-of Mecca, water had failed, and by the wayside countless
muffled forms sat waiting for rain; so will the long road of mankind
look to-morrow.

In every township and village of our countries men stricken by the war
will dwell for the next half-century. The figure of Youth must go
one-footed, one-armed, blind of an eye, lesioned and stunned, in the
home where it once danced. The half of a generation can never again step
into the sunlight of full health and the priceless freedom of unharmed

_So comes the sacred work._

Can there be limit to the effort of gratitude? Niggardliness and delay
in restoring all of life that can be given back is sin against the
human spirit, a smear on the face of honour.

Love of country, which, like some little secret lamp, glows in every
heart, hardly to be seen of our eyes when the world is at peace--love of
the old, close things, the sights, sounds, scents we have known from
birth; loyalty to our fathers' deeds and our fathers' hopes; the clutch
of Motherland--this love sent our soldiers and sailors forth to the long
endurance, to the doing of such deeds, and the bearing of so great and
evil pain as can never be told. The countries for which they have dared
and suffered have now to play their part.

The conscience of to-day is burdened with a load well-nigh unbearable.
Each hour of the sacred work unloads a little of this burden.

To lift up the man who has been stricken on the battlefield, restore him
to the utmost of health and agility, give him an adequate pension, and
re-equip him with an occupation suited to the forces left him--that is a
process which does not cease till the sufferer fronts the future keen,
hopeful, and secure. And such restoration is at least as much a matter
of spirit as of body. Consider what it means to fall suddenly out of
full vigour into the dark certainty that you can never have full
strength again, though you live on twenty, forty, sixty years. The flag
of your courage may well be down half-mast! Apathy--that creeping nerve
disease--is soon your bed-fellow and the companion of your walks. A
curtain has fallen before your vision; your eyes no longer range. The
Russian "Nichevo"--the "what-does-it-matter?" mood--besets you. Fate
seems to say to you: "Take the line of least resistance, friend--you are
done for!" But the sacred work says to Fate: "_Retro, Satanas!_ This our
comrade is not your puppet. He shall yet live as happy and as useful--if
not as active--a life as he ever lived before. You shall not crush him!
We shall tend him from clearing station till his discharge better than
wounded soldier has ever yet been tended. In special hospitals,
orthop├Ždic, paraplegic, phthisic, neurasthenic, we shall give him back
functional ability, solidity of nerve or lung. The flesh torn away, the
lost sight, the broken ear-drum, the destroyed nerve, it is true, we
cannot give back; but we shall so re-create and fortify the rest of him
that he shall leave hospital ready for a new career. Then we shall teach
him how to tread the road of it, so that he fits again into the national
life, becomes once more a workman with pride in his work, a stake in the
country, and the consciousness that, handicapped though he be, he runs
the race level with his fellows, and is by that so much the better man
than they. And beneath the feet of this new workman we shall put the
firm plank of a pension."

The sacred work fights the creeping dejections which lie in wait for
each soul and body, for the moment stricken and thrown. It says to Fate:
"You shall not pass!"

And the greatest obstacle with which it meets is the very stoicism and
nonchalance of the sufferer! To the Anglo-Saxon, especially, those
precious qualities are dangerous. That horse, taken to the water, will
too seldom drink. Indifference to the future has a certain loveability,
but is hardly a virtue when it makes of its owner a weary drone, eking
out a pension with odd jobs. The sacred work is vitally concerned to
defeat this hand-to-mouth philosophy. Side by side in man, and
especially in Anglo-Saxon, there live two creatures. One of them lies on
his back and smokes; the other runs a race; now one, now the other,
seems to be the whole man. The sacred work has for its end to keep the
runner on his feet; to proclaim the nobility of running. A man will do
for mankind or for his country what he will not do for himself; but
mankind marches on, and countries live and grow, and need our services
in peace no less than in war. Drums do not beat, the flags hang furled,
in time of peace; but a quiet music is ever raising its call to service.
He who in war has flung himself, without thought of self, on the bayonet
and braved a hail of bullets often does not hear that quiet music. It is
the business of the sacred work to quicken his ear to it. Of little use
to man or nation would be the mere patching-up of bodies, so that, like
a row of old gossips against a sunlit wall, our disabled might sit and
weary out their days. If that were all we could do for them, gratitude
is proven fraudulent, device bankrupt; and the future of our countries
must drag with a lame foot.

To one who has watched, rather from outside, it seems that restoration
worthy of that word will only come if the minds of all engaged in the
sacred work are always fixed on this central truth: "Body and spirit are
inextricably conjoined; to heal the one without the other is
impossible." If a man's mind, courage and interest be enlisted in the
cause of his own salvation, healing goes on apace, the sufferer is

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